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Australia Day honours and all that. A chance for recognition for people who have made a substantial contribution to their local communities or to state or nation.

In addition to many other awards, numbering in the hundreds, each year one person is selected by a committee to be ‘Australian of the Year’. My understanding is that the Prime Minister makes the final decision, but I cannot imagine the PM not accepting the committee’s recommendation.

This year’s choice is Mick Dodson. Pardon?

It is hard to think of anything positive Mr Dodson (or his brother Pat, for that matter) has done for Australia. In fact Mick Dodson is likely to be most closely associated in the minds of ordinary Australians with two mischievous and dishonest reports: that of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, and the notorious ‘Bringing them Home’ report about the Stolen Generations.

Dishonest because the Royal Commission (Dodson was counsel assisting) knew very well that the research showed clearly that the proportion of aboriginal deaths in custody was no higher than that of other ethnic groups, and in some cases lower, yet perpetuated the lie of higher aboriginal death rates. The report recommended special treatment and conditions for indigenous people based on the alleged additional difficulties faced by aboriginal people in coping with imprisonment, even though the research showed that some of the proposed special options, for example home or community detention, actually resulted in higher suicide rates than imprisonment.

Dishonest because despite page after page of tragic tales of separation from family (and some of them truly are tragic) the authors of the Bringing them Home report (Dodson was one of them) have not at any time been able to name even ten aboriginal persons who were removed from home or family because of government policy to ‘steal’ aboriginal children. No such policy ever existed anywhere in Australia.

There has been one case where a court has given compensation to an aboriginal person for being improperly removed from his home – that of Bruce Trevorrow. But Mr Trevorrow was able to claim compensation precisely because he was able to show that his removal was contrary to goverenment policy, and that the social worker who removed him (though it was clear she thought she was acting in his best interests, and rescuing him from a violent and abusive environment from which parental care was frequently absent) had acted beyond the powers granted to her.

These reports were mischievous because they falsely exposed Australia to international ridicule, harmed rather than improved actual outcomes for aboriginal people, and encouraged an ongoing refusal by some indigenous groups to acknowledge any responsibilty for their own life, work and well being.

Much more could be said, about, for example, Mr Dodson’s vocal and vindictive opposition to the Federal Government’s attempts to reduce the appalling rates of child sexual abuse in remote indigenous communities.

On what possible basis is Mr Dodson an appropriate or reasonable choice for Australian of the year?

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