Stealing all N.T. indigenous children from their culture.

The failure of the Australian Senate to subject the Howard government’s Northern Territory National Emergency Response Bill to proper consideration will not only demonstrate the failure of the Australian Parliament (as presently constituted) to govern for the well-being of Australia’s First Peoples it will also set in place another tragedy for indigenous peoples in the N.T. by seeking to steal their children from their culture.

It is truly chilling to realise that the same ethnocidal forces which once removed certain indigenous children from their families (on the basis that, due to certain racist preconceptions, they could be saved and provided with a future) have now returned in order to complete that process by laying claim to ALL indigenous children.


Where racism enabled non-indigenous authorities to lay claim to some indigenous children (and to remove them from their loving families into often cold and uncaring institutions) it is an obsolete monocultural form of nationalism – the “One Nation” approach – which is relied upon by the non-indigenous authorities this time.

There are, at least, two Peoples in Australia – but only those whose first language is English are regarded as ‘real’ by the Anglo-Australian state.

Once again, an Australian government has treated First Peoples and their Ways as being ‘unreal’ and of no account. The lack of due process and community consultation on matters which lie at the core of any culture’s concerns – the care of their children – is a ‘rubbishing’ of indigenous Australians on a grand scale.

The message projected is – not only is it the case that First Peoples cannot care for their children, they do not need to be consulted about what the government intends to do to in relation to their children. This is akin to saying indigenous people are ‘rubbish people’.

Despite the attempts of powerful non-indigenous forces, which seek to manipulate us by directing our attention to a very narrow understanding of life – we can still clearly read the real message – the degree of chaos in the lives of many First Peoples is the result of complete mismanagement by those non-indigenous people who considered that they – and they alone – were born to rule in Australia.

And, the longer this mismanagement continues, the greater the degree of chaos which will emerge in the lives of us all.


The rhetoric of all those non-indigenous politicians involved who talk about taking action for “our children” and the “children of our nation” are engaging in acts which are themselves a direct attack on the well-being of those children.

By rubbishing First Peoples, all indigenous people are subjected to forces which systematically negate the very core of the cultures which inform their Being.

The actions of the present Australian government, in which they directly attack First Peoples in the name of saving ‘our children’, represents another new low in the already shameful story in the treatment of this country’s First Peoples.

It is typical of the back-to-front land of Oz that, in the name of protecting indigenous children, the government is attacking the very members of the family who can best serve to provide those children with their true identity and true cultural legacy – their place in the world as First Peoples.

The same politicians who, in order to endorse the NT National Emergency legislation, talk about ‘our children’ are strangely silent when it comes to talking about the well-being of the other members of the family, “our families”. They dare not say this. Their own deep-seated institutionalised racism makes such expressions stick in their throats.

We learn more about complex life systems when, instead of looking at what is contained in the speeches of politicians, we look instead at what is systematically excluded.

In this case, in particular, where is the talk of ‘our brothers’ who are the fathers, grandfathers, uncles, and cousins of ‘our children’?

Where is the talk about the well-being of ‘our brothers’ ‘our Uncles’ ‘our cousins’ ‘our Grandfathers’. Are they not part of ‘our nation’?

A concern for the children of any group requires an equal concern for the whole of the family since that is the proven best means by which the best interests of any child are properly protected. Removal of this protection exposes those children to the gravest of risks.

The absence of a concern for the whole of ‘our families’ by those who speak of ‘our children’ tells us all we need to know about where the architects of this ’emergency’ legislation are coming from.


This compelling silence (who can even picture a John Howard seriously saying “our indigenous brothers and sisters”?) tells us more about the spirit of the government’s legislation than any of Minister’s speech.

The non-indigenous attack, underway since 1788 and taking various forms, has always been focused on crippling, silencing, marginalising indigenous men as the carriers of their culture. Knock them out and you knock out the whole culture, leaving what remains to be refashioned to comply with Western master narrative specifications.

The ‘futures’ which the non-indigenous politicians invoke for ‘our children’ – and which serve another means of justifying to others this latest attack on Australia’s First Peoples – are ‘futures’ conceived of entirely in monocultural Western terms.

The Howard government’s monocultural vision of First Peoples’ futures is cast in terms of a non-indigenous ‘upper’ working class – ‘home owners’ and ‘small business people’ – at the cost of separation from their cultural values and indigenous world view.


There is a complete inability on the part of the present Australian government to appreciate that First Peoples futures are best conceived of as being healthily bi-cultural (as it is for us all).

The Australian government retains an “English only” perspective which is thoroughly obsolete and, in acted on, will rob all Australian peoples of the resources we require to address life’s major emerging challenges.

The use of ‘our’ takes place in relation to an imaginary single Australian nation which was founded on the suppression of First Peoples and their complete exclusion from that ‘nation’.

First Peoples were never part of the processes of negotiation by which they could have had some meaningful input into what such a nation would be like in terms of relationships between Peoples.
From the 1800s to the present day, an Australian nation has been imagined as an ‘English only’ nation. The hundreds of languages of this country’s First Peoples were never even remotely conceived of as being part of what non-indigenous Australians consider to be a ‘nation’.

So too have the many different social and cultural practices which inform indigenous life been excluded from the body of practices which are conceived of as making up the Australian nation.

It is extremely unlikely that the present Prime Minister speaks one word of the languages of the families of the children he presumes to call ‘our children’ and talk about their ‘futures’. What kind of extreme presumption and cultural arrogance is this?

It takes the disaster of the Stolen Generations to a whole new level.

There may be no known name for such a massive child abduction on such a breathtaking scale – seeking to drive a wedge between indigenous children and their families, their culture and their heritage – seeking to separate the spirit of First Peoples from their physical body. ‘Cultural genocide’ and ‘ethnocide’ will have to do.


The Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples has already been adopted by the United Nations Human RightsCouncil, even if it’s fate in the General Assembly remains uncertain.

There can be no doubt that the spirit of the Australian government’s national emergency legislation is the complete opposite of that important human rights Declaration.

The real question, if the legislation is passed by the Australian Senate in the next day or two, is what First Peoples and a peoples movement of supporters will do about it at the national and international levels.

Bruce Reyburn
13 August 2007