This article is the conclusion of a short series on one person’s perspective on what people might want to know before considering immigrating to Australia as a person with progressive politics, in 2016.
The goal of this series is, if there’s issues that affect you and/or you are active in and/or you want to know more about, to give you a capsule summary of the issue from my point of view, with links for further reading. Where I have them, I’ve given details of activists and organisations I follow in the space, and in some cases well known organisations that I don’t personally follow. In this last entry, I’m dealing mostly with identities and rights where I am not in the affected group and where I have no specific expertise. (Being a woman is the major exception to this, but even there I’m not a specific expert on women’s rights in Australia.) So rather than attempt to do justice to anything in detail, in most cases I’ve listed up to five things to learn more about, and then some follows of groups and individuals you can learn from.
Thanks to the many folks over the years who’ve developed the resources I relied on for this, ranging from Twitter to Wikipedia to our beleagured ABC. Most links from this entry are to Wikipedia; this is due to my limitations in finding the best sources. I strongly encourage you to treat Wikipedia articles as an overview and one source of further reading, not the last word.
Indigenous dispossession and oppression
Warning: this section uses the surnames of deceased Indigenous Australians, and links from this section may contain images and names of deceased Indigenous Australians.
In moving to Australia, unless you are an Indigenous Australian, you are inevitably taking part in the dispossession of Australia’s Indigenous peoples, who lived here for tens of thousands of years prior to European invasion two centuries ago.
Four things to learn more about:
- the Frontier Wars and genocide of Indigenous Australians, eg the Myall Creek and Coniston massacres, the resistance to them, and the political debates around recognising and teaching the invasion and the frontier wars in school curriculums and museums, known as the History Wars;
- the Stolen Generations: Indigenous children removed from their families throughout most of the 20th century. For the Australian government’s response, see the Bringing Them Home report (1997) and the apology in Parliament made by PM Kevin Rudd in 2008;
- the land rights struggle, including the Mabo decision in 1992;
- institutional violence against Indigenous Australians, including the Royal Commission into deaths in custody, the 2004 Palm Island death in custody, the following Aboriginal protests and the conviction and gagging of Lex Wotton; the death of Mr Ward in the back of an unairconditioned police van in 2008; the death of Ms Dhu in police custody in 2014; and the torture of Indigenous youth in the Don Dale detention centre in the Northern Territory from (at least) 2014–2016.
Follow: The Land Councils (the list seems very incomplete, it is missing eg the New South Wales Aboriginal Land Council), Black Australia Tumblr (see their FAQ on non-Indigenous readers), Celeste Liddle at Black Feminist Ranter and Daily Life, the @IndigenousX tweeters together with @TheKooriWoman, the 2015 IQ2 Racism Debate and 2016 Wallace Wurth lecture speeches and ‘The Australian Dream’ Quarterly Essay by Stan Grant. National Indigenous Television is made by and for Indigenous Australians under the auspices of the public Special Broadcasting Service, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation maintains an Indigenous news portal and The Koori Mail is an Aboriginal-owned and operated national newspaper.
On January 26 each year, Invasion Day protests and Survival Day observances protest the original invasion and celebrate the continuance of Aboriginal communities and culture. If you are visiting or living in Australia on January 26 2017 as a non-Indigenous Australian, observing, supporting, and attending these (where appropriate) is a possible way to begin to support Indigenous activism.
Australia has a punitive, human rights-violating regime of imprisoning asylum seekers, particularly those who arrive by sea. Many asylum seekers are imprisoned on Papua New Guinea and Nauru where the refugees have less access to basic needs, lawyers, activists, and the media (and as noted in the last entry there are also strong restrictions on media reporting). The government is trying to arrange it so that any refugee held in these prisons will never be offered asylum in Australia, with recent proposals that they would never be allowed entry to Australia under any circumstances on any visa.
The UN has repeatedly condemned this regime, finding that it violates the Convention Against Torture and calling for immediate movement to humane conditions. Among the deaths in offshore detention centres are those of Reza Berati in 2014 at the hands of prison staff and, just recently, Faysal Ishak Ahmed after alleged serious medical neglect.
Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott (whose party remains in government now, under PM Malcolm Turnbull) has given lectures promoting this system to other countries. At present, while dislike of and protest against our torture of asylum seekers is widespread, it is not a core political issue for many Australians, and it gains support whenever it is relaxed and asylum seekers begin arriving by boat, and dying at sea, in larger numbers. The ALP, currently in opposition, supports offshore imprisonment continuing. The Greens are the largest party committing to ending it in their policy platform (and as best I can tell, even the Greens are not opposing imprisonment within Australian borders).
A selection of detailed reading on Australian refugee policies and immigration detention:
- Refugee Council of Australia, History of Australia’s refugee program (covering the period 1839–2012), Timeline (to May 2016), and Australia’s offshore processing regime briefing
- The Nauru files, leaked incident reports from the Nauru detention centre
- Border Crossing Observatory, Australian Border Deaths Database: “a record of all known deaths associated with Australia’s borders since 1 January 2000.”
- Amnesty International’s Refugees campaign, and their publications Australian Government’s Secretive System of Deliberate Abuse on Nauru (August 2016) and This is Breaking People: Human Rights Violations at Australia’s Asylumn Seeker Processing Centre on Manus Island, Papua New Guinea (2013)
- Wikipedia: Immigration detention in Australia, Pacific Solution
Follow: RISE (Refugees, Survivors and Ex Detainees), Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, Human Rights Law Centre, Refugee Action Coalition. Julian Burnside (a barrister who acts pro bono on refugee rights) has assembled a long list of asylum seeker support organisations. In May 2016 No Award published things australians can do to support asylum seekers.
