The saddening controversy surrounding Adam Goodes at the moment echoes the greater narrative of life for Indigenous Australians. While politicians might label Australian as the ‘Fair Go’ nation, it’s really only fair if you’re a white, middle-class male.
While many Australian’s acknowledge that the colonisation of Australia was a dark time for its Indigenous inhabitants, many assume that any wrongdoing is purely historical – of course, disregarding that many members of the ‘Stolen Generations’ are still alive and well.
There is a persistent myth that this is all in the past, yet Australia is removing Indigenous children from their families at a greater rate than during any of the Stolen Generations[i]. Kevin Rudd may have apologised in 2008, but these days it might as well be a hashtag #SorryNotSorry
While Australia is considered a wealthy and safe nation, we also make the list of the worst human rights offenders in the world. From our treatment of refugees to our treatment of the Indigenous community – our Government treats their human rights with nothing but contempt.
Last year the WA Government predicted it would be closing around 150 remote aboriginal communities. Apart from being downright despicable, the move was also considered a clear violation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, specifically Articles 8 and 10.[ii]
The Australian government voted to support the declaration in 2009, after it was voted down in 2007 – because apparently voting against human rights is something our Government does.
In May, WA Aboriginal Affairs minister Peter Collier confirmed that they had backed down and that the aboriginal people would play a part in the future of these communities.[iii]
“I acknowledge the fact that it has been a difficult six months and we haven’t helped our own cause. Having said that, I’ve acknowledged that we’ve got to move on,” he remarks.
But the subtext is clear “Yes, we were planning on violating your human rights, we got caught out, get over it”.
In fact, telling aboriginal people to ‘get over it’ or to ‘move on’ is basically our country’s credo at the moment.
Footballer Jason Akermanis proclaiming that Goodes needs to “Stop playing the victim” while many devoted definitely-not-racist football fans explain that Goodes is just ‘having a sook’.[iv]
You might remember Akermanis from that time he wrote that homosexual football players should keep it to themselves, or that other time he was found guilty of cyber-bullying.[v]
Clearly he is a man of credibility and poise.
The thing is that unless you’ve suffered the way Indigenous people have suffered in Australia, you’re unlikely to really understand what is wrong.
From the casual and conversation racism that persists from people who won’t ‘give in to political correctness’, to the serious health and lifestyle issues that plague Indigenous communities.
The gap between the Indigenous and non-Indigenous population paints a clear picture of disparity.
Aboriginal men have a life expectancy of 67.2 years, that’s 11.5 years lower than for non-Indigenous Australians. For women, it’s 72.9 years, which is 9.7 years lower than for non-Indigenous Australians.[vi]
In towns such as Wilcannia, NSW that life expectancy drops as low as 36.7 years of age for men, and 42.5 for women.[vii]
The rate of suicide amongst the Indigenous population is over twice that the non-Indigenous populations. Between the ages of 25 and 29 it is 4 times the rate of the non-Indigenous population.[viii]
While Indigenous Australians make up only 2.5% of the population they account for over 25% of the nation’s prison population. In fact, since 2010 there was a 51.5% increase in the jailing of Indigenous people, compared to a 3.5% increase for non-Indigenous.[ix]
Figures like this show that there is something seriously wrong in our country.
Adam Goodes should be a shining beacon against the racial disparity in our nation.
He should be a reason for fans of football to unite against one of the most pervasive and divisive issues in sport.
He should be cheered for being the person willing to stand up for an issue than transcends himself and his sport.
But instead of using this situation for a polite and serious discourse on the role of racism in our country, all we get is booing.