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June 19th 2017 print

Tanya Rosecky

Feminist Enablers of Indigenous Violence

A certain kind of feminist will skate over the outrages suffered by Aboriginal women in communities where elements of traditional culture prevail. One guesses it is more fun to dress David Morrison in high heels and applaud his denunciations of the innocuous term 'guys'

“Culture is used as a tool by perpetrators in defence of their violent crimes or as an excuse or reason to perpetrate. It is not acceptable that anyone is violated, and have their human rights “utterly disregarded … in the name of culture.”           – Jacinta Price

aboriginal violence IIThe feminist movement  — so often a faux feminist movement, to be more accurate — seeks to explicate the factors that exacerbate domestic violence. Nowhere is the evidence of blinkered prescriptions so stark as when we observe the sisterhood’s responses to disproportionate rates of violence within the Aboriginal community.

Unless you are an agenda-driven feminist and blind to hard and brutal facts, there’s no denying factors like welfare dependence, social isolation, alcohol and drug abuse are statistically indicative of an increased risk of domestic violence. These are factors that thrive in remote communities, where social isolation and welfare dependence are matters of geography. When these elements are viewed  in conjunction with the patriarchal tones of traditional Aboriginal culture, wherein violence played a key role long before white settlement, we should not react as if Aboriginal women being between 34 times and 80 times more likely than non-Aboriginal women to be hospitalised is an unfathomable mystery. Has everyone forgotten that, according to Aboriginal lore, a woman who accidentally comes across a male ceremonial party can be killed? Or that “promised brides” were given to much older men to be raped — a practice, by the way, that isn’t entirely defunct?

Women’s rights are what leading feminists claim to defend, except they don’t. For example, Our Watch has recently launched a campaign to “protect” Aboriginal women. This should be good news, but it isn’t.

The project’s manifesto points to Aboriginal-specific reasons for violence and notes they must be addressed, yet the listed factors specifically omit the role of Aboriginal culture. Here is how Our Watch frames the problem it professes to be serious about remedying (emphasis added):

[The project] will consider this violence in the context of broader colonial violence and specifically the intergenerational impacts of dispossession, the forced removal of children, the interruption of cultural practices that mitigate against interpersonal violence, and the ongoing and cumulative economic exclusion and disadvantage experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. These impacts include intergenerational trauma, lateral violence and internalised colonialism.

According to its latest annual report, Our Watch took in more than $7 million in 2016, with employee benefits and “professional fees” accounting for almost $5 million of that sum. For that sort of money one might reasonably expect a dash of realism amid the buzz-words and social justice boilerplate.

our watch statement

Would it add the burden of leasing wall-to-wall fainting couches for the Our Watch office were I to suggest that violence has never been a gendered issue? Certainly, women are disproportionately victims of domestic violence and rigid gender roles that dictate women are unequal, or that women are mere commodities to be traded for the benefit of men, should certainly be addressed. Indeed, they need to be addressed. But what simple fact and a respect for empirical evidence demands is the recognition that rigid gender roles are intrinsically connected to culture.

And there’s the rub!

Western feminists fought to ensure today’s women can expect to be treated as equals who enjoy, to cite but one example, the freedom to participate in the workforce. Further to that, laws are in place to offer protection from discrimination on the basis of gender. So why are feminists now blaming fairy tales for promoting rigid stereotypes, insisting that telling a boy he “throws like a girl” will twist him into a men who batters his spouse?

Can anyone dispute that Aboriginal women deserve the same protection under law as any other Australian? Of course not!  Yet we see Aboriginal customary law being used as a defence in various courts and resulting in lenient sentences. While some acts of violence are in line with traditional custom — never, ever a valid excuse –  it is important to recognise the likelihood that traditional customs are being embellished by perpetrators and their lawyers to gain legal leverage. Blaming ‘cultural practice‘ is a no more nor less than tool to diminish perpetrators’ responsibility. The strong kinship system combines with patriarchal elements of Aboriginal culture to foster an environment of silence whereby male perpetrators, rather than victims, are supported. Add political correctness to the mix and it is a toxic brew.

For actual victims of domestic violence, the ideological drivel Our Watch is pitching and which I have quoted above adds insult to injury in pointedly failing to acknowledge that patriarchal aspects of Aboriginal culture are an overarching factor. You would think feminists would notice that. Listen to Jacinta Price:

I have known of cases of women ordered to submit sexually to male relatives of the deceased husband for not fulfilling the correct duties of a wife, which is to take care of her husband even if he is a perpetrator.

This notion that women should fulfill the “the correct duties of a wife” or face punishment at the hands of family members should appall all women who take for granted the security of mainstream Australian life. Feminists who have never suffered or witnessed such gross violations of personal safety prefer to banish that grim reality from mind, to gloss over the outrages suffered by Aboriginal women living in communities where elements of traditional culture prevail. One guesses it is much more fun to dress David Morrison in high heels and applaud as he lashes the use of the innocuous term “guys” as a sexist obscenity. The former head of the ADF is on the Our Watch board, just by the way.

