Racism Island

June 6, 2020 at 4:22 pm (Entries that matter)

Buckle up.

In my 20s I did a lot of home tutoring. One day a student was studying some stats, and I glanced over them and then stopped and looked again. I had never seen stats like that, and I began to cry. They showed some very basic quality of life measures: infant deaths, average life expectancy, and the odds of a woman dying in childbirth. The ones for the general Australian population weren’t surprising. As a nation, we’re doing pretty well. We don’t expect to die in childbirth, or to experience the death of our precious baby, or to die ourselves before we see that baby grow up. My life isn’t easy but I have a safe place to live and mostly-healthy kids. I’ll probably have grandkids one day; maybe even great-grandkids before I die.
The graphs that showed the exact same stats for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders read like stats from a third world country. They still do today. Aboriginal people inhabit the same nation as me (although they are more likely to live in the country than in cities), shop at the same shops, and walk the same streets, but they live in a parallel existence that is much darker and harder in every way. Here are those three comparative stats, with links to their sources. If you think Australia is doing okay by the people groups that actually belong here, you are wrong. We are doing very badly indeed.
Others are sharing stats on people literally having their children taken away (if that doesn’t make you sick, you’ve forgotten Australia’s history as well as general human decency), and on police violence towards Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, and on the rates of incarceration for non-white people, and on the shocking number of Aboriginal deaths in custody. It’s not just police and jails though, it is? It’s doctors and midwives underestimating the pain of Aboriginal patients, and failing to treat serious medical conditions. It’s employers automatically trusting white applicants more than Aboriginal applicants for jobs (as well as other people of colour, for all of this). It’s white mothers not making friends (and growing vital support networks) with Aboriginal mothers. It’s me feeling more awkward than usual around people that don’t look like me, and talking to someone else instead.

Graph 2: Child Mortality Rates, from the ABS and AIHW analysis of National Mortality Database via https://www.niaa.gov.au/sites/default/files/publications/indigenous/hpf-2017/tier1/120.html

Graph 3: And the rate of maternal death in child birth, which is chilling for anyone with a mother. From the Australian Institute for Health and Welfare at https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/mothers-babies/maternal-deaths-in-australia-2012-2014/contents/risk-factors-for-maternal-death

It hurts to look at these graphs, but I bet it hurts a whole lot more to be an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander living in a stolen land, recovering from a Stolen Generation, and knowing your future and your children’s future is also in mortal danger of being stolen without any chance of justice. (Shout out to all people of colour in Australia and beyond, but focusing on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders today.)


People call Australia ‘Racism Island’ and they’re not wrong. We are no better than the US. And we’d better fight just as hard to make things better.



It is unbearable to think that Aboriginal children must slowly come to the realisation that their lives are considered less valuable than the lives of white children.
How old are they when they know? Five? Seven? Ten?
Definitely no older than ten.
Their lives matter. And their hearts.

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