I am angry. Generation after generation all the wrong people dominate the media, speak well enough on the disparities but lead us down the garden path on the ways forward. Another generation of high profile bureaucrats and others who consider themselves ‘leaders’ scrimmage for a say in the media. Some of them may mean well but ultimately they are doing as their predecessors did and will deliver another couple of generations of human misery and suffering.
The majority of these high profile bureaucrats and advocates have read my various research and writings over the years. They draw on my work and the narratives within but stop there and do not refer to the solution.
I predicted the Aboriginal and/Torres Strait Islander landscape a decade prior to the new millennia. Sadly, I was correct. Likewise, I can predict the landscape in 2025 – one of devastation, of a catastrophic narrative that will pale what we see today. We cannot just tell the success stories hoping they inspire others because inspiration alone is not a solution. We have to state what we see.
Justice Reinvestment is not a solution, not by any means. It cannot radically reduce the horrific incarceration levels of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait people. As Debbie Kilroy of Sisters Inside once stated, “Justice Reinvestment is like a rearranging of the deckchairs on the Titanic.”
Today’s nine-to-five bureaucrats and high profile ‘leaders’ sell a comfort suite of solutions but which have no chance of success. Failure means the loss of far too many human lives. The homeless rates, the extreme poverty, the arrest and jailing rates, the rate of depression, suicides continue to increase.
One in 20 of all Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander deaths are by suicide. This is a horrific rate and from a racialised lens likely the world’s highest. However, my research argues that because of underreporting issues the real rate is more likely one in 10 deaths by suicide.
There is no greater legacy that anyone can have than to improve the lot of others to the point of saving lives. However, Australia is not doing this. Australia is destroying lives – the lives of hundreds of thousands of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander peoples. There is an intentional attack on their Aboriginality and not just limited to the land grab agenda.
Governments have intentionally degraded hundreds of their Homeland communities – denying them even the most essential rights – clean water, electricity, shelter. Governments will not even upgrade water tanks. It is racialised because it only occurs in Aboriginal communities. Therefore it is racism.
The majority of the extreme poverty and the highest arrest rates in the nation are in these degraded communities – they are the product of racist Governments. Of course our Governments are racist when they racialise humanity, giving everything to one ‘race’ of people and next-to-nothing to another ‘race’ of people.
Where I have spent my time exposing the lies, debunking the myths, I am now getting angry, because after all the exposing not only by me, we should be opening our eyes and changing our ways. We should be arguing for nothing less than equality. ‘Sorry’ means nothing and ‘compensation’ is piecemeal and does not stretch to the whole of a community or into its future. Since the 2008, February 13 Prime Ministerial Apology to the Stolen Generations, there has been a nearly 70 per cent increase in children removed from their families.
Equality is what every campaign should be about. But let us understand what equality means.
The clones of the cohort of people who delivered the debacle, Close the Gap, are today delivering similarly reductionist policies with no chance of success. For years I argued that Close the Gap was reductionist crap – and that by 2020 every statistic that should matter will be worse than ever before – not just the indicators pencilled into the Close the Gap. Year after year, till this year, Close the Gap was packaged as a winner while all the while the reality is a counter narrative of the worst misery and culminations.
Of all the world’s middle and high income nations with relatively recent colonial oppressor histories, Australia has the widest divide and the worst disparities between its First Peoples and the rest of the population.
Each year I exposed the Close the Gap reports as a sham till finally in the last two years the Close the Gap co-chairs and the Productivity Commission began to publicly agree with the counter narrative and disaggregation I was challenging them with.
In Western Australia, eight per cent of the Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander adult male population is in jail. From a racialised lens, the First Peoples of the Kimberley and Far North Queensland suffer the world’s highest suicide rates. Seven per cent of the Kimberley is in some form of homelessness, and nearly 100 per cent of that homelessness is comprised of its First Peoples. A quarter of Australia’s homelessness is comprised of its First Peoples. By 2025 I have estimated that half the Australian prison population shall be comprised of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islanders – today this statistic stands at nearly 30 per cent.
The chattering classes are taking us to hell again and again and with the exception of lies, charades, charlatanism they give us no respite. Our Governments are made up of the dumb. Plato wrote if we do not engage with our politicians we risk being governed by the dumb. But those we invest our faith in holding our politicians to account are no better. In the dirty wars for the vainglory of limelight, for the management of ‘turf’, the real experts and the coalface are denied the crucial look-in.
Two years ago, I gave it a shot to ‘parachute’ myself into the Australian Senate and speak like no-one before ever has. There is no way I would have been corralled or pigeon holed. I would have sustained the chase on everything that mattered. I was a certainty of being elected till I naively committed political suicide and missed being elected by thereabouts 2,500 votes. However going over all that is pointless.
Not one of our 226 federal parliamentarians says what needs to be said and hence no-one chases down what needs to be. In the meantime the suicide rates, the jailing rates are on the increase and extreme poverty is corralling more and more people.
