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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Vol 35 no. 24. 28th September 1972

Australian Racism Debate

Australian Racism Debate

Australia is racist, concluded the five speakers at last week's debating union forum on the topic "Is Australia Racist?" "Racism is the suppression of a group of people who wish both to remain a separate entity yet also have a political identity".

This was the definition given by Mr Gordon Brisco, who works with an Aboriginal legal aid organisation in Sydney. He believes racism exists in Australia totally. He sees landrights as the central issue because the Aboriginal society was formed on the land and it is the basis of its future.

Mr Brisco expressed a certain optimism because he considers that today's Aborigines are ready to create a new, separate life style. Aborigines are fighting for landrights and in this organised struggle is a form of black power, he concluded.

Black Panther, Denis Walker, gave a different dimension to the concepts of racism and black power. Racism is linked to exploitation, he said. People should regard the problem as one of oppressors against oppressed. "I get ten dollars a day for working in a timber yard whilst some pig receives three thousand. This is not racism — it's exploitation and oppression".

Denis Walker stressed his concern that the problem was one of exploitation, saying that the politicians and universities function to maintain the striking system. He finished by linking black power to this issue, and said: "In black power we're organising and educating the armed overthrow of this stinking system".

Mr Stuart Murray, the Director of Aboriginal Affairs, took a different approach to the topic. "I do not feel inferior", he said, "I stand on my own land and have my own culture. The weakness is in your structure, for you are the lost souls without a culture". He expressed a desire to help white Australians, including the Prime Minister, from their apathetic illiteracy.

Turning to the Aborigines he said that education, housing, employment, and above all, racial security, were their priorities.

Aborigines have no say in allocating any money granted to them, he said. He also pointed out, that Aborigines are always placed in advisory roles in government offices, and that they should have some executive positions. Mr Murray finished by hinting that if given such opportunities, his people may be able to assist the poor white people to conserve and develop.

Racism, according to Pastor Don Brady, is a general thing which cannot be termed on an individual basis. Queensland legislation was a good illustration of racism, he said, because It was designed to stop Aborigines from developing and becoming self-determining. It also deprived them of their rights, as seen by the growth of bauxite mining on the Cove Peninsula.

Pastor Brady subjectively summed up his feelings about racism by describing his experience at demonstrations and other public gatherings in Queensland.

To prove his belief that Australia is racist, Tony Lawson, a former Abschol director, turned attention to education. He said that the quality was heavily biased towards Europeans, and continued: "In 1968 a white child had four times the resources spent on his education, than did his black counterpart. And in the Northern Territory, it was not until 1951 that Aborigines received official education. Furthermore, the 1966 census revealed that 25% of adult aboriginal males had no education whatsoever, whilst another 25% had received primary education only".

White and Aboriginal people must work together as individuals and organisations to overcome racism, he said. However, Mr Lawson closed his speech and the forum with a reminder to the audience that Aborigines have their own culture and traditions and these must not be ignored in the process of fighting racism in Australia.