Paul Little at large
Paul Little is a Herald on Sunday columnist

Paul Little: Let's drop the old cobblers, cobber

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But it is not Aborigines who need help. It is white Australians who can't see what is going on. Photo / AP
But it is not Aborigines who need help. It is white Australians who can't see what is going on. Photo / AP

Pre-European Aborigines were a nomadic Stone Age people with no technology, who spent their lives naked, wandering the continent in search of food and water. Weren't they?

No. Several historians have drawn attention to the many reports by early white explorers who encountered a society that had towns, houses, irrigation systems and agriculture.

This knowledge was suppressed by Australia's invaders to foster the myth outlined in the first paragraph.

Europeans stole land outright, basing their behaviour on the legal concept of terra nullius - nobody's land. No one acted like they owned it, so no one owned it and the Europeans could help themselves.

Treatment of Aboriginal Australians as non-human has continued uninterrupted to this day.

It occurred in the 1950s when British atom bomb tests were conducted in the Outback because "no one lived there". In fact, people were moved from their ancestral homes on the understanding they would return when the sites were cleaned up. They are still waiting for the clean-up.

More often Aborigines don't register in non-Aborigine consciousness. And when they do it's in the likes of Rolf Harris' Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport: "Let me Abos go loose, Bruce ... they're of no further use, Bruce".

From 1910 to 1970, as official policy, 100,000 Aborigine children became part of the Stolen Generation - forcibly taken from their families "for their own good".

It's hard to comprehend the horror of this. You have to imagine someone coming into your house, carrying your children away in front of your eyes, putting them in the custody of strangers and preventing you from having any knowledge of what happened to them.

But when broadcaster and reputed human Alan Jones suggested recently that the level of suffering among today's Aborigine children meant "we need stolen generations" to sort them out, a few people were horrified, but fewer were surprised.

His remarks were prompted by a sports match at which a minute's silence was held for the Stolen Generation, and the National Anthem was sung in an indigenous language - just imagine!

And of course, that would never happen again. Or would it? Communities are still being forcibly removed from their homes, except that today it's not to allow atom bomb testing but to allow mining and other activities that will benefit big business.

Some extremely remote traditional communities survive partly thanks to Government subsidies, their traditional support networks having been long since wiped out.

But in December 2014, then-PM Tony Abbott announced the Government would no longer fund their "lifestyle choice".

A row erupted recently when Sydney University's history department decided that early European contact should be described not as settlement or discovery but as invasion. And if by invasion you mean people going to another country, killing the locals and setting up home, then that is exactly what it was.

A lot of people didn't like this. To discuss it, one TV show convened a panel of three white people, including Alan Jones.

The position of Aborigine people in Australia is not a local issue - it is an international human rights scandal.

Are non-indigenous New Zealanders in a position to feel morally superior? Probably not.

Does that mean we should stand by and watch this appalling state of affairs continue without comment? Absolutely not.

Most defenders of the status quo point to the money being spent to help Aborigines.

But it is not Aborigines who need help. It is white Australians who can't see what is going on.

It's Anzac weekend - let's reach out and help our mates.

Debate on this article is now closed.

- Herald on Sunday

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