Australia incarcerates Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander young people – aged 10 to 17 years of age – 24 times the rate of their non-Aboriginal counterparts. In Western Australia, the rate is 53 times. Nationally, Aboriginal youth comprise 60 per cent of juvenile detention. In the Northern Territory they are 98 per cent of the juvenile detention population. Australia incarcerates its Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander children at the world’s highest rate.
Sadly, Amnesty International, along with the Aboriginal Legal Services and many others, are trying to sell us Justice Reinvestment. Despite all their vital and good work they are wrong. These are once again dangerous times as we are about to distract ourselves with a campaign for change that will not be about the deliverance of significant change. The Amnesty International report ‘A Brighter Tomorrow’ is reductionist and piecemeal.
People can only be counselled and mentored so far and they can only adjust their behaviours and thinking to a certain point while continuing to live in deprivations, in circumstances borne of inequality.
Justice Reinvestment is worthwhile but it is no panacea. No-one should wax lyrical about it because in doing so we are hoodwinking the people and cheating them of real hope. Despite the claims Justice Reinvestment will deliver radical change, it will not radically reduce the rate of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander youth imprisonment. It will do some good for some but overall it will not achieve what we would have hoped for holistically. It will fail us just as abysmally as Close the Gap has failed us and as has Native Title.
Native Title has been a disastrous debacle making wealthy predominately the carpetbaggers and exploiters. It has degenerated into a trough of frenzied feeding for native title practitioners, lawyers and anthropologists.
Several years ago, a Senate inquiry found some potential value in implementing Justice Reinvestment but that is the remit of its benefit. It is of no more value than is a Murri or Koori Court, a Problem or Drug Court. That it is evidence-based is arguable. Despite all the rhetoric of piecemeal successes in various implementation in the United States and Canada it has not significantly changed much.
Justice Reinvestment in general will not prevent someone from offending and even of reoffending. Where do we want to start? We should not be waiting till someone has been made so vulnerable so as to criminally offend. The majority of offending is poverty-related.
We start with the poverty.
Before someone accuses of me not understanding Justice Reinvestment let me make it clear, I tell you that I understand it only too well just like I did in 1993 of Native Title when I predicted the debacle that Native Title would become and the people it would leave behind, marginalising further many into entrenched poverty. Just like I did with the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody which made many great recommendations but missed the boat on the equality equation, I argued at the time that with the next twenty years jail rates would skyrocket. Just like I did with the Close the Gap gibberish that we were insulted with at its commencement and well look where we are today; where I had said. On the suicides if there are some more appropriate responses today in the ways that matter well I will take some of the credit for that – having given up so much of my life in the last three years to campaign for improved response systems, written more than 200 articles and lobbied the former and incumbent Government, the suicide crises would have continued to slip under the radar. But the radical solution is still bringing on equality – and when we do then we will reduce the suicides to parity between Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander peoples and the rest of the population.
I know I sound like a damn pessimist, but that is the reality of what is out there. I have travelled to hundreds of Homeland communities all over this continent. In the world’s 12th largest economy, in the nation with the world’s highest median wage we have hundreds of shanty town existences, third-world-akin, but racialised to our First Peoples only. The extreme poverty of these communities is Australian made.
Unless we dare to speak only the truth 24/7 little will change, much will get worse. Forget the ‘Sorry’ crap, forget the ‘compensatory’ bullshit that in the end dries up and fails to reach everyone. The focus has to be ‘equality’. There should be no consultation about whether any Homeland community should be kept open or not. There should only be campaigning and urging for the social wealth and health upgrades of these communities to an equivalency to that of non-Aboriginal communities. It should be done immediately – we can afford this redress, this equality. It should not even come down to whether we can afford equality. From within this equality communities will unfold the management of their cultural settings. If we upgrade the social health of these communities, if we bring on the equality not only will the suicide rates between Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islanders and the rest of the nation level to parity – so too the arrest and jailing rates. The extreme poverty will be wiped out of these communities. It is the poverty we have to end, the deplorable, disgraceful, racialised poverty.
I am sick to death of the lies and the liars, sick to death of the fools, sick to death of reductionist policies and other crap. I have to be harsh in what I am writing because in the end if I am not, those who depend on us, the most vulnerable, the disadvantaged, the discriminated, will continue to be sold out. I am not some political party that treats its constituents as a public relations exercise and treats them as the ‘masses’ hoodwinking them with snake oil. We must be solid-in-our-thinking that equality is the only campaign we must pursue, and that the steps to equality will be visible from almost immediately as we do the justice in upgrading the quality of life of our Homeland communities; when we give them what every other damn community and town and city on this continent enjoys.
If we do not do equality, if we do not advocate for it honestly, then I can see the future, as clearly as I saw the present long before we got here.
We were not put on this earth to betray each other but we do. More of us have to stop compromising the truth and stop betraying those who depend on the truth.
The only way to end inequality is with equality.
Lifeline’s 24-hour hotline, 13 11 14
Crisis Support and Suicide Prevention Beyond Blue – 1300 22 4636
Articles of interest by Gerry Georgatos:
Other articles and media on the suicide crisis and suicide prevention by Gerry Georgatos:
Kirstie Parker, Mick Gooda say enough of fine words – close the gap a big fat lie