“Minerals from Aboriginal land in Western Australia, are shipped to China for a billion dollars profit a week. In this, the richest state, the jails bulge with stricken Aboriginal people, with mothers pleading at the gate for the release of their juveniles. The incarceration of black Australians here is eight times that of black South Africans in the last decade of apartheid.
When Nelson Mandela was buried this week, his struggle against apartheid was duly celebrated in Australia, though the irony was missing. Apartheid was defeated largely by a global campaign from which the South African regime never recovered.
Similar opprobrium has seldom found its mark in Australia, principally because the Aboriginal population is so small and governments have been successful in dividing and co-opting its leaders with gestures and vacuous promises.
That may well be changing. A resistance is growing, yet again, in the Aboriginal heartland, especially among the young. Unlike the US, Canada and New Zealand, which have made treaties with their first people, Australia has offered gestures often wrapped in the law.
But in the 21st century the outside world is starting to pay attention. The spectre of Mandela’s South Africa is a warning”.