#AusUPR20: One of my favourite pieces of literature on the history and current abuse of Australia’s First Nations people is titled “Genocide in Australia” by Nathan Sentence and is stored at the Australian Museum. 1/38
According to Sentence, the word “genocide” originated from the Polish lawyer Raphäel Lemkin in 1942 in response to the Nazi policies of systematic murder of Jewish people during the Holocaust and history’s previously related atrocities. 2/38
According to the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide in 1951, genocide is defined as ANY of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such: 3/38
A. Killing members of the group;
B. Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
C. Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; 4/38
D. Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
E. Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group. 5/38
In his piece Sentence examined Australia’s history and found several ways that the definition of genocide fits the Australian Government’s treatment of First Nations people. Firstly, regarding ‘the killing members of the group’, 6/38
Research has identified at least 270 massacres over 140 years, as part of systematic state-sanctioned attempts to eradicate First Nations people. This figure only includes documented cases. There were many massacres that were not documented and covered up. 7/38
This form of genocide resulted in the population of First Nations people reducing from an estimated 1-1.5 million at the time of invasion to less than 100,000 by the early 1900s and now approximately 799,000 today. 8/38
Australia’s state-sanctioned physical violence has not ended in history. According to the 2021 Human Rights Watch World Report, Australia’s global reputation on human rights suffers. Australia has failed to address its longstanding abuse against First Nations people. 9/38
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are significantly overrepresented in the criminal justice system, making up 29% percent of the adult prison population, but just 3% of Australia’s population. In 2020 at least seven Indigenous people died in Australian custody. 10/38
This report notes reducing incarceration requires systemic reforms: repealing punitive bail and mandatory sentencing laws, decriminalising public drunkenness, ending over-policing of Indigenous communities, and raising the criminal responsibility age from 10 to at least 14. 11/38
The Australian Government also undertook genocide through protection policies which involved, ‘Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group’, by removing First Nations children from families and forcing them onto state-controlled reserves. 12/38
These reserves were usually organised by religious missionaries and the children were eventually adopted by white families or taken to work for them. 13/38
The children who experienced this form of genocide are known as the “Stolen Generations” which is recorded in the 1997 Bringing Them Report by Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission. 14/38
By 1969, the legislation that allowed Australia to remove First Nations children from their families was repealed. In 2008, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd formally apologised to the Stolen Generations. 15/38
However, First Nations children are still taken from families by the Australian government. The figure has doubled since Kevin Rudd’s apology. Indigenous children are 10 times more likely to be removed than other children: 36% of Australia’s children removed from families. 16/38
The Victorian Commissioner for Aboriginal Children and Young People, Mr Mohamed, said institutional racism in Australia is part of the reason why so many Aboriginal children are still removed from their parents: 17/38
“The view and past policies of Aboriginal people in Australia has been through the lens of white Australia, who see Aboriginal people as dysfunctional. So the policies developed are saying we need to protect Aboriginal people from themselves. 18/38
Institutional racism has to be addressed to change a racist process of class and value or lack of value." Mr Mohamed noted that self-determination for Aboriginal families was part of the solution. 19/38
The 2021 Human Rights Watch World Report notes that Australia’s Constitution does not support self-determination or recognise the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples. It continues to enable Parliament to enact discriminatory and race-based legislation. 20/38
Sentence highlighted that the forcible removal of First Nations children devastated their culture. The intention of reserves was to “civilise” First Nations children, prohibiting them from using their language or cultural practice. In 1964, the Linguist Arthur Capell wrote: 21/38
“Government policy looks forward to the loss of Aboriginal languages so that the Aborigines may be 'assimilated'.” These protection policies carried out what sociologists these days call “cultural genocide”: 22/38
the intention to destroy language, culture, religion and social institutions of a group to annihilate it. Originally there was 250 Aboriginal languages in 600 dialects. Today there are 60 alive and in use as first tongue. Only 10% now speak a First Nations language at home. 23/38
A consequence of Australia’s history of state sanctioned massacres of First Nations people, the forcible removal of their children, and cultural genocide, is that many of today’s First Nations families and descendants now experience trauma. 24/38
Trauma has been shown to increase the risk of substance misuse, mental and physical ill-health, and can limit employment opportunities. This is compounded by the identified ongoing abuses: over-representation in prisons, high death rates in custody, 25/38
over-representation of Aboriginal children in out-of-home care, and the Australia’s failure to support self-determination and recognise the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples in its constitution. 26/38
As such, Australia’s protection policies could be argued to be, ‘Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group’ which is another form of genocide. Australia needs to urgently reform longstanding policies that discriminate against First Nations people. 27/38
