Australia, a nation with a rich tapestry of cultures, has a deeply intertwined history with its Indigenous peoples.
First Nations have been the continent’s original inhabitants for over 65,000 years but despite their deep-rooted presence and contributions, they have faced significant challenges, including discrimination and marginalisation.
And one of the pressing concerns in contemporary Australia is the rise of anti-Indigenous groups.
Intolerance and discrimination, including harmful discourse and stereotyping, have affected Indigenous communities for centuries, including those living in the OSCE region. Too often, this intolerance can manifest as anti-Indigenous hate crimes.Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, Anti-Indigenous Hate Crimes (6 August 2023) [Page 2]
Understanding Anti-Indigenous Groups
Anti-Indigenous groups are factions that oppose or campaign against policies, initiatives, or narratives that are in favour of Indigenous peoples, and it’s estimated that about 10% of Australians fall within this category.
These groups often harbour prejudiced views and work against the interests of the Indigenous communities, and their influence is evident in the negative portrayal of Indigenous people in various media outlets and public discourses.
But understanding the Anti-Indigenous movement is a global perspective….
And while the issue of Anti-Indigenous sentiment is evident in Australia, it is by no means an isolated problem with Indigenous populations facing similar challenges across the globe, particularly in countries with a history of European colonisation like the United States, with its tumultuous history with Native Americans, serves as a poignant example.
The Roots of Anti-Indigenous Sentiments in the U.S.
The ancestors of Indigenous people established waves of communities, tribes, and vast cities.
And these civilisations, through the domestication of maize and the development of intricate governing systems, architectural marvels, and scientific innovations, had achieved remarkable complexity long before European contact.
In fact, the largest capital city on the Western continent rivalled, if not exceeded, the size of contemporary European cities, including London, Madrid, and Rome.
But with the onset of settler colonialism in the 1600s, the erasure of Indigenous people and their history began in earnest.
And as colonists and missionaries descended upon Native populations, their records, monuments, and cultural artifacts were systematically destroyed.
New diseases and biological warfare by colonists, exacerbated by the enslavement and trafficking of African people, combined with direct acts of murder and enslavement, led to the decimation of 80-90% of Indigenous people between 1492 and 1600.
And this translates to a staggering 55 million people, or 10% of the world’s population at that time, being directly affected by colonialism.
Continued Atrocities and Erasure
The horrors didn’t end with the initial waves of colonisation, with Indigenous Americans facing forced assimilation into white society, with systems designed to eradicate Native culture.
Under the guise of “kill the Indian…save the man,” Indigenous people were subjected to forced education that aimed to replace their values, beliefs, and traditions with those of the colonisers.
Which included converting them to Christianity, replacing ancestral languages with English, and imposing European values of material wealth, private property, and patriarchal gender roles.
The forced removal of Native people from their ancestral lands continued, with events like the “Trail of Tears” standing as a testament to the cruelty inflicted upon them.
And after being forcibly evicted from their homes, stripped of their possessions, and shackled, an estimated 15,000 people perished along a 5,000-mile trail due to a lack of basic necessities.
Even after being relegated to reservations, Native Americans faced continued coercion to assimilate and relinquish their remaining lands, and the land designated for reservations was often resource-deficient and isolated, leading to widespread poverty.
This, combined with a lack of funding and resources, has resulted in significant educational and health disparities, with the legacy of racism, discrimination, and erasure continuing to manifest in increased rates of substance abuse, violence, and mental health issues among Native communities.
And the anti-Indigenous sentiments that persist in countries like Australia and the U.S. are deeply rooted in a history of colonisation, discrimination, and erasure.
So recognising and addressing these issues is crucial for fostering understanding, reconciliation, and healing for Indigenous communities worldwide.
The Disproportionate Influence: Indigenous vs Anti-Indigenous Groups
The Indigenous population, comprising Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, comprises approximately 3.8% of Australia’s total population.