The West evolved from an honour-based culture to a dignity-based culture, where governments and legal systems, imperfect though they may be, settle disputes and, most of the time, ensure order rather than violence. Traditional Aboriginal societies have much in common with honour-based culture, a key feature of which is the use of violence to settle disputes and maintain individual status. Furthermore, high rates of violence towards women are often amongst the most deplorable features of honour-based cultures. This is a result of the fact that within such cultures women are expected to perform the roles as their families, cultures and communities ordain. Should they fail to do so, punishment is violent retaliation. While in some cultures violence is used to restore ‘honour’, in Aboriginal culture violence may be used to restore community ‘balance’.  Regardless of the semantics, as Aisha Gill put in The New Statesman, the disturbing result is rationalising violence through culture. Ms Gill was addressing honour killings in the Muslim world, but her observation holds equally true for many remote communities

 …attributed to supposedly immutable and intrinsic traditions and religious beliefs, little attention is paid to the perpetrators of these crimes, either as culpable individuals or as part of male-dominated social structures.

It does no one any good when colonisation and “racism” are used to excuse violence and thereby perpetuate it. Such views maintain an us-versus-them mentality, further distancing Aboriginal people from the broader society. It is much simpler to blame ‘otherness’ than it is to address internal community issues that produce high rates of violence. Some activists place much blame on alcohol and drugs and are content to leave it at that, insisting they were not factors pre-settlement and thus depicting their introduction as root causes of violence they imagine would not otherwise be present. It is true that alcohol was introduced by settlers, but a realistic regard for the violence that existed beforehand must see them as exacerbating factors, not root causes. To reduce violence within Aboriginal communities we need to offer help on an individual scale, as well as address the vital remedies of education and jobs.

So why are feminists of the our Watch variety still circling the real issues, most particularly the key role played by culture? Probably because taking traditional violence into account would challenge their favoured gendered-only narrative. That sole focus on the gendered approach by many feminists means we are witness to noisy complaints about the alleged “big issues” which are nothing of the sort — the absurdity, for example, of insisting that “guy” is highly offensive when used to address women. Consider the parallel universe in which such an appraisal exists and so loudly thrives: a colloquial term is denounced, but Aboriginal men brandishing “culture” as an excuse to rape and murder are resolutely ignored. Guidelines about polite or respectful language might encourage some to tailor their conversations but they will not swerve perpetrators from their violent paths, nor will they put a dent in the elements that perpetuate, and see accepted by judges, the willingness to endorse the view that violence in Aboriginal communities is somehow, if not acceptable, at least understandable.leak violence

To seriously reduce domestic violence we need to look at all the aspects driving it. There is no evidence a gendered-only approach will work; indeed, there is much evidence to the contrary.

Recently, while a guest on The Today Show, News Corp columnist Miranda Devine ruffled advocates of the gendered-only narrative when she noted that domestic violence occurs far more often in poor areas and Aboriginal communities. In response, Fairfax columnist Clementine Ford, self-appointed saviour of womenfolk, tweeted her outrage, insisting that domestic violence happens in all socio-economic brackets. Well it does, and featured media stories make much of middle- and upper-class white women who suffer at the hands of their partners. The battered wife from Double Bay makes for good copy and catchy, agenda-driven headlines, but look at the incidence of domestic assault as represented by the map below.domestic violence map

Note the darkest blue sections of the map, where domestic violence is worse. Not too many stockbrokers reside in the far west of NSW.

When authentic warriors of change, such as Jacinta Price, stand up for cultural reform in the hope of saving lives they are branded “sell outs”, and that is but one of the milder attacks she has endured. Thankfully none of the abuse has stopped her campaigning for those women who deserve and have every right to live in safety. She recently gave a spectacular speech during a debate regarding political correctness in which she accused the oh-so-easily offended of stifling much needed discourse about cultural reform. She may well have made few converts but it is impossible not to admire her bravery.

It’s impractical to think Aboriginal people highly enmeshed in horrendous levels of dysfunction can suddenly acquire agency. I am not suggesting that. It is such a challenge because the conditions they live in are so toxic, and yet these conditions remain unchallenged by the dialogue of far too many feminists who are unwittingly promoting a ‘separatist’ agenda. Rather than confront reality, they idealise “traditional culture” as the way forward when it is anything but that. The positive changes and values of non-violent dispute resolution, jobs and education are key to breaking the cycle of disadvantage and dysfunction, but of those we hear precious little.

Aboriginal people must look to themselves if they are to be directly involved in bringing about change and escape the halfway world in which they cannot enjoy what modernity has to offer, as Louis Nowra writs so convincingly in his book Bad Dreaming. To reduce domestic violence we must set aside Rousseauean fantasies, scuttling the thought once and for all that Aboriginal people are so different they are  entitled to be judged by different standards. We must, in other words, embrace the practical. To do otherwise is no better than attempting to close a wound with voodoo.