One consequence of ongoing inter-generational trauma is suicide. Suicide was unknown to Aboriginal people prior to invasion. Suicide now affects 95% of Aboriginal people in Australia, and is the fifth leading cause of death for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. 28/38
In 2017, suicide remained the leading cause of death for both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people, accounting for 40% of all Indigenous child deaths. 29/38
“Death is our life,” said South Australian Elder Tauto Sansbury, describing the despair in Aboriginal communities Australia-wide. Aboriginal suicides have risen year after year, yet the Australian government has failed to adequately respond to this epidemic. 30/38
According to the Black Dog Institute Director and Chief Scientist Ms Christensen: “Both research and lived experience evidence tell us that universal approaches to mental health and suicide prevention do not meet the needs 31/38
of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People. There is an urgent need for culturally appropriate services to reduce the suicide rate. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives are critical to ensuring the design and delivery of interventions that work.” 32/38
The world is now calling on Australia to address the ongoing abuses of First Nations people. Human Rights Watch Director Ms Pearson stated in the 2021 Human Rights Watch World Report: “We've had report after report, telling the government what needs to happen. 33/38
I think what needs to change is political will right from the top and I think the policies that are designed need to be done in partnership and led by Aboriginal people. I think that's actually where we have seen failures. 34/38
We might have well-meaning interventions but they're going to be doomed to fail if they're not led by the communities that are most affected by these policies." 35/38
In light of Australia’s history and its current human rights violations against First Nations people, I return one last time to the piece titled “Genocide in Australia” that is stored at the Australian Museum. Sentence concludes his piece with words I cannot fault: 36/38
“The term genocide has been previously controversial when applied to Australian History so why use the term genocide? We need to use the term genocide so we do not minimise the legacy of the colonisation and how the effects contemporarily manifest themselves. 37/38
We need to use the term genocide to better understand our history so we can work to change the present and stop future genocide. We need to use the term genocide because it is the truth, it is what happened/is happening in Australia.” 38/38
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More from @drlouisehansen

20 Feb
#AusUPR20 Score Card: Australia’s Constitution does not support the self-determination, or recognise the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, and enables Parliament to enact discriminatory, race-based legislation. 1/14 #Auspol
Australia must hold a referendum to revise the Constitution to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples' rights, remove racist elements and include an anti-discrimination clause. 2/14
Australia must establish an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander elected representative Voice to Parliament and establish a Makarrata and Truth and Justice Commission to develop a treaty with the First Peoples of Australia. 3/13
Read 15 tweets
20 Feb
#AusUPR20 Score Card: Australia’s response to sexually transmissible infections has involved effective strategies, supporting community organising and peer education. This supports safer sex practices, resulting in the virtual elimination of HIV among sex workers. 1/3 #Auspol
However, sex workers still experience high levels of discrimination and stigma and are negatively impacted by the criminalisation of sex work, licensing, registration and mandatory testing in some jurisdictions. 2/3
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Read 4 tweets
20 Feb
#AusUPR20 Score Card: Since the last UPR, Australia has strengthened anti-trafficking strategies, including modern slavery legislation, joining UNODC’s Blue Heart Campaign, 1/5 #Auspol
launching ASEAN-Australian Counter Trafficking Initiative, and delinking support for survivors of forced marriage from the criminal justice system for 200 days. 2/5
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Read 6 tweets
20 Feb
#AusUPR20 Score Card: Australia has cut the Official Development Assistance (ODA) budget, diminishing Australia’s capacity to support human rights internationally. 1/7 #Auspol
Low investment has contributed to the failure of the aid program to meet the 80% target of projects effectively addressing gender equality. 2/7
Australia must increase its ODA budget to 0.7% of GNI to boost capacity to promote human rights. Australia must also invest in technical expertise and women’s rights organisations to meet the aid program’s gender target. 3/7
Read 8 tweets
20 Feb
#AusUPR20 Score Card: Australian companies continue to have significant adverse human rights impacts within Australia and abroad. Of particular concern are corporate contributions to the climate crisis, attacks on civic space, 1/6 #Auspol
human rights violations in corporate supply chains, impacts on public health and abuses associated with the extractives, financial and immigration detention sectors. 2/6
Despite its 2016 voluntary commitment, Australia has failed to develop a National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights.
Australia must renew its efforts to develop a National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights 3/6
Read 7 tweets
20 Feb
#AusUPR20 Score Card: Australia is failing to prevent human rights harms caused by climate change. Australia’s emissions are increasing, its 2030 emissions reduction target is inadequate, and it spends more money supporting fossil fuels than climate action. 1/8 #Auspol
Australia must immediately increase its 2030 emissions reduction target to at least 45%, and set a target of net zero emissions before 2050. 2/8
By 2021, Australia must put a price on carbon and use the revenue to support vulnerable groups; put in place a plan to phase out coal exports; shift to 100% renewable energy before 2035; and end fossil fuel subsidies by 2025. 3/8
Read 9 tweets

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