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Social Justice and the Australian Indigenous people Essay

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Updated: Feb 18th, 2019

Introduction

What is social justice?

According to Sociology Guide (2010), social justice is the collective impartiality that ensures that fairness is exercised when it comes to administration of laws. Social justice also ensures that the people of a certain society are subjected to equal treatment by availing equality in all aspects of the society which include rewards and burdens. Social justice calls for the upholding of ethics within a society and comes up with codes that dictate how social justice is to be administered (p. 1).

The Australian indigenous people have been subjected to grievous social injustices in the past that included racism, discrimination, oppression, sexism and prejudice among many others. In this case study, we are critically analyzing current social justice policies and Federal government and opposition parties’ responses to Australian Indigenous’ perspective on social justice.

Current social justice policies in Australia

In 1992, Australia embraced social justice through the formation of a social justice commissioner’s post by the federal government. The reason why this post was formed was to protect the indigenous Australians who were undergoing various social atrocities.

Some of the atrocities that the indigenous people of Australia faced included racism, suspicious deaths while in custody, as well as unfairness when it came to distribution of resources which made them a grossly disadvantaged lot. The main idea behind the formation of the social justice commission was to give the indigenous Australian people choice by empowering them to stand up for their rights (Australian Human rights commission 2010).

This commission was also entitled to bring sanity to the laws that governed the indigenous people and ensure that they were friendly and just. It also had the role of ensuring that these people equally enjoyed their rights and freedoms just like any other Australian citizen. This commission also looked at empowering the indigenous people in all areas of life including decision making.

This empowerment was to ensure that these people contributed equally to the economy of the state. In return, the government has the duty of protecting them and ensuring that they have access to all the necessary resources as provided by the government (Australian Human rights commission 2010).

The commissioner was faced with the duty of tabling a report in parliament that detailed the progress on the native title and social justice as required by the Acts which were put in place in 1993.

The person that was given this task was one Mick Gooda who coupled up as the social justice commissioner of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander. The Australian Human Rights Commission has taken upon itself the duty of ensuring that these rights are well understood and respected by all for a harmonious living (Australian Human rights commission 2010).

The Australian federal government has come up with policies that are being geared towards restoring the indigenous people’s rights and freedoms. These policies include justice reinvestment which has been directed to the criminal justice system. The Australian human rights commission has recommended crime prevention through reinvesting to ensure that less indigenous people find themselves in jail.

There have been cases of discrimination against the indigenous people while undergoing incarceration and this has led to the deaths of many. The other prisoners from other parts of the country as well as some staff in this incarceration centres subject the indigenous people to torture as they view them as lesser beings. The introduction of the Deaths in Custody Watch Committee was to investigate under what circumstances these deaths occur and what fuels this form of injustice (Wenzel 2001).

Other policies that have been adopted are the formation of human rights groups such as the Indigenous Social Justice Association of Melbourne (ISJA-Melb), which fight for the oppressed among the indigenous people. It also campaigns against the custody deaths of indigenous inmates, something common in Australian jails.

This group is multi racial and thus its membership is open to people who are indigenous and non indigenous. This group also fights on for social justice and advocates for the reduction of arrests on indigenous people who make a majority in Australian jails. They also advocate for the disarmament of the police who misuse their power by subjecting too much force on the indigenous inmates (Indigenous Social Justice Association 2010).

The other policy that has been employed is the one that ensures that the indigenous people retain their indigenous languages which they have used for the longest time. This way, their culture preservation rights will not be infringed at all and they will feel respected thus reducing friction. Culture binds communities and its preservation will ensure that people retain values which are meaningful to them as long as they are not a threat to the people’s security and well being.

The other policy is on their sustenance which includes their homeland which they have held dear for many years. The general idea is to advocate for community development which will be brought about by their hard work and to achieve this, and then the homelands have to be supported by the government. This way, they will get a sense of belonging and feel represented in matters of social justice (NSW Reconciliation 2010).

According to Henshaw Et Al. (2010), aboriginal racism is one of the major injustices that the indigenous people have been subjected to. They have been looked down on with regard to their skin colour as inferior and primitive and the other generations feel more superior to them. Led by this notion, they have subjected the indigenous people to unfair treatment.

