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Invisble People


By Jill A. Bolstridge


October 9, 2006:


Many have suggested that the Aboriginal people of Australia have been reduced to drug abusers, petrol sniffers, murderers, rapists, and all-around dysfunctional entities of society. 



Australia’s Aboriginal groups comprise an historic indigenous people rich in culture, advanced in social infrastructure, and innovative in discovery.  The Aborigines who lived in Australia before Western society’s huge migration to the island may have been the first human beings on earth; some artifacts suggest that people were living in Australia at least 12,000 years before people were living in what is now known as Europe.  


Though very little recorded history exists about ancient Aboriginal culture, artifacts show that these people were hunters and gatherers in nomadic, family-centered tribes.  They were artists and storytellers whose religion taught man’s oneness with nature, and their social infrastructure was based around principles of justice.

Yet today, the descendants of these noble people have been reduced within the social order of their own homeland as degenerate members of society.  Why?  How?

According to the Australian Institute of Criminology, indigenous people represented 22% of
Australia’s prison population in June of 2005: a shocking figure, particularly since Aborigines make up less than 3% of Australia’s total population. 


Indigenous women are currently the fastest growing profiled group in Australia’s prison system.  And throughout the 1990’s, indigenous people made up an astoundingly disproportionate 18% of prisoner deaths in custody.

These figures help to marginalize the condition of blacks in
, categorizing them in an all-encompassing pigeonhole as criminals and degenerates. 


An article entitled “Aboriginal Crime in Australia,” published by Australian News Commentary, states: “The journalists and PR experts working, at taxpayer expense, for the Aboriginal industry have created a number of terms best described as emotive propaganda.


One such term is ‘Aboriginals are over-represented in jails.’  You wouldn't think they would publicise such a fact. But the propaganda effect has turned a negative into a positive. The term has been picked up and used by the Aboriginal industry, judges and do-gooders to try and make us all feel guilty about jailing any Aboriginal, regardless of the crime. 


Why are Aboriginals ‘over-represented’ in jails?  Simply because they commit more crime. … That is why Aboriginals are ‘over-represented’ in the criminal justice system. No amount of posturing and emotional blackmail can change the facts.”

Activists protest against centuries of abuse

Yet that answer seems too simple.  When an entire group of racially or culturally profiled people appears to make up a disproportionate figure of the total criminal population, a more investigative approach is in order. 


Indigenous communities report exponentially higher rates of over-crowding, sub-standard housing, and homelessness.  According to the Australian government’s 2001 census, 46% of the 213 indigenous communities with a population of 50 or more were not connected to a town water supply. 


All of these communities had either failed water quality testing or had not been tested at all in the twelve months prior to the census.

Blacks in Australia are making a significantly lower amount of money than whites. 


According to the 2001 Australian census, the average household income for indigenous people was $364 per week, a meager 62% of the average weekly household income for non-indigenous people, which was $585.

Unemployment amongst Australian Aborigines is one of the highest in the world, ranking up to 90% in most predominately indigenous communities.


The Australian education system is systematically failing the country’s black population.  In 2003, only 66.3% of Aborigines completed non-compulsory school through their twelfth year, compared to 86.3% of white Australians. 


In 2002, 3% of Aborigines held a bachelor’s degree, compared to 16.9% of non-indigenous people holding the same degree. 


The Aboriginal population of Australia has a higher child mortality rate than that of Bangladesh. According to the Australian Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, twice as many low birth weight babies are born to indigenous women than to non-indigenous women. 


Between 1999 and 2004, twice as many Aboriginal babies died before their first birthday than white Australian babies. 


In 2001, it was reported that no infant mortality rate trends could be concluded because of the poor data that existed; yet in 2004, the infant mortality rate in the Northern Territory (predominantly Aboriginal communities) was 15.4 babies per 1000, which is three to four times higher than the national Australian infant mortality rate of 4.69 per 1000.


Editor's note: The concluding part of this piece will appear on Thursday October 12, 2006.


Jill A. Bolstridge is with Ricenpeas - the award-winning documentary film production company.


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