RIO TINTO AND THE JUUKAN GORGE DESECRATION.
From “The Guardian” –
Juukan Gorge: Rio Tinto blasting of Aboriginal site prompts calls to change antiquated laws
Conflict between mining and Aboriginal heritage in WA has spawned a system of suffocating bureaucracy and lopsided agreement-making
Sat 30 May 220 12.23 AEST First published on Sat 30 May 2020 06.00 AEST
Juukan Gorge, in Western Australia, one of the earliest known sites occupied by Indigenous Australians, which the Anglo-Australian mining giant Rio Tinto has admitted damaging. Photograph: PKKP Aboriginal Corporation/AFP/Getty Images
A 46,000-year-old Aboriginal heritage site destroyed by Rio Tinto this month is one of more than 463 sites that mining companies operating in Western Australia have applied for permission to destroy or disturb since 2010.
None of those applications have been refused. And under the state’s 48-year-old Aboriginal heritage laws, only the land or lease holder has the right to appeal – traditional owners do not.
The figures show that the shocking destruction of the sites in the Juukan Gorge in the western Pilbara was not unique.
The conflict between mining companies and Aboriginal heritage, particularly in mineral-rich areas such as the iron ore-rich Hamersley range of the Pilbara, has spawned a system of suffocating bureaucracy and lopsided agreement-making that privileges development over protecting sacred spaces and leaves traditional owners with no legislative power, and very little institutional power, to fight back.
The Juukan one and two sites are listed on WA’s Aboriginal heritage register as Brock-20 and Brock-21. They sit a short distance apart in Juukan Gorge, about 60km from the mining town of Tom Price, on the edge of the multibillion-dollar Brockman 4 iron ore mine.
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Juukan two is one of the only sites on the Pilbara to show continual human occupation through the last ice age, and archeological records, including bone pits that catalogued changing fauna, dated back 46,000 years.
The sites were drilled and set with explosives last week. Traditional owners the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura (PKKP) peoples don’t yet know the full extent of the damage.
The operation had been discussed at meetings with Rio Tinto over a number of years, but Burchell Hayes, one of the directors of the PKKP Aboriginal Corporation, says those meetings often conveyed technical information which PKKP elders found hard to interpret. He says the “blunt details” that would have helped them understand exactly what was being proposed, and when, was lacking.
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The WA Aboriginal affairs minister, Ben Wyatt, says he is normally “contacted pretty rapidly by the relevant Aboriginal organisation” when a heritage site is under imminent threat, but was not called in this case.
“The first I heard about this was after the explosion,” Wyatt told reporters in Perth.
The federal Indigenous affairs minister, Ken Wyatt, says he received an 11th hour call from lawyers for the PKKP advising him of the risk and asking for advice, and that he advised them to seek an injunction under federal heritage legislation.
He did not take it further or intervene, but said in a statement after the blast that the “destruction should not have occurred”.
When I first saw the news report I was gripped, inexplicably, by a cold rage, and a sudden, desperate feeling of loss. It was as if my own, non-Aboriginal culture, and my sense of self, had been ravaged by the mindless bastards at Rio Tinto, and the scumbag W.A. pollies who had allowed this desecration to take place in the endless pursuit of the mighty dollar.
Then I realised that my culture, and my sense of Australian identity, really had been attacked by this heinous assault on a sacred Australian historical site.
It was something of a revelation, almost an epiphany, you might say, for me to realise that, as a third generation Australian, part of an introduced sub-species, I am, in fact, part of a blended culture, the origins of which have existed in this land since the dawn of time.
I can claim no Aboriginal ancestry, and I have no wish to be accused of expropriating that of our indigenous fellow Australians, but I now claim the right to be considered as a part of Aboriginal culture, since, in reality, the New Nations have become an intrinsic part of First Nations culture.
It may seem confusing, but it’s actually simple.
Contemporary Australia is a specific, unitary cultural entity. There is a defined, particular, Australian identity that has been created by the amalgamation of cultures from across the globe, which have also been glued to the timeless existence of the first Australians. I am part of a culture of which the Aboriginal peoples are also part.