But in contrast, the anti-Indigenous groups, which are estimated to be around 10%, far outnumber the Indigenous communities, and this disproportionate representation can skew public perception, leading to a biased narrative against the Indigenous population.
The Constitutional Referendum and Indigenous Rights
The 1967 constitutional referendum proposed changes to the Australian Constitution, specifically in relation to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
And the overwhelming support for these changes, with 90.77% of Australian voters voting ‘Yes’, was a testament to the public’s desire for a more inclusive and just society. However, the journey to this momentous occasion and the aftermath reveals the persistent influence of anti-Indigenous groups.
For example, while the proposed changes might seem like a ‘no-brainer’ to many, the lead-up to the referendum was fraught with challenges and advocates for Indigenous rights had to wage a long and arduous campaign to bring the issue to national attention and ensure its place on the ballot.
Anti-Indigenous groups, despite being in the minority in this campaign but still significantly larger than the Indigenous population in Australia, were vocal in their opposition.
And they propagated fears about the potential consequences of the changes, suggesting that they would lead to Aboriginal sovereignty or special rights that would disadvantage non-Indigenous Australians.
These groups capitalised on existing prejudices and misconceptions about Indigenous peoples to rally against the proposed amendments.
But the resounding ‘Yes’ vote in the referendum was a significant victory for Indigenous rights and a testament to the Australian public’s ability to see beyond the divisive rhetoric of anti-Indigenous factions.
However, the influence of anti-Indigenous groups did not wane.
They continued to challenge and oppose policies aimed at redressing historical injustices or providing support to Indigenous communities.
And their influence can still be seen in debates over land rights, representation, and recognition of Indigenous cultures and histories.
So while the 1967 constitutional referendum was a watershed moment for Indigenous rights in Australia, reflecting the nation’s desire for justice and equality.
The persistent influence of anti-Indigenous groups serves as a reminder that the journey towards true reconciliation and recognition is ongoing and underscores the importance of continued advocacy, education, and dialogue in the pursuit of a more inclusive Australia.
Public Opinion on Indigenous Entrepreneurship
A public (Google) survey posed the question: “Do you think the public sector should support Indigenous entrepreneurship more?” The results were as follows:
- Yes: 61%
- No: 12.5%
- Not sure: 26.4%
- Total respondents: 235
The majority of respondents (61%) believe that the public sector should support Indigenous entrepreneurship more, which indicates a positive shift in public perception, recognising the importance of empowering Indigenous communities economically.
However, the presence of a significant percentage of respondents who are fully against (around 10%) such support could underscore the influence of anti-Indigenous sentiments.
To begin, it’s essential to understand the nature of the polls in question, which can be influenced by the way questions are framed, the sample size, and the demographics of respondents.
For instance, a question like “Do you support additional government funding for Indigenous communities?” might yield different results than “Do you believe Indigenous communities have been historically disadvantaged and deserve reparations?”
But across a range of polls, there seems to be a consistent 10% “hard no”, which could be connected to the % of a population that really dislikes Indigenous people for whatever reason…
It could also be that 10% of people hate polls and it could have nothing to do with Indigenous people… but when you review comments on polls and social media in general, it’s pretty clear there are many that have pure hatred for Indigenous people.
Furthermore, in theory, the polls will show a more pronounced negative stance against Indigenous people in media and social platforms with a strong anti-Indigenous bias.
And in many “neutral” settings, where the questions posed are straightforward and seemingly uncontroversial, those opposing Indigenous interests typically represent a minority.
So while Australia has made significant strides in recognising and supporting its Indigenous communities, the influence of anti-Indigenous groups remains a concern.
It’s essential to continue educating the public about the rich history, culture, and contributions of the Indigenous peoples because by doing so, Australia can hope to foster a more inclusive society that values and respects its First People.
Indigenous peoples, in exercising their right to self-determination, have the right to autonomy or self-government in matters relating to their internal and local affairs, as well as ways and means for financing their autonomous functions.Article 4, The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP)