Rights of Passage - 2005 competition


What western civilisations have built has eroded the Indigenous people's basic human rights

By Julia Huntley, 14 WA

Julia's essay is a thoughtful discussion about the cultural and environmental damage that Indigenous people face, not only in Australia.

Some people consider that Aboriginal peoples have not built anything of any enduring value. Why do we think building is so important? Is it not true that every time western society builds something they often have to destroy something? Western civilisation has destroyed the Aboriginal people's basic human rights to retain and practice their culture by destroying their pristine land with little or no consultation.

Before the British settlers arrived, the natural environment in which Aboriginal people based their whole culture and traditions upon had almost Eden-ic blissfulness. Non-Indigenous people took away this pure and immaculate environment and forced the Aboriginal people to follow western ideology.

Some of the basic rights any human has are the rights to eat, to use your own land, to have shelter, to live with your family, to speak your own language and the right to have a culture. The pollution and destruction that western society has inflicted upon Indigenous people's land has all but prevented them from practicing their traditional way of life.

Aboriginals respect nature whereas the western world assaults nature. Only now is the Western world considering acting upon pollution dilemmas. Has the damage already been done? Is it too late? Take a look at Perth from the top of Greenmount Hill and notice the murky haze across the suburbs. We are killing ourselves in our own waste products and annihilating the environment with accumulation. Industrial and commercial activities that have been conducted on sacred grounds and other special locations don't allow Indigenous people to carry out special traditions and rituals.

But the destruction of the natural environment wasn't enough! For the better part of the 1900's, western society embarked upon a campaign to assimilate the Aboriginal people. This infamous era of Aboriginal history is known as the "stolen generation." By forcibly removing the children, this meant they no longer had the right to be with their families, to eat their own food, to speak their language or to perform their significant traditions. Principally, they took away their basic right to live and practice their culture.

Western civilisation has a proclivity to invent, create and produce destructive objects, services and tools; for example, when Einstein discovered the splitting of an atom.

Although this discovery enabled society to have nuclear power we took advantage of it and realised its potential for destruction. This lead to manufacturing the most potent, obliterating man-made weapon known to Earth; the nuclear bomb. All over the world, western societies build at great cost. When referring to cost it is signifying pollution, cultural genocide, altering cultures and cultural rapes. For example, in Brazil the commercial destruction of rainforests drove the Indigenous groups out of their natural habitats, forcing them to move to urban areas. Western societies all too often presume that Indigenous groups will adapt, accept and even welcome the changes. The Indigenous groups seem to have no voice.

Unlike Non-Indigenous groups, Indigenous people have never imposed or expected us to give up our rights. But we have stripped them of theirs. Now, Indigenous people literally have to plead for the return of their land and reunion of families. Slowly this is happening but sadly much has already been lost.

How can we resolve this situation? It's not going to be easy; we can't go back in time and improve the decisions and actions that were taken. How can we restore a pristine environment? It is going to take a lot of determination, effort and concerned, caring, genuine parties to attempt to resolve the situation.