Thursday, 22 December 2011

Before you get too comfortable.......

From Monash University’s Indigenous Human Rights and History Vol 1(1) [Occasional Papers Series Editors: Lynette Russell, Melissa Castan] comes Genocide in Australia: By Accident or Design? by Colin Tatz – giving us all something to think about as 2011 ends:

There was no pendulum before the 1970s. That there was no desire, let alone a need, to look was partly because Australians regard themselves as quintessential democrats and decent colonists, ‘genuinely benevolent’ as Hancock would say, convinced that Australian-ness [by birth or even by naturalisation] is a natural immunity to bad or homicidal, let alone genocidal, behaviour. When Australia reluctantly ratified the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (hereafter, Genocide Convention or GC)3 in June 1949, a bipartisan parliament was aghast that Australia should be associated with a Genocide Convention Bill. Liberal MP Archie Cameron declared that ‘no one in his right senses believes that the Commonwealth of Australia will be called before the bar of public opinion, if there is such a thing, and asked to answer for any of the things which are enumerated in this convention.’ Labor MP Leslie Haylen was adamant that ‘the horrible crime of genocide is unthinkable in Australia … that we detest all forms of genocide and desire to remove them arises from the fact that we are a moral people. The fact that we have a clean record allows us to take such an attitude...’ (Hansard 1949: 1871–6).

Their indignation and belief in an unblemished record notwithstanding, Australia’s behaviour is now before the bar of public opinion and inevitably on the international conference table; it is increasingly illustrated in museums and film documentaries; it is taught in a small but growing number of university courses and in most high school syllabuses; and published in newspapers, books, annotated bibliographies, genocide studies journals and websites abroad and at home. The Australian case now appears in anthologies like Century of Genocide: Eyewitness Accounts and Critical Views.4 Genocide in Australia is now thinkable and thought about — here and abroad.

That the Aboriginal experience doesn’t look like, sound like or feel like Auschwitz is a quite proper conclusion — but genocide is not restricted to that heinous chapter of the twentieth century. Despite the many differences between the Australian and other cases, the evidence on the destruction of Aboriginal societies is strong enough to fall clearly within the scope of the crime defined in international law……..

No comments: