Senator Nova Peris is by far the Australian Labor Party’s best candidate for the portfolio of ‘Aboriginal Affairs’ however the portfolio has been steadfastly shuffled to Queensland powerbroker, Shayne Neumann. Mr Neumann is forever and a day behind Senator Peris in understandings and capacity for this particular portfolio.
It is an act of racism by the Australian Labor Party, by the party room hierarchy to deny Senator Peris the portfolio, to deny her the right to represent her peoples. Australia is still caught up in the impacts of its White Australia Policy, still caught up in the impacts of its oppressive history of First Peoples and today we live in a vital period of transition. We are in a period where we are unfolding from those impacts, whether we unfold positively, universally or whether we unfold negatively with a diminishing of the high cultural content of First Peoples and instead manifest underclasses of the marginalised and impoverished. We see to this very day underclasses of extreme poverty, third world-akin shanties in this the world’s 12th largest economy because assimilation is still the bent, because we have relied on White leadership instead of Black leadership during this vital period post-apartheid. The government neglect, the failures to address disadvantage have been intentional, they are part of the bent for assimilation. In this vital period, if we are to move forward it can only occur with affirmative actions – with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leadership. You know, Aboriginal led, Aboriginal controlled, self-determination.
But the Australian Labor Party is denying this opportunity. Why? They are scared of Aboriginal leadership. Senator Peris thus far at every opportunity has demonstrated a powerful capacity for leadership and has resonated with the majority of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. She also resonates with the rest of the nation. But let us remember that the Australian Labor Party sold out First Peoples when it reclaimed government in 2007. Yes, they delivered the Prime Ministerial Apology to the Stolen Generations and yes it meant a lot to many – absolutely. But the Australian Labor Party did not end the Northern Territory Intervention; instead they rebadged it as Stronger Futures and carried on. The Northern Territory’s First Peoples continue to live in a custodial predicament. The Intervention and Stronger Futures, one and the same, are White Australia policies – another story on another day. The Australian Labor Party, six years in government delivered next to nothing in housing and social wealth to First Peoples, although Jenny Macklin would have us believe otherwise.
The Australian Labor Party’s leader, Bill Shorten knows very little about the First Peoples of Australia and their issues. He continually supports the Government and the Prime Minister of Indigenous Affairs on any number of damaging policies.
The Australian Labor Party was renowned for its affirmative actions to address the once terrible lack of female representation in their party. But they led the way – with affirmative action. They have to be visionary and selfless in these transitional times for First Peoples. If they do not ask Mr Neumann to step down for Senator Peris then they are no better than anyone else in the racism stakes. One of the greatest legacies Mr Neumann can deliver in his time in parliament is to be an example – to step down from the portfolio of Aboriginal Affairs and call for Senator Peris to take it.