6 Jan 2007

There's a good article on smh.com.au today about the higher rate of crime in rural versus urban areas of NSW.

The article manages to deduce that this is actually just because the bush is so much more Aboriginal, and it's Aboriginal people who are disproportionately both perpetrating and the victims of the crimes in question.

In my time in Australia, I've seen this time and again. Earlier this year, I toured outback NSW briefly, visiting Bourke, the most crime-ridden town in NSW according to statistics, and Walgett, the second most, both largely Aboriginal towns, both segregated, both heavily-policed, both out of control. But what I saw there wasn't totally new to me. In areas of Central Sydney with large Aboriginal population, namely Glebe and Redfern, in which I've lived, I've seen pretty similar stuff, if at a lower level, seen kids fight running battles with cops. Redfern St, the main street of Redfern, is fifteen minutes' walk from the bright lights of Central Sydney, but at night it resembles the main streets of Bourke and Walgett far more, shut-down and shuttered, deserted.

What does one say about this? Doubtless there is much to say. The clearest conclusion is that the indigenous people of NSW are in a dire state. No-one would dispute that. The tendency is to say that they need to be further integrated into white society. The centre-left says they must be given respect and employment opportunities, the centre-right that they must be made to work. There is a significant feeling on the popular right that the Aborigines have already been given all the help that can be given and now their plight is their own fault, showing that they are innately morally vicious. And the system responds to Aborigines in this way, by imprisoning them at astounding rates, punishing them for exhibiting the regular symptoms of social disfunction.

This blog doesn't give prescriptions for potted solutions, because what is needed is not a potted solution. Look at the facts: Aboriginal people in NSW were brutalised, herded into camps. They were forcibly torn from their traditional lifestyles, given white men's surnames. They continue to live on in townships around the state, corralled into ghettos, enemployed, while a relatively affluent white population lives a parallel life alongside them, rich on the profits from stolen land. Who in such a situation will have a healthy communal life?