We share the identical quality of Australianness. I once considered, and talked with admiration, about Aboriginal culture as if it were a discrete concept, separate from mine, but I have realised that, from now on, I’ll have to acknowledge the cultural link between me and the Aboriginal people who are my fellow Australians.
This might explain why I became so incensed that I had to deliberately calm myself before beginning to write about the shitheads who have destroyed forever, a piece of my own, and our, Australian history.
There may be many of us who feel disgusted, incensed, outraged, stunned by the level of vandalism which we have witnessed, but, tragically, there will be few who are surprised.
The attempted destruction of this land’s Aboriginal peoples began with the invasion of 1788, was ramped up by imperialist British interests, and continued unabated until Australians started to become members of a separate nation, rather than the poor cousins of the British conquerors. Dispossession and massacre were tools of the oppressors, who had no perception of any culture or identity other than their own.
Gradually, with the growth of reporting media and a growing humanity among non-aboriginal people, the murders decreased, but the racism still flourished and has yet to disappear from the psyche of bigoted individuals and fascist groups.
So slow was progress towards a genuinely cohesive Australian culture, that I was seventeen years old when indigenous people were first recorded on the national census.
It is likely that racism has existed in some form since homo sapiens first walked upon the earth. It springs from the less desirable traits evident in human nature and will never be eradicated.
Progress has been made, slowly and painfully. There is evidence for this in the fact that the murder of one African-American man by the police who were sworn to protect him, and his civil rights, has created a wave which is currently washing around the world.
The assault by a police officer on one Aboriginal youth in Australia, has produced cries of shame and disgust around this country and revived memories of hundreds of Aboriginal deaths in custody.
It’s well past time that non-indigenous Australians who wish to identify with an Australian culture, get off their arses and shout that we’ve had more than enough of the attacks by the mindless few upon the minority members of our society, regardless of their ethnicity.
Whether our ancestors were Indigenous, European, African, Asian, or Alien, we are now, by choice, Australian. We have a set of cultural values. We know which behaviours are acceptable in an Australian context, and which are not. Those of us who can, must do more than defend the rights of those who can’t defend themselves, we must attack the racist, elitist minority which controls this country, and bring it down via the ballot box.
A tried and true political ploy for the management of divisive social issues has long been the use of the “Royal Commission Strategy”.
This method involves providing a lip-service response to social outrage by instituting an inquiry which will, preferably, take some years to conclude, and which will provide a set of recommendations that may then be easily ignored, because the heat of debate will have been been diminished by the passage of time.
There are several current examples of this strategy’s successful implementation, but the one which is most relevant in the context of this writing, is the inquiry into Aboriginal deaths in custody.
There may be criticism of my focus upon Aboriginal deaths, since all deaths of prisoners are deserving of attention or investigation.
I explain my focus by saying that my concern, in this instance, relates to the racial abuse of the many minorities which contribute to our society, and specifically to the systemic racial abuse experienced by indigenous Australians.
Adult Aboriginal Australians are dramatically over-represented in Australian gaols, and the numbers relating to indigenous youth in custody are stratospheric. Racists will explain this by claiming that Aboriginal Australians are, by nature, thieves, drunks and substances abusers, bad people who need to be locked up. Racists feel no need provide evidence to support their bullshit.
Since that Royal Commission in 1991, more than 430 Aboriginal Australians have died in police custody. On average, more than 14 indigenous people have died in custody each year, since the findings of the inquiry were tabled. Some of the Commission’s findings are worthy of particular attention:
“4.1 Indigenous people were 17.3 times more likely to be arrested than non-Indigenous people. The over-representation rate in Western Australia is four times the national average.
4.2 Incarceration of Indigenous people in Australia increased by 61 per cent between 1988 and 1995. Incarceration of non-Indigenous people has increased by 38 per cent.
4.3 Indigenous people in 1995 were 14.7 times more likely to be imprisoned than non-Indigenous people.
4.4 Indigenous people are more likely to be imprisoned for assault, break and enter, motor vehicle offences, property offences and justice procedures offences. They are also more likely to be arrested for good order offences.
