The Australian Government is actively sustaining cultural violence against Indigenous Australians. The Abbott Government is trying to force 150 Aboriginal Australian communities off their lands in Western Australia. This would displace up to 12,000 Aboriginal Australians, effectively making them refugees in their own ancestral lands. This comes after months of ongoing campaigns to address:

  • The removal of 15,000 Indigenous children: The Grandmothers Against Removals group have been fighting for the return of Aboriginal children who live in so-called “out of home care,” away from their families. This practice goes back to early colonialism, where Indigenous children were removed from their communities and forced to give up their culture.
  • The denial of basic services to remote Indigenous communities: as shown in the Utopia Homelands in the Northern Territory, an Indigenous community that lived without clean water for two months in late 2014.

The Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has called remote Aboriginal communities a “lifestyle choice” only six months after declaring Australia was “unsettled” prior to British colonialism.

A 2011 DNA study published in Science, headed by Professor Morten Rasmussen, shows that Aboriginal Australians are descendants of the first people to leave Africa up to 75,000 years ago. The study provides genetic evidence that Aboriginal Australians represent the oldest continuous culture on Earth.

Rather than supporting Indigenous culture as a unique national resource, with special insight on everything from cultural resilience, to history, to environmental sustainability, the Abbott Government is instead opting to maintain colonial practices that push our traditional landowners off their country. Aboriginal people made their move to Australia 24,000 years before the first wave of people who would eventually populate Asia and Europe.

The displacement of Indigenous Australians is in direct violation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which states Indigenous people “have the right not to be subjected to forced assimilation or destruction of their culture.” Under this charter, nation states have a responsibility to:

“provide effective mechanisms for prevention of, and redress for: Any action which has the aim or effect of depriving them of their integrity as distinct peoples, or of their cultural values or ethnic identities; (and) 

Any action which has the aim or effect of dispossessing them of their lands, territories or resources." 

Australia is the only Commonwealth nation in the world not to have a treaty with our Indigenous people.

Join the conversation to support Aboriginal communities here and on Twitter using #SOSBlakAustralia


Image: My Instagram @OtherSociology

HT Professor @marcialangton for Science study; @LukeLPearson on United Nations Charter. Follow @sosblakaust and @IndigenousX on Twitter for updates on protests.

Sociology of Government-led Climate Change Denial

Photo via Flickr
Photo via Flickr

The Abbott Government in Australia has previously stated it does not believe in climate change and it has significantly withdrawn funding for this line of research in its latest Budget (along with funding for most non-medical scientific research). A recent change on the Department of Environment’s website has removed a reference to the link between extreme weather conditions and climate change. The Department says this change reflects the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which is incorrect. In order to provide some context for my post, it’s best to understand the Abbott Government’s historical and current position on climate change. I specifically focus on the public discourse by Abbott and his Ministers. They discuss climate change science as both something that is open to interpretation and something that can be fought with selective use of science.

The IPCC describes climate change as:

a change in the state of the climate that can be identified (e.g. using statistical tests) by changes in the mean and/or the variability of its properties, and that persists for an extended period, typically decades or longer. It refers to any change in climate over time, whether due to natural variability or as a result of human activity.

Climate change action is an interdisciplinary effort, requiring the knowledge and contribution of scientists, community planners and health workers, and other experts from many fields. It requires research as well as social policy intervention at the local community, state, federal and international levels.

I wrote part of this post on my Google+ and I encountered much push-back from a vocal minority of individuals vehemently opposed to the science of climate change.* As such, I wanted to expand on my original argument, and put climate change denial in sociological context. Research shows that political interests shape the extent to which climate change science is rejected, particularly when individuals have a direct or vested interest in an economy of fossil fuels, or where they have an ideological opposition to renewable energy and social change more broadly.  My focus is on the sociological consequences of extreme weather events, specifically on community planning and community resilience (the knowledge, resources and planning necessary to deal with extreme events). Continue reading Sociology of Government-led Climate Change Denial

Students from Sydney’s Newtown High School of the Performing Arts give Australia’s Prime Minister Tony Abbott a tough question time that he was evidently poorly prepared to answer with grace. The clip begins with Abbott giving weak environmental advice (“plant a tree… but don’t raise taxes”). He then faces questions about why he opposes gay marriage and his inhumane treatment of asylum seekers. Flustered and annoyed, he resorts to his infamous sexism: “Let’s have a bloke’s question, OK?”

Working off the cuff and under estimating Australia’s youth, the Prime Minister is clearly out of his depth.

A series of protests have been held around Australia today. The #MarchInMarch demonstrations are calling attention to a various policy issues that the Abbott Government is mishandling. Abbott is a climate change denier who is privileging the greed of Australia’s mining giants over environmental sustainability. He dismantled the Climate Commission within the first 24 hours of being elected. He’s a misogynist who is against pro-choice; who has made several sexist remarks about women’s public role in society; whose cabinet only has one woman, and yet he crowned himself Minister for Women’s Affairs. His election campaign focused on a platform denouncing Australia’s human rights obligations to asylum seekers (the so-called “stop the boats” campaign actually targets the most vulnerable minority of unauthorised entrants and which sociology research shows will not work). 