This unfair treatment includes assault, general mistreatment, disrespect and limitation of their rights and freedoms. In Australia, the indigenous people have been discriminated upon on land issues where they have suffered dispossession. They have denied their culture and are not allowed to use their native languages as well as carry out their ceremonies.

Many years back, a policy known as the Aboriginal Protection Policy had been passed to monitor the activities of the indigenous people. Out of this policy, the indigenous people are to date being subjected to unfair treatment that includes monitoring of their alcohol levels, a practice that is not carried out on others.

The Australian government is working hard to eradicate this practice and the necessary steps have been put in place. The government is attempting to reconcile the indigenous people with the other generations in an effort to burry the hatchet between the indigenous and non indigenous people. By doing so, it is hoping to cut out the hostility nd thereby improve the relations (The centre for social justice 2007).

The Acts that have been set up to eradicate racism include the Commonwealth Racial Discrimination Act of 1975, the Human Rights & Equal Opportunity Commissions Act of 1986 as well as the Commonwealth Racial Hatred Act of 1995. The catholic church of Australia has also voiced its views on discrimination and advocates for human dignity and respect for the human race.

Australian Indigenous’ perspectives on social justice

The Australian indigenous people lived a good life away from the critical eye of the European settlers. They enjoyed a peaceful interrelationship with each other and this contributed to their rich culture which encompassed religion and among other social issues.

The European viewed them as uncivilized and backward and took it upon them to upgrade their culture and initiate them to their way of life which they deemed civilized. They brought in their culture and values which were strange to the indigenous people of Australia (Social Justice 2007).

They went ahead to take their land by force and even imposed strange forms of governance on these people and the destruction began. The impact of this invasion by the Europeans was adverse and many of the indigenous people were left homeless, poor and disheartened by being robbed of the values they held so close to them.

They lost their identity courtesy of the Europeans as their rights and freedoms were highly infringed upon. The intervention by human rights groups came as a relief to the indigenous people and they embarked on the path to reclaiming their identity and social rights (Social Justice 2007).

The aboriginal people felt that the Europeans had no right to invade their land which they have run for over 50,000 years. Their health took a nose dive for the worst since these Europeans brought with them foreign diseases. To date, the aboriginal people suffer from ill health since health measure has not fully taken effect to cover them.

This has led to their high mortality rates and infertility has been highly felt among the generations. The aboriginal people have struggled to get their rights and freedoms from the Australian government. They have a strong will to survive and they love to preserve their culture. This has helped them in reclaiming their identity and to award their efforts, the Survival Day is celebrated on January 26, every year (Cousins 2005).

Federal government and opposition parties’ responses to Australian Indigenous’ perspective on social justice

The federal government has strived to understand the issues revolving around the Australian indigenous people and tried to accommodate them in the government. It is in this regard that it set up a commission to investigate the deaths of the aboriginal people while in custody.

The appointed commission went under the name Royal Commission and it gave a comprehensive report on the woes of the aboriginal people which followed them into the incarceration centres. It revealed that the aboriginal people were marginalized and discriminated against by the non-indigenous people. The indigenous people were nursing wounds inflicted to them by the Europeans who stole their land, subjected them to racism and colonized them in an effort to civilize them (Australian Human Rights Commission 2010).

While in jail, they underwent the same brutal treatment due to their skin differences and culture and this led to their deaths. Out of these findings, the federal government formed a reconciliation forum which was geared at mending the broken relationships. This forum was referred to as the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation and it embarked on bringing together the aboriginal and the non-indigenous peoples of Australia.

The federal government went ahead to look into the issue of the Australian indigenous people land and reached a decision through the high court. Initially, the Europeans took the belief that the indigenous people’s land was up for grabs. They used the term terra nullius on this land to mean that the land had no rightful owner. The high court passed a law that protected the ownership of land and this helped the Australian indigenous people reclaim their land (Australian Human Rights Commission 2010).

This was a great step towards reconciliation since the land battles were now settled officially. There was also another major form of social justice abuse that was being subjected to the aboriginal people. Their children would be taken away by the Europeans to offer labour in the lands they had stolen from their parents.

