Opinion | Changing Australia day will not solve issues facing the Aboriginal community

It is that time of the year in Australia where we celebrate Australia day, in recent years there has been a push from the far left side of politics like the Greens and certain factions of the labour party to change Australia day from the 26th January. The most persuasive argument for the change is that most Australians do not even care about it. So changing it will not mean much to regular Australians. The weakest argument is that it makes Aboriginals feel sad or offended by it. This is because to them Australia day is inversion day and it reminds of them when white people took over their land.

The reason I find this argument the weakest is, you do make changes in your life based on feeling, you make a decision based on whether an action is right. The same can be said when it comes Governmental decisions. If  I organized my life based on how I feel on a particular day, I would be the most unemployable person. I don’t always feel like being nice to people at work and if I had my own way I could stay at home and play Xbox the whole day if I did not need to work and pay bills.  Feelings are subjective and are dependant on so many factors surrounding a particular issue. While it is true that racism exists in Australia, I do not believe it is structural. White people are not responsible for the high levels of domestic violence in Aboriginal communities, nor are they responsible for the high levels of incarceration. At what point must a person start taking control of their own action and stop blaming their behaviours or lack thereof on other people.

In my view, Aboriginal communities have way more important issues to address. From an outsider focusing on changing a day seems like a waste of time and effort. Aboriginal communities should concentrate on dealing with the problem of alcoholism. Alcoholism is a massive problem in indigenous communities; it increases an individual chance of developing liver disease, cancer, alcoholic liver disease, high blood pressure and vascular dementia. Alcoholism in is also one of the contributing factors to family break down, financial and legal problems and while several other surveys have indicated that aboriginal are less likely to consume alcohol those that drink abuse it.

Another problem indigenous leaders should be focusing on is illicit drug abuse. Drugs like cocaine and amphetamines cause all sorts of preventable health issues like cancer, respiratory infections and mental illnesses. The high levels of drug abuse in aboriginal communities could also explain the high suicide rate. Also, inhalants like Petrol sniffing continues to be a significant problem that mainly affects young people. Petrol sniffing causes hallucination, respiratory difficulties and chronic disability like mental illness. In addition to this point, injecting drugs also causes blood infection like hepatitis B or C and HIV/AIDS.

We also have aboriginal incarceration. According to statics and based on the percentage of indigenous people in Australia, aboriginals are the most incarcerated people in Australia. Aboriginals only make up three percent of the total Australian population, and yet according to figures from the Bureau of statistics, the levels of crime experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Islander people higher than any other racial group. This could why they are overrepresented in prison. The high rates of short-term repeated incarceration experienced by aboriginals have a significant impact on the aboriginal community and broader society (Heffernan et, al 2015)

Every year up to a quarter of all young aboriginal men have direct involvement with correctional services. Twenty-two percent of the total prisoners in Australia are aboriginals. Well-identified issues as a result of incarceration are substance abuse, sexually transmitted infections and hepatitis all of which have been proven to shorten a person’s life expectancy. Effects of incarceration are also seen in the low life expectancy of the black American community. Studies have also shown that there is a direct link between high levels of high-risk behaviours like drugs, prostitution, and alcoholism in neighbourhoods with high incarceration rates.

In conclusion, if aboriginal get there wish and Australia does end up changing the day, will that ease the sadness and the hurt aboriginals go through on Australia day. I believe changing the day will not mean lower levels of incarceration, changing the day will not mean Aboriginals husbands will stop beating their wives. And changing Australia day will not do anything in the way of bridging the gap.

By ACCL

Photo was taken from here 

Readings

Puchala, C., Paul, S., Kennedy, C., & Mehl-Madrona, L. (2010). Using traditional spirituality to reduce domestic violence within aboriginal communities. The Journal of alternative and complementary medicine16(1), 89-96.

Heffernan, E., Andersen, K., Davidson, F., & Kinner, S. A. (2015). PTSD among aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in custody in Australia: Prevalence and correlates. Journal of Traumatic Stress28(6), 523-530.