For over 200 years the Australian Aborigine has been the target of genocide aimed directly at them.
In the first 100 years, they survived being hunted down like animals and shot or beaten to death, poisoning with arsenic in gifts of flour, poisoning of their water supplies, burning of the forests to kill them in great numbers.
In the second 100 years, they faced the apathy and contempt of the Europeans who had stolen their land. Any children with a drop of white blood in them were taken and placed in church homes where they were forced to deny their own culture and hired out to rich squatters as housekeepers or jackaroos, receiving no pay and having the money put into trust for them by the government.
This stolen generation grew up and tried to trace their mother, fathers, siblings, relatives, only to find most of them dead or living in appalling conditions.
Many tried subsequently to get the monies owing to them and were ignored and ridiculed.
Many Australian blacks gather around the fringes of the cities, getting taxis into town to get their grog on pension day and spending the rest of the fortnight drinking and fighting, sometimes killing one another. Their conditions are worse than any third world country, their death rate higher, the rate of rape and murder almost unbelievable.
A few full-blooded Aborigines still live in Arnhem Land, attempting to live their ancient lifestyles, but thwarted every inch of the way by tourists, land owners and mining companies.
Yet suddenly, there are young black men walking the streets, wearing their colours, orange red and black with pride, heads up, and looking people in the eye, proud of who they are and where they come from.
What has wrought this change?
What has brought pride to the young black people when their elders couldn’t, and the church couldn’t, and the bureaucrats couldn’t.
It all began with young black rugby league sensation turned boxer Anthony Mundine who announced publicly when the towers of the World Trade Centre fell to terrorists in 2001, “They brought it all on themselves the Americans, they deserve all they get.”
There were many who were horrified by what he said, but also many who listened, and the ones who listened were his black brothers.
Now there are swelling groups devoting their lives to studying the Koran, their women veiled, and the men alive with self-respect and honour.
What the Christian church could not do, Islam has done.
The Christians came to the tribes and preached love of God and love of one another as they took the children from them and worked them to death.
The churches told them their ancient ways were evil and they were evil for following them. They took away their self-respect and replaced it with cynicism and hate. They preached love and practised hate.
Every Australian would laugh when some young Aboriginal man would declare that he would lead his people to fight the whites. Didn’t they all get in a bus to drive to Sydney during the 1988 bicentennial to protest at the stealing of their land, and before they were halfway there they were all drunk, and the whole trip was called off?
Well not now.
Now it is different. Now they are answering the call of a different God, and they are transformed.
BERNIE PATTISON is an environmental and peace activist in Australia. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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