This was a major abuse of human rights and these findings were tabled by the National Inquiry which was investigating these forceful separations. The formation of the Aboriginal and Torres Starit Islander Social Justice Commission in 1992 was another step by the federal government to ensure that social justice was availed to the aboriginal peoples of Australia (Australian Human Rights Commission 2010).

The Labour Party has worked hard towards ensuring that social justice is administered in Australia and that the aboriginal people have equal rights with the non-indigenous people. In 2007, a bill was passed and its content was very suspect and the labour party as well as the Howard government had to intervene. This bill known as the Northern Territory National Emergency Response was geared at neutralizing the racial discrimination act of 1975 (HREOC (2010).

The indigenous people of Australia had been subjected to racial discrimination and this bill would have reflected wrongly on the efforts to subdue racism. With their intervention, this bill was done away with and this was another huge step towards human rights protection.

Social justice for the aboriginal people has received support from different quarters including the Intervention Reform Coalition of Darwin. This coalition shows support in the aboriginal people’s social justice which the federal government passed (NWS Reconciliation 2010).

The Intervention Reform Coalition of Darwin insists that these people must have rights which will help them take charge of their lives. The federal government has established a review board that seeks to ensure that the aboriginal children are not undergoing any form of abuse. In the past, these children had been subjected to sexual abuse and this led to the setting up of the Northern Territory Emergency Response (NTER) which ensures that these children are safe again and that they are in good hands (ENIAR 1997).

The aboriginal people led a healthy life until the Europeans invaded their territory and infected them with disease. The federal government took charge of this in an effort to provide them with health services as part of implementing social justice. This measure ensured that all aboriginal children received medical care, something they did not have access to in the past.

Education was also introduced as part of social justice implementation and the aboriginal children now had access to education. The aboriginal people were largely illiterate as they did not believe in formal education. This may have contributed to their being backward due to illiteracy and lack of exposure. They believed that the life skills the children learnt either from training or apprenticeship were enough (ENIAR 1997).

Conclusion

The Australian indigenous people have no doubt been through a lot of injustices in their own country. It is a sad fact that they have been going through all the discussed atrocities just because they seem different. This was total injustice and the perpetrators ought to pay for their misdeeds. Injustices such as racialism are detrimental to the human race. It beats logic why someone would want to look down on the other just because his skin colour is different form his.

No human being is perfect and people must learn to respect others regardless of where they come from or how they look like. It is important to know that no one chooses where they will be born or how they will be socialized. Oppressing others is another insult to the human race and people ought to treat others as their equals.

For the Europeans to oppress the Australian indigenous people and even steal their land and their children is the height of social injustice. These children were subjected to sexual abuse which is not only demeaning but also detrimental as it infringes on their right to be protected and safeguarded.

People must be allowed to exercise their rights and their freedoms and respect for others property must be upheld. All in all the federal government of Australia as well as the opposition parties and the church have played a great role in the implementation of social justice.

These bodies went out of their way to ensure that the aboriginal people were treated equally and that they retained their culture which was very important to them. Congratulations are thus in order for helping restore the Australian indigenous people and reconciling them with the non-indigenous ones. It is important to exercise healthy relations with others and a harmonious coexistence is highly moral if social justice is to be upheld.

References

Australian Human Rights Commission. (2010) Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Social Justice. Australian Human Rights Commission

Cousin, S. (2005) Contemporary Australia. Indigenous Australians. National Centre for Australian Studies, Monash University.

ENIAR. (1997) Inquiry into the protection of aboriginal children – “little children are Sacred” report released June 2007. Northern Territory Intervention.

Henshaw, K. Et al. (2010) social justice: Racism towards aborigines. Aboriginal racism. HREOC. (2010) Social Justice and human rights for aboriginal and Torres Starit Islander peoples. Australian Human Rights Commission.

Indigenous Social Justice Association. (2010) Indigenous Social Justice Association – Melbourne. Who we are and what we stand for. NY, Millan publishers.

NWS Reconciliation. (2010) Social justice and indigenous rights. Social justice report 2009. Australian Human Rights Commission.

Sociology guide. (2010) Social justice. A student’s guide to sociology.

The centre for social justice. (2007) Struggling to escape a legacy of Oppression. Aboriginal issues journal.

Wenzel, E. (2001) Indigenous peoples of Australia: Social Development.

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