4.5 Indigenous people are twice as likely as non-Indigenous people to be arrested in circumstances where assault occasioning no harm is the most serious offence. They are three times more likely to be imprisoned for such an offence. This indicates that provocative policing is continuing through the use of the trifecta (offensive language, resist arrest and assault occasioning no harm).”
In 2018, almost thirty years after the publication of its findings, only two-thirds of the Commission’s recommendations had been fully implemented. During that same period the rate of indigenous incarceration had doubled.
This deplorable state of affairs has been presided over by seven separate prime ministers, seven people who pledged to serve all Australians – Paul (Head Kicker) Keating (1991-1996), John (Children Overboard) Howard (1996-2004), Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard (Confusion Reigns) (2007-2013), Tony (The) Abbott (2013-2015), Malcolm (Turncoat) Turnbull (2015-2018) and Scomo (What Fires? I’m on Holiday) (2018 to present day).
Of these, Keating made an attempt. In his lengthy and now famous “Redfern Speech” he said:
“We simply cannot sweep injustice aside…
The Report of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody showed with devastating clarity that the past lives on in inequality, racism and injustice…
The message should be that there is nothing to fear or to lose in the recognition of historical truth, or the extension of social justice, or the deepening of Australian social democracy to include Indigenous Australians.”
Howard took a different tack.
· Introduced the Northern Territory Intervention, without Aboriginal consultation, and without any evidence to support the need for aggressive regulation of indigenous lives. (Children overboard – again!)
· Put an end to ATSIC, destroying the only indigenous self-governing body in Australia.
· Made Native Title laws tougher in order to assist his friends in the pastoral and mining industries.
· Refused to apologise to the Stolen Generation, saying “I speak for the entire government on this, and it’s a matter that’s been discussed at great length. We don’t think it’s appropriate for the current generation of Australians to apologise for the injustices committed by past generations.”
· Denied genocide was ever committed against Indigenous Australians, saying “I didn’t accept the conclusion of the Bringing Them Home report that genocide had been practised against the Indigenous people.”
“I didn’t believe genocide had taken place, and I still don’t.”
· Voted against the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, following his apparent principle, that the historic imperialist subsumption of indigenous lands through theft and murder, was an acceptable human behaviour.
· Derailed Reconciliation by deprecating the shameful treatment of indigenous peoples as a historical “blemish”, refusing to participate in the Walk of Reconciliation, but planning to introduce a “new Reconciliation” when it looked as though he might need votes to retain power.
Kevin Rudd apologised to The Stolen Generations.
Julia Gillard seems to have had little to say on the matter.
Tony Abbott believed that the invasion of 1788 was a good thing for indigenous peoples.
Malcolm Turnbull called yet another Royal Commission, this time into incidents at N.T.’s Don Dale Youth Detention Centre.
Scott Morrison has achieved absolute excellence in this field. After completing a programme of intensive research, he has discovered that there is a problem evident with racism in Australia, but he is determined that we will not import the issues of black deaths in custody from overseas.
Scomo has largely been ignored by Australians who needed do no research to know that something stinks in this country.
Could it be that 2020 might signal a turning point, the period during which the racist aspects of our society are pinpointed and acknowledged and those responsible for the maintenance of racist attitudes and practices are named and shamed.
Clearly, since the majority of politicians, the people who are able to create change, don’t give a rat’s arse about the issue, significant change is unlikely.
I cling to the belief that the majority of Australians are not knowingly and deliberately racist. I believe that our unacknowledged racism is largely a state of mind derived from seemingly harmless ideas and behaviours, thoughts which have been thoughtlessly absorbed, as if by osmosis, from our culture.
I hope against hope, that we are simply ignorant, apathetic or feel powerless to enact change. I dream of voting for a candidate who expresses racial equality as a personal and political principle and who is determined to redress the racial abuse experienced by Australians of all ethnicities.
In the meantime, it is my fervent hope that the Wedge-tailed Eagle of Retribution will soar above all Rio Tinto operations, and those of their partners in crime, and shit on them from the greatest possible height.