Indigenous Australians: A Portrait of Modern Day Oppression

Utopia

John Pilger (2013)

Film Review

This documentary examines the extreme poverty and apartheid-like living conditions of  Aboriginal peoples in Australia’s Northern Territories. The film’s title refers to the town of Utopia, identified as the most disadvantaged community in one of the world’s richest countries. Pilger tours homes one of the local doctors. Most have no kitchen, electricity, or indoor plumbing. Utopia’s many homeless live in tents or in the open air.

The extreme poverty is responsible for health problems more typical of Dickensian England. Examples include trachoma (an eminently treatable Third World eye disease leading to blindness); rheumatic fever; “glue ear” (chronic otitis media), leading to hearing impairment in 70% of the town’s primary students; cockroach infestation of the ears; malnutrition; and epidemic levels of diabetes and heart and renal disease.

One-third of Australia’s aboriginal people die before age 43.

According to Pilger, Australia’s First Nations people (who first settled Australia 65,000 years ago) have a proud history of resistance against British colonization. However owing to their lack of modern weapons, British troops massacred, imprisoned and tortured tens of thousands.

One of the cruelest government colonization strategies involved the systematic kidnapping of Aboriginal children to be raised in residential schools. As in other British colonies, the goal was to hasten assimilation by eradicating first nations customs and culture.

Although the program allegedly ended in the 1960s, in 2007 the conservative Howard government concocted a (later discredited) pedophile ring scare to justify the invasion and occupation of Northern Territories communities by Australian troops. Residents were given a choice between handing over leases to their homes or losing their government benefits. Over the next several years, the government removed dozens of children from indigenous home, with no legal justification, no appeal rights, and no option to regain parental rights.

A few months after the Norther Territory National Emergency was declared, an Australian mining company coincidentally announced the discovery of large uranium deposits in the targeted communities.

A subsequent Australian Crime Commission Report revealed the Northern Territories had the lowest incidence of child abuse in Australia.

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