Monday, February 25, 2008

Sorry, a powerful word

Sunday, Feb 24, 2008

The Hindu, Sunday Magazine

The Other Half

Kalpana Sharma

The image of Australia has taken a beating in this
country because of two recent incidents — the
Haneef case where the doctor from Bangalore was held
on charges of terrorism and the cricket controversy
over Harbhajan Singh’s allegedly 
220;racist” comments directed at Australian
cricketer Andrew Symonds.

The Haneef issue in particular raised questions
about racism in Australia, a complex country and a
lively democracy. It has undergone a significant
demographic transformation in the last half-century
with steady migration from Asian countries. Yet, the
stamp of a “white” Australia has not
been diluted enough to project an image of
multi-culturalism. Above all, the unresolved issue
of the treatment meted out to the country’s
Aboriginal people is one that continues to haunt
succeeding generations of Australians.
Until the 1970s, Australia had a policy of
separating Aboriginal children from their parents by
force in an openly racist policy of social
engineering that began in 1910 but remained
unquestioned until 1970. In an effort to virtually
eliminate Australia’s Aboriginals who have a
living history going back some 60,000 years, the
government adopted a policy of forced assimilation
of Aboriginal children into white society.

Books like Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence by Doris
Pilkington Garimara, later made into a film in 2002,
brought out in moving detail the gross inhumanity of
this policy. The book recounts the journey of the
author’s mother and two other aboriginal girls
who ran away from the Moore River Native Settlement,
north of Perth, where they had been forcibly placed
in 1931. The three girls walked for an incredible
nine weeks covering 2,414 km, dodging the officials
and trackers trying to find them, until they reached
their home.

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