National Conference on Reconciliation, Multiculturalism,Immigration and Human Rights

Professor Japanangka Errol West
Head of Academic Programs, Southern Cross University, School of Aboriginal Studies

The Australian Certification-Caste System -How much longer?

A discussion on the perpetuation of Australia,s political, social and economic caste system for Australian Aborigines.

To begin this discussion I believe that one has to recognise the somewhat casually espoused caste system that has been endemically applied to Aborigines since the first steps of the invasion. The concept of race is an illusion that has gained considerable currency in the political culture of Australian societies. The catalyst for the racialisation of Aboriginal Australians is, to put it simply "that it was a bad war" and the construction of the Australian Self is as illusionary as any other, in fact more so and prevails

I want to expand on some of my views regarding the following three aspects of the caste system, these three are:
- The need for such a system
- The indemnification of the system, including the pathological reinforcement of the belief in the need for such a system, and
- The semi-hysterical nature of the political denial and some reasons as to why denial is also pathological.

To consider the need for a caste system requires a lengthy historical and psychological analysis of British history in particular concerning their cross-ethnic relationships. The libraries of the world, as the custodians of historic records, bulge with examples of the brutalisation of lesser ethnic groups, by the British Empire. These records are immutable evidence of two human phenomenon the first is human arrogance, and the other is no shame,.

The arrogance is closely aligned with the concept of denial I am also focusing on because the need to boast about one,s conquests, however bloody or imbalance they may have been is a manifestation of the short man syndrome, so often displayed by bullies and thugs, many of whom wrote history through their deeds and greed,s. And this is where the ,arrogance, emerges it seems to me that the capacity to invoke the universal rule that the end justifies the means, re-creates itself each time the constituents of various histories of conquests various, simply reference these events with no moral comment at all included to at least invoke some sense of outrage regarding the inhumanity of the events the are so proudly espoused, by mini-despots such as John Howard and various historians who obfuscate the true histories by sanitising each recorded event through the repetition of the histories as scholarly works. Thereby effectively shifting the reality of the events from the victim,s perspectives to a newer reality that effectively defuses the horror of these events for the perpetrators and their descendants.

To sum up the application of the three points above consider the following:
The continent that is best known internationally as Australia (though to Aborigines home, has always done as a name, home by language and by iconic and totemic systems of demarcation) was subjugated to the military jackboot of the British Empire in a few short years. The denial of what my friend John McBeath describes as "a dishonourable military engagement and an even more dishonourable military victory" is in my view at the heart of the three phenomenon I identify above.

Currently Head of Academic programs, Indigenous Studies School Southern Cross University, previously Professoiral Chair og Indigenous Education, James Cook University and for six yeras was Chairman of the Federal Government's Advisory Committee on Aboriginal Education; The National Aboriginal Education Committee (NAEC)

Presentation Type
30 min paper

University of Technology, Sydney, 1-2 December 2000

Papers & Workshops