I am a member of the Stolen Generation, my father was removed from his homelands in 1940. He lost his mother, lost his culture, his language and lost his identity. It took nearly 70 years for my father to tell his story, share his shame, his grief and his fear for us as children who might also be removed. There was constant sadness of waiting for letters. There was sadness of waiting forlornly for his mother to come and find him and his brother. I have witnessed all my life the utmost sadness and anger in my father because he was ripped from his People, Country and Culture.
My grandmother looked for and found her children, but she was never permitted to see them. She was denied many times but she never gave up, not until the day she died. She was only 39. This is the true history of this country towards the Aboriginal peoples. It is this history that drives me and motivates me to share the knowledge.
I am not looking for empathy, sympathy or an apology. I want Australia to have a better awareness of this history. I want Australia to understand the needs of our Aboriginal people’s with disabilities. Aboriginal people still are experiencing hardship and fear of being removed from their homelands. Aboriginal people are still witnessing the destruction of their Land. Aboriginal people are still being stripped of their cultural identity, sense of belonging, their connections to their history, stories, families and Lore. History repeats itself again and again.
The Federal Government of Australia has decided that to save money for the states of Victoria, Tasmania and Western Australia the closing of municipal services in remote Aboriginal communities was needed. This decision was made without proper consultation with Traditional Owners, Elders and Community members living in these remote communities. The Traditional owners and Elders have been responsible for their lands for thousands of generations. They are the custodians who protect, care and nurture the Lands for generations to come.
“We took the traditional lands and smashed the traditional way of life…: Redfern Speech (Year for the World’s Indigenous People) – Delivered in Redfern Park by Prime Minister Paul Keating, 10 December 1992
For generations the Australian Government policies and practices have led to genocide and the raping of the Lands. This history must be told, acknowledged and understood if generations of Aboriginal people impacted by these policies are to heal and prosper. It seems National Apology offered on February 13th 2008 by the then Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, was nothing but hollow words.
What about people with disabilities in these communities? The oral evidence that Aboriginal people use to document Lore (law), Ceremonies and Protocols of daily life for people living on Homelands with disabilities often does not identify “disabled peoples”. Instead the Traditions outline how members who may have disabilities are cared for and provided with the special care that they need to enjoy their daily lives. Often support for people with a disability on these Communities is not provided by the Australian Government. It is the community Traditions and Lore that ensure that members who may have a disability are properly cared for.
As one of Australia’s leading Aboriginal community consultants that specialises in disability I witness the harsh reality when government policies get it wrong. Government policies for Aboriginal people, with or without disabilities, are often developed without proper consultation. Proper consultation takes time and is absolutely necessary. Why? Because past failures of Government policy, established without proper consultation, has led to great mistrust between Aboriginal communities and the Government. Put bluntly, given previous history of Stolen Generations, Aboriginal communities fear the Governments intent. This is particularly so for Aboriginal people with disabilities.
I see Aboriginal people with disability living in fear of being removed from their Homelands, which is all they have left. I have witnessed young people with disabilities being sent to larger towns to be cared for by non-Indigenous carers. When this happens these young people lose their connection with Traditions, the Land and their Identity. They are displaced.
All too often this leads to substance abuse and sometimes physical abuse. All too often these Aboriginal people with disabilities are rejected by the mainstream and placed in the too hard basket. I witness neglect by workers who do not or will not try to understand the cultural requirements of Aboriginal people with a disability. I see regularly the abuse of power and control over Aboriginal people with disabilities who are displaced and without Identity.
I have had conversations with Deaf Elders in remote communities that ask for clarification of what is happening to their Lands. They want to know who will keep the stories and dreaming alive for the young people of these communities. Aboriginal people with disabilities have a real fear of losing their cultural practices and their place as the keepers of Lands and Traditions, Lore, Spirit, Healing and Dreaming if they are removed from their communities.
Aboriginal people with disabilities and Deaf Aboriginal people fear that they will be forced to live in separate worlds. They fear that they will lose their Culture and Identity as they are forced into government support programs that have been established with no thought to the cultural needs of Aboriginal people with a disability and their connection to the Land.
Deaf Aboriginal and Aboriginal people with disabilities are our own mob who live within our mob who live within the kinship system of the wider Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. We have our Lore that is never changed, we have our Protocols that must never be broken, we have our Ceremonies we cannot forget and we have our Land who calls us to Country.
Regardless of how long we have been away. Regardless of what we do in life. Regardless of what needs we have; taking our Aboriginal people off their homelands is cultural genocide, not because we own the Land, but because the Land owns us…
All too often this is disregarded, particularly where disability is involved. And the Government calls it a life style choice – It has to stop!
If you wish to be involved, if you wish to attend, if you wish to take part in the STOP THE FORCE CLOSURES OF ABORIGINAL COMMUNITIES RALLIES check out the website www.sosblakaustralia.com or their Facebook page of the same name sosblakaustralia it will give you the dates and details for the rallies on May 1st 2015 , there will be a list of places, times and there will be a honest commitment to have Auslan interpreters at these events ( based on availability of interpreters) Jody Barney Deaf Indigenous Community Consultancy www.deaficc.com.au