It’s been more than 200 years since the continent now known as Australia was colonized and the indigenous people were disinherited of their lands. The vast majority of indigenous Australians were killed or displaced during the early colonization efforts that lasted from 1788 to 1850. In 1967, the Australian citizenship referendum led the way to Aboriginal Australians finally being recognized as citizens by the Australian government. Efforts by both the aboriginal people of Australia and multi-generational Australian citizens have improved issues of inequality only slightly since then.
A National Shame
Every factor of life that makes it worth living is significantly lower for the indigenous people of Australia than for their European counterparts. Among these are education, employment, literacy rates and life expectancy. Since 2008, the Australian government has made efforts to improve all four of these aspects of life for the indigenous people. Prime Minister Scott Morrisson recently expressed disappointment at the rate of positive changes to parliament in February of 2020.
For example, youth suicide rates are four times higher in indigenous communities than in non-indigenous communities. Indigenous males are also more likely to die eight years sooner than most non-indigenous males do. These are issues that have threatened the numbers of the native peoples of Australia for decades. These problems aren’t happening on their own, however; they are the fruit of more than two centuries of systematic disempowerment of the indigenous peoples of Australia.
Education as a Goal
Children, in particular, are most at risk of falling prey to the disadvantages imposed upon the native peoples of Australia since the first stages of colonization. Education will empower them to feel and be better equipped to catch up to the rest of the citizens of Australia when it comes to living standards. This is the next stage of hopeful progress for the government of Australia.
As the debris from recent bush fires in Victoria was cleared, an ancient aquatic system for gathering food and accessing water was discovered. Older than the pyramids of Egypt, these were built by the Gunditjmara people of what is now Victoria more than 6,000 years ago. The indigenous people of Australia will have to organize themselves and become their own agents of change if they are to take pride in their ancient cultures, the history of which most of their children have not been taught.