Lateral violence a by-product of cultural mismatch and lack of recognition

Australian Human Rights media release:

‘Lateral violence’ is the name given to aggressive, bullying or harassing behaviour within communities that is often the result of disadvantage, discrimination and oppression and arises from working within a society that is not designed for ‘our way of doing things’, Commissioner Gooda will tell a native title conference in Brisbane today.

Commissioner Gooda says that lateral violence can also be exacerbated by governments through a lack of recognition and engagement with Indigenous people and by relying on processes that pit groups against each other.

“Rage, anger and fear vented by oppressed people on those closest to them can often be the by-product of government policy and law-making and the existing native title system is one such example,” Commissioner Gooda says.

“All of us who are involved in native title claims or agreement-making know that at every step of the process, the requirement to legitimise our claims and our birth rights creates conflict and tension within our communities, and effectively results in lateral violence,” he says.

“But whether the lateral violence theory is sustainable or not, this is abuse and there’s no excuse for it. We must have a zero tolerance policy for any type of abuse.”

Commissioner Gooda says that government policies have divided Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities but he says Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples need to work together to ensure that they cannot be conquered.

“Initially, I was concerned that a frank airing of this issue might well cause me some grief. I was prepared that some would accuse me of airing our dirty laundry in public – saying that this is just the way things are done in the Indigenous world and that I’m just making another rod for our backs with which non-Indigenous people can beat us up. But even in our communities there seems to be a considerable appetite to confront it and deal with it.”

He will tell conference delegates that the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples can guide discussions about lateral violence by emphasising the importance of such things as recognising the right of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples to participate in decisions that affect them.

“My key priorities for native title are to promote the development of stronger and deeper relationships between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and the broader community, between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and government and within Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities,” Commissioner Gooda says.

“That’s why I want to start a conversation today about improving our relationships in our communities.”

Commissioner Gooda will also tell the conference that Indigenous rights and interests must be placed at the centre of Australian nationhood and embedded in the institutional fabric of the country by recognising Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the Australian Constitution.

Commissioner Gooda is one of two keynote speakers at the AIATSIS Native Title Conference being held at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre in South Bank.