The 26th of January: A Day of Celebration or a Day of Mourning?

The 26th of January: A Day of Celebration or a Day of Mourning?

We present an article from the Internationalist Communists Oceania (internationalist-communists-oceania.netlify.com), a new Left Communist regroupment effort in the Oceania region.

[The following piece of writing contains content that some may find distressing including mentions of genocide, ethnic cleansing, cultural assimilation, abuse and self harm.]

On the 26th of January 1788, the Union Jack was raised and British sovereignty declared in Warrane, soon to be most commonly known as Sydney Cove, New South Wales. The people who had been occupying this land for 50,000 years prior, would endure life as they knew it being viciously upheaved and therein becoming unrecognisable from this day forth.

When we see people proudly celebrating “Australia Day” on the 26th of January, it is the genocide, ongoing ethnic cleansing, high poverty, homelessness, abuse, suicide, murder and incarceration rates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (ATSI) people that we see being celebrated. Many may claim that their celebration is of “the beautiful country we live in”, however as they say this it is while they wave the flag of a bourgeois state that keeps the vast majority of us exploited and oppressed. As communists, we seek the end of all exploitation and oppression of man by man. We do not consider the 26th of January to be a day of celebration. Liberal cries for us to simply “change the date”1 do not even come close to touching upon just how much actually needs to change.

The Prime Minister of Australia issued an apology for the stolen generations2 and general mistreatment of ATSI people on the 13th of February 2008. They claim to have reflected on the past and allegedly believe it to be “Australia’s shame”.

Why is it then that ATSI children are ten times more likely to be in out-of-home care than non-ATSI children? The Australian government is to this day stealing further generations of ATSI children3 and placing them with people outside of their community. It is not uncommon for these children to have been taken from their families simply because their way of child rearing4 does not fit into the expectations of bourgeois society. It is not simply “looking out for these children”, as the government and their supporters may claim.

One of the clearest examples of Capitalism’s design being that of one to harm ATSI people is Centrelink’s Work for the Dole scheme.5 With these payments already being less than half of what is said to be required just to survive, we see remote workers also being twenty-five times more inclined to be penalised than non-remote workers and fifty times more likely to have a serious penalty such as eight weeks suspended payments imposed upon them. The system is structured to kick people while they are down and through this, continue to keep them down.

Australia has a severe lack of affordable housing with privatisation only continuing to reduce the accessibility of public housing, there is also a particular lack of options that would otherwise cater to ATSI peoples cultural and social needs. Due to this, they are fifteen times more likely to be staying in impoverished and overcrowded6 dwellings than non-ATSI people.

Many remote communities in Australia have a lack of access to sufficient clean water due to contamination7 and a refusal from authorities8 to amend this situation. We see this impede heavily upon the quality of life of those who live in these communities, with parasitic worms being commonplace9 and the Northern Territory seeing some of the worst rates of skin irritations such as scabies10 in the world.

Not only thirty-five times more likely to be hospitalised11 as a result of family violence than non-ATSI women, but ATSI women are also much less likely to contact the authorities. It is little surprise that this is the case given the treatment of these women by police. With financial insecurity being an issue that is keeping women trapped in abusive situations nationwide12, those in remote communities also have a severe lack of access to the support and services13 that they need in order to escape.

In comparing global data, ATSI people have the highest racialised incarceration rates on earth.14 Although comprising only two per cent of the Australian population, nearly a third of those in prison are ATSI. We have seen the tragic deaths of over one hundred and thirty-six ATSI people in custody over the past ten years.15 Death due to intentional self-harm, engaging in risk-taking behaviour and substance abuse are all disproportionately high upon release.

The prison population continues to rise and one often overlooked fact that we see is just how many in the system are domestic violence and/or sexual abuse survivors16 - an experience that all too often plays its part in them being imprisoned. We also see the overwhelmingly too common occurrence of ATSI women who are imprisoned being there simply due to not having the financial means to pay off fines.17

Deaths due to intentional self-harm have been on the rise overall in Australia but we see this increase weigh most heavily upon ATSI people, with it being ranked as the fifth leading cause of death amongst them. Over the space of nine days this month (January 2019) we have seen five teenage girls die from intentional self-harm.18 Five per cent of Australian children aged up to 17 are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, but 40 per cent of children who took their own lives over the past year were ATSI.19

We understand everything that has been mentioned in this article as being inextricably linked to one another and the devastating result of capitalism, systemic racism, colonisation, intergenerational trauma and attempts to annihilate ATSI people’s culture and connections to the land. We also understand that ATSI people are not a unique example and conditions are often similarly poor for first nations people around the world. We see these atrocities as one and the same - that of Capital’s need to consume and exploit for the ‘purpose’ of what we commonly would know as ‘profits’.

Although having been required for our current system to develop and create the material conditions necessary for its eventual overthrow, in capitalism’s current descending epoch we see the “nation”-state as having well and truly ceased to have any useful purpose. For us to ever see the emancipation of all nations and for humanity to be able to develop to its full potential, we advocate the dire need to abolish the “nation”-state through the self-organisation of the working class and international proletarian revolution.

Internationalist Communists Oceania
26/1/2019