by HAIDEE ALLAN
We claim we have come along way from the Stolen Generation, and in saying that, one would assume that the nation has eliminated elements of racism at government level.
One major downfall to this is the line drawn in the sand when it comes down to race-based welfare. As an Aboriginal woman, I personally see the divisive opinions created when it comes to legislation that determines who can and who cannot receive welfare and the basis in which these payments are granted.
As First People, that is our statute and history; this is not our race, but a mere historical statement. A viable solution to this problem would be to provide welfare on a case of need basis rather than proof of cultural identity. I believe that in doing this we would go a long way to changing the mind frame of non-Indigenous Australians who for a large part are under the assumption that just because people are labeled as Aboriginal they are automatically given a handout.
BuzzFeed produced a video late last year with a wide range of Aboriginal people stating the words “I’m aboriginal but I’m not…” The main Purpose of this video is breaking down the stigmas attached with the word Aboriginal. A young Aboriginal man says “I’m aboriginal but I’m not on any form of welfare or government handout”.
Despite this young Aboriginal man’s remarks it is still painfully evident that there is a preconceived idea in our society that all Indigenous Australians are on welfare, something that is no doubt enhanced by the fact that we are put into a different welfare category as a result of our Aboriginal status.
My argument becomes more credible when we take a look at the Centrelink system for students which in my view enables racism again to be brought into the mainstream. If a student identifies themselves as Aboriginal, they are automatically but into a box and directed to an Indigenous only space. All this occurs despite the fact all students get the same amount of money regardless of whether they are Indigenous or non-Indigenous, because it is means tested. The difference is the Aboriginal Label.
Politicians and media personalities such as Pauline Hanson and Andrew Bolt are forever endeavoring to bring the issue of Aboriginal people allegedly rorting the welfare system to the forefront of public discussion. However it is my view that if we take on the ideas of Marcia Langton and adopt a universal approach to welfare where it is irrelevant what ones Aboriginal status is, we would go a long way to eliminating one of the last forms of Government enforced racism within Australia.
Haidee Allan is a Communications student majoring in Journalism and living in the colleges. Originally from Tamworth, she is a member of the Kamilaroi tribe.
Story image: Department of Human Services