Tony Abbott, indigenous rights, and refugees

This week, Tony Abbott has visited Aotearoa New Zealand, bringing with him his racist policies against indigenous Australians and his appalling record on refugee detention camps.

Abbott has launched a policy “to close” remote aboriginal communities, which is about as overtly destructive as its gets. A number of remote communities threatened with closure are, perhaps not coincidentally, near to mines which wish to expand.

However, before we start feeling too pure and superior we need to look in our own mirror. We in Aotearoa New Zealand have some state policies that have undermined rural Māori communities in a less overt way.

For a number of years, Work and Income have been telling people they cannot have a benefit if they move to remote areas where there is high unemployment to support their whānau. Whānau members who are committed to caring for their kuia and kaumatua are effectively told they cannot go home and fulfil their obligations unless they have a job there.

The slow undermining of remote rural Māori communities is also reinforced by an absence of affordable transport, poor housing, sometimes with no power or running water, no access to cash, limited access to health care, and no state investment in local jobs.

The state has not taken the final step and threatened closure, but state neglect is very apparent in Te Tai Tokerau, Te Tairāwhiti, Tūhoe, and to a lesser extent in other regions. It looks to me like the Crown is relying on its “full and final” Te Tiriti settlements to magically fix the intergenerational poverty. However, the one off lump sums on offer are not enough to rebuild what was destroyed by colonisation. The money will help address some problems but it’s not the end of state responsibility.

Abbott’s abusive and xenophobic refugee detention camps filled with desperate people are also supported by our Prime Minister, who said if we had groups of refugees arrive on our shores, he would consider sending them to the Australian camps.

There is not a lot we can do about Australian racism and human rights abuses, but there is a lot we can do to improve our own country and support genuine resource sharing and implementation of Te Tiriti.

If you have family living in Australia encourage them to speak out in support of indigenous Australians’ and refugees’ rights.

If you’re in Auckland on May 1st, come to the solidarity rally for indigenous Australians, 6pm at Britomart in central Auckland, and help us make some noise!

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