As the Bicentennial year draws to a close, the government is getting desperate to undermine the growing public support for the demands of Australia’s Aboriginal nations. Their desperation came to a head in early November with the sacking of Department of Aboriginal Affairs head, Charles Perkins.
Cries of “mismanagement and nepotism” surround the sacking of Perkins, but not one shred of evidence has been produced to substantiate these allegations. Perkins’ daughter allegedly benefited from some Aboriginal Development Corporation (ADC) funding. But if Perkins is Aboriginal, his daughter is too! If she cops the racism of being an Aboriginal woman, why shouldn’t she be the recipient of some of the funding meant to redress the discrimination she suffers? This is not nepotism!
The sacking of Perkins was officially connected to a dispute with the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Gerry Hand, over funding for the Aboriginal-run Wooden Town Club in Canberra. But this climax of events followed weeks of mud-slinging about the administration of Aboriginal affairs by NT Country Liberal Senator, Grant Tambling, before the Senate Estimates Committee. Tambling began screaming about a supposed “black mafia” and then later admitted he had used the term as a way of grabbing media attention! But Tambling’s slurs and innuendo had hogged the headlines and created an unfounded public perception that something was “not quite right” in the Department of Aboriginal Affairs.
But the Department of Aboriginal Affairs has been subject to the same auditing procedures as any other department. While it may be possible to uncover some cases of incorrect procedures being followed, this case is definitely not about an incompetent public servant who wasn’t doing his job efficiently! The sacking of Perkins is an attack, and the case is clearly a witch-hunt set up to smear Aboriginal communities and suggest that they are incapable of running their own affairs.
Aboriginal people have moved beyond demands for equality and an end to discrimination. They want recognition as sovereign nations. They want to run their own affairs. They want an internationally ratified treaty. They are sick of white bureaucrats making the decisions about their communities and their lives. But what really scares the government is that support for Aboriginal people in their quest for these demands is growing by the month.
Perkins has been denied due process. He has been used as a scapegoat to try and diffuse the growing support for a treaty with Aboriginal Australia. This is a common tactic to use when support is on the rise. Prior to World War II, Aboriginal activists were campaigning for the abolition of the so-called Aborigines Protection Board in NSW. A government enquiry was established and Aboriginal leader, Bill Ferguson, argued the case for the abolition of the Board before the enquiry. Ferguson exposed the brutality of Board, and public support for Aboriginal demands grew. But this public support was diffused half a century ago by smearing the Aboriginal movement as being linked with nazism! This time round it’s the old “corruption, mismanagement and waste of tax payers’ funds” routine!
Charles Perkins is no socialist feminist leader of the Aboriginal people. But he is not running a “black mafia,” either. Perkins is a scapegoat, who is stuck in middle. Socialists and feminists should refuse to be diverted from supporting Aboriginal demands for sovereignty and then Aboriginal people can run their affairs and choose their own leaders. Perkins may well be one of them.