Thursday, April 29, 2004

Helping Aborigines?

Peter Howson was a Liberal Party Minister for Aborigines back in 1971-72. Like most right wing liberals he supports a policy of assimilation of Aborigines (left wing liberals tend to support separatism rather than assimilation).

In a recent newspaper article, Peter Howson claimed victory for the assimilation approach by noting that 70% of Aborigines now live in major towns and that 70% of Aborigines marry non-Aborigines.

For Peter Howson this kind of assimilation means progress. But from the conservative point of view it has a major drawback: it means the end of the Aborigines as a distinct people.

If Aborigines are to continue their own unique existence, it will be because of the 30% who live in relatively remote areas, and so are less likely to meet and marry outside their own group. But Peter Howson has plans for these Aborigines too. He is willing to use government financial incentives to get such Aborigines to move outside of their own communities.

He justifies this by pointing to the poverty and welfare dependency in such communities - which is a very reasonable concern. But let's formulate a remedy which allows at least some Aborigines to live amongst themselves. Australia is surely a big enough country to allow Aborigines to develop within their own communities

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