Five things to learn more about:
- The Fair Work Commission and the Fair Work Ombudsman for current workplace rights, see especially Employee Entitlements and Disputes at Work
- The Australian Council of Trade Unions, Timeline of workers rights and unionism in Australia
- The history of the Australian Labor Party
- The Liberal/National’s proposed WorkChoices policy, and its contribution to their defeat in the 2007 Federal election
- The current campaigns of the Australian Council of Trade Unions
Follow: The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU), the ALP’s workers’ policies (see also those of the Greens), the ACTU’s list of individual unions and Diversity Council Australia for equality initiatives in the workplace.
Racial equality and anti-racism
Five things to learn more about:
- The Australian Human Rights Commission, Face the Facts: Some Questions and Answers about Indigenous Peoples, Migrants and Refugees and Asylum Seekers (2012), including statistics on immigration, and a basic overview of major political and human rights issues for all these groups (important: this is ultimately a government-funded publication during a time of refugee detention)
- Timeline of Australian racism from an anti-racism educational program, Racism. No way!
- The White Australia policy, restricting immigration from Asia and the Pacific Islands in the early and mid twentieth century
- Racist violence and rallies in Australia in the last fifteen years including the 2005 Cronulla riots in Sydney, 2009 attacks on Indians in Australia, and the 2015 Reclaim Australia rallies around the country.
- The first rise of the One Nation party (1996–2012), based on anti-Asian racism, and the second (current) rise of the One Nation party following the 2016 Federal election, based on anti-Muslim racism.
Follow: I don’t have a solid set of follows in the anti-racism and racial justice space yet. I’d love some suggestions in comments.
Five things to learn more about:
- Federal anti-discrimination protections on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity and intersex status and the Human Rights Commission’s statistics on the prevalence of homophobia and transphobia
- The history of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras (see the Sydney Pride History Group)
- The ongoing struggle for marriage equality in Australia; see the anti-equality Marriage Amendment Act 2004, the High Court’s decision to overturn the ACT’s marriage equality in Commonwealth v Australian Capital Territory (while upholding a federal right to legislate for it), the failed push for an unnecessary plebiscite on marriage equality.
- An example of the current state of LGBTI rights and reactionary pushback: the Safe Schools Coalition, an anti-bullying program supporting LGBTI students and allies, and the surrounding political debate. See What is Safe Schools Coalition?, What is the Christian Right afraid of?, discussion of review findings, and the November death of gay, Indigenous boy Tyrone Unsworth following homophobic bullying (Dameyon Bonson: I am Indigenous. I am gay. Unlike Tyrone Unsworth, I survived)
- The right to identity documents with the correct gender is mixed in Australia. The Federal government does not require affirming surgery to change gender data, but many states do, particularly an issue as it is states that issue birth certificates.
Follow: the Star Observer has a list of national and state LGBTI Community Services and Organisations.
Five things to learn more about:
- Federal anti-sex discrimination law (as of 1984) and anti-gender identity discrimination law (as of 2013).
- The current Australian gender pay gap, at 16.2% in May 2016 (source: Workplace Gender Equality Agency), having been in the 15–19% range for the past two decades.
- Government-funded paid parental leave of 18 weeks at minimum wage for the primary caretaker of infants who have a recent history of employment. There are moves to make it less available to carers with employer-funded leave.
- One campaign in Australian women’s history: the lifting of the prohibition against married women working as permanent employees in the public service (one of many women scientists affected was Ruby Payne-Scott)
- One in six women in Australia experiences domestic violence, and a woman is killed by domestic violence about once a week. The Australian of the Year 2015, Rosie Batty, lost her son Luke in 2014 to domestic violence by her ex after years of violence directed at her, and almost immediately became a leading anti-domestic violence campaigner. Many Indigenous women are leading anti-domestic violence activists, including Judy Atkinson and Louise Taylor.
Follow: the monthly Down Under Feminist Carnival collating feminist writing in Australia and New Zealand
Four things to learn more about:
- Federal anti-disability discrimination law (as of 1992).
- The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) and commentary on it by the disability sector (look for, for example, each state’s Council of Social Services, each of which issues regular commentary on NDIS as it rolls out)
- Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Mental health services in Australia
- Australian Human Rights Commission, Violence, harassment and bullying of disabled people (2014) (also called out in the Human Rights Watch World Report 2016)
Follows: Sam Connor, Lauredhel at Hoyden About Town and Feminists With Disabilities, the late Stella Young and other writers at the ABC’s now defunct Ramp Up website, Australian Centre for Disability Law, The Conversation‘s disability rights writing, Our Consumer Place (a guide by and for consumers of mental health care).
NSW is one of the few jurisdictions in the world where sex work is decrminialised. Some other states and territories have legal sex work in some circumstances (eg in brothels, or privately) but not others, it varies quite widely. The Scarlet Alliance has a state-by-state breakdown.
Follow: Scarlet Alliance.
- Moving to Australia as a progressive in 2016: introduction
- Moving to Australia as a progressive in 2016: logistics
- Moving to Australia as a progressive in 2016: authoritarianism
- Moving to Australia as a progressive in 2016: parliamentary politics, freedom of the press, climate change, surveillance
- Moving to Australia as a progressive in 2016: discrimination, violence, and activism