This great speech by Victoria Rollison hits on the common thread between these issues: fear. She calls for a return to community, defined as protecting the human rights of all Australians, not just our elites.

Australia turned inward when the majority of us voted for Tony Abbott. We rejected kind and compassionate when we chose to ‘stop the boats.’ We rejected common sense when we decided the money spent saving our economy, our livelihoods from the Global Financial Crisis, was wasteful. And we rejected science when we put our fear of an increase in electricity prices ahead of our determination to slow climate change.

Abbott promised these scared, threatened and oh so gullible people that he would fix everything. That it was a good idea to be selfish and mean and greedy. To forget that they lived in a community. Dog eat dog is back in vogue. So we need to fix this.

We need to show people that when they turn their backs on their communities, they lose out, every time…

The path to prosperity for the nation and the path to healthy communities is not individual success. It’s success for all of us. It’s really that simple. Once you understand this, once you use this idea to frame how you see the world, suddenly Abbott looks like a horrible option.

Suddenly progressive policies aren’t scary, because they represent the common good. We should be helping our fellow Australians up the ladder of social mobility. Not kicking it down and burning it as Abbott is doing now. A stronger you makes our team stronger. And our team is all of us. We’re all part of the same team.

Read the speech script on Rollinson’s website.

In the Howard years Australia became a much meaner and more self-interested country … We are the richest people per capita in the world, if you just look in material terms, and we are the richest people ever to live on the Earth… Yet there’s this air of dissatisfaction and a feeling that we are being cheated, and that is a cultural shift that came out of the Howard years and has been promoted mightily by the Murdoch media — and that flows on through the ABC and all the other radio shock jocks and so on….

People voted for that with their eyes wide open [on the removal of environmental policies]. And I might add to that, that they voted for $4 billion dollars in foreign aid to be not spent.

Retired Greens Senator Bob Brown says Australia got the Prime Minister we voted for… but before you decry that you didn’t vote for Tony Abbott, don’t fall into complacency or fatalism. Brown says the Australian public can still exercise choice and have our voices heard.

There’s an ennui or a feeling of ‘Why bother?’ or even fatalism — that action doesn’t make any difference — which has to be gotten over. Because if people in wealthy countries like Australia can’t be motivated to get out and defend the future of the planet, and people on the planet, and life on the planet, you can’t ask others to do it.

Via New Matilda. Read the whole article, it’s great. 



Ladies and Gentlemen, the Prime Minister of Australia kicking ass and taking names (mostly Tony Abbott’s). 

never lost faith in you, all hail Julia queen of the ghetto.

I’m so glad this speech is getting the attention it deserves, Gillard you are a legend!

LEIGH SALES: Do you – I’m asking you though, not about the Government. I’m asking: do you accept that it’s legal to come to Australia to seek asylum by any means – boat, plane – that it is actually legal to seek asylum?

TONY ABBOTT: I think that people should come to Australia through the front door, not through the back door. If people want a migration outcome, they should go through the migration channels.

LEIGH SALES: That’s an answer to the question if I asked you: how do you think people should seek asylum?, it’s not an answer to the question: is it legal to seek asylum?

TONY ABBOTT: And Leigh, it’s the answer I’m giving you because these people aren’t so much seeking asylum, they’re seeking permanent residency. If they were happy with temporary protection visas, then they might be able to argue better that they were asylum seekers, but obviously the people who are coming to Australia by boat, they want permanent residency; that’s what they want and this government has given the people smugglers a business model by putting permanent residency on the table. And even though the Government has adopted just one of the Howard Government’s successful policies, it won’t adopt temporary protection visas or the willingness to turn boats around where it’s safe to do so.
LEIGH SALES: Do you think that the nature of politics allows politicians to be a little bit free with the facts in their statements just as part of the game of politics?

TONY ABBOTT: I certainly think that we had an example today in the Parliament of the Prime Minister caught out misleading the Parliament, but typically of this prime minister she just tries to brazen her way through it by refusing to answer the question. She said …

LEIGH SALES: But how about – speaking of answering the question, how about you? I mean, what do you think? Are you absolutely scrupulous about making sure what you say in public is accurate?

One of the best political interviews I’ve seen this year. Leigh Sales grills Opposition Leader Tony Abbott about being “loose with the truth”. Watch the whole thing – it’s electrifying.

Via 730 Report, ABC.

Australian Politics and ‘Gay Marriage’

Image from the ‘It’s Time’ video campaign by Get Up!

Marriages between lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Australians are not legally recognised in Australia. The ruling Australian Labor Party has been making slow but significant strides towards upholding the marriage rights of LGBT people. The opposing Liberal Party of Australia continues to drag its feet in the face of much-needed legal reform. Today’s post provides some background on ‘same sex’ marriage around the world and the recent legal changes on same-sex civil unions in Australia. I focus more on Australian public opinion and political debates about LGBT marriage between the two major Australian parties. As a sociologist and as an Australian supportive of legal equality and the civic rights of all Australians, I am cautiously optimistic about the legal reforms being proposed by the Labor Party. Without backing by the Liberal Party, however, political change on LGBT marriage equality is likely to be impeded in Parliament.

Continue reading Australian Politics and ‘Gay Marriage’