Tanya Rosecky is the founder of Get Real Australia, a not for profit organisation which campaigns through social media on indigenous issues

Comments [16]

  1. This might seem weird, but I suspect that, within Aboriginal traditional systems, people have a hierarchy of agency and structure, with the older elders have ‘maximum agency’ at one end and with women, and children, at the other end, suffering ‘maximum structure’ – but that in relating to outside, modern, ‘Western’ systems, Aboriginal people generally perceive, and act on those perceptions, that they have much more agency: they come and go, move in and out, as they please (within physical, social and financial limits, of course). Since the earliest contact, Aboriginal people have interpreted what opportunities were available in their own way, they’ve rarely ever seen the goods and bads of the world as whites have. ‘Deep culture’ prevails, below the level of conscious behaviour, it’s just ‘the way’.

    So power – i.e. of the men – continues unleavened by ‘modernity’. Maybe that’s how it’s always been in every single ‘traditional’, ‘tribal’ society in the world, everywhere: violent, hierarchical, male-dominated, utterly conservative, and totally devaluing of women – perhaps one aspect of historical development has been the concomitant, painful and often-delayed development of the rights of women ?

    Is it possible that the Aboriginal-’European’/modern/Western interaction has been one of complete misunderstanding on both sides ? Certainly the ‘Left’, in its ignorant indulgence of Aboriginal society, seems to be intent on strengthening that conservatism – perhaps we can blame Engels for some of that. Perhaps traditional society has been a grotesque
    mixture of Rousseau and Hobbes – Rousseau for the elders and the men, for whom life may not be so bad – and Hobbes for the women and children, lives ‘nasty, brutish and short’.

  2. en passant says:

    Tanya,
    What an appalling picture of waste of live and resources you paint, though it is all too real. The make-believe, make-work snouts funded by taxpayer largess through government grants and government ineptitude. Your accounts above clearly demonstrate the rort.

    If, by a horrible mistake, these ‘people’ found a magic solution that solved all the indigenous problems in a month they would bury it so deeply it would never be found again.

    My own experience in the indigenous arena was when I was a voluntary organiser of a leadership program for disadvantaged youths: kids with potential, but lacking opportunities to grow. We found our candidates through teachers, police, sporting clubs and youth charitable organisations. Two boys from a remote community were strongly recommended. We interviewed them and found them highly intelligent, curious and keen to take part. The Department of Aboriginal Affairs (at the time) refused permission (as did the tribal elders) on the grounds that giving impressionable 17-year olds an unimaginable adventurous experience of the wider world “… would only lead them into becoming dissatisfied with their current situation and would provide no long term benefit to either the boys or the community.” Permission was refused.

    The aboriginal reservation on which they lived was in fact no more than an Australian aboriginal gulag. After all, the power of the elders and of the Department officials depended on retaining a captive population to manage.

    In future, no matter how tempting, please do not mention the name of Dav– Mor–$$–n again as I am not fully recovered from my therapy of his execrable year as the ‘Australian Disgrace’. It will take the military a lot longer to recover, if ever.

  3. Jody says:

    This is rather a timely article. We’ve been discussing, in our immediate family, the recent phenomenon of the ‘feminization’ and emasculation of western men. My eldest son recently returned from Japan and noted how the men behaved like women, tending to their appearances and taking more time about it than their women. We posited that perhaps this had something to do with the Japanese having no military – that conventional, institutionalized outlet for the alpha male and the expression of his masculinity. We were talking about it again last weekend and one son quipped, “you can see this underway in the Australian military and the emasculation of the males in the services who have been forced not only to accommodate women into their ranks but to think like women themselves, in many respects”.

    It’s a sickness in our society if one sex forces the other into a role that they have pre-ordained for them, particularly when the female of the species has been complaining about exactly the same constraints applied to them over the millenia. In short, it’s all about control.

    • Keith Kennelly says:

      Japan has the 15th largest military in the world. In terms of actual power they rank 7th.

      Take your pick of those below as to decide which are the more powerful.

      China, US, North Korea, Vietnam, Turkey, South Korea, Russia, Pakistan, Iran, India, Egypt, Columbia, Burma, Algerian and Brazil

  4. rosross says:

    The attitudes to women and the beliefs in regard to females which remain in Aboriginal culture have been found in all cultures in recent centuries. Such beliefs still exist in many parts of the Third World, where cultures are less developed.

    They are simply backward and to bend over backwards to maintain them is a betrayal of every principle of civilized behaviour.

  5. gavanhe says:

    It’s the idea of the “noble savage” that needs to excised from our lexicon.

  6. PT says:

    Hmm, I remember Lois O’Donohue (as she then styled herself) as head of ATSIC supposedly speaking about violence against aboriginal women. In her speech, she repeatedly blamed it on “violence”, “oppression” “colonisation” before making some weasel words about aboriginal men having to take “some responsibility”!

    But that’s the problem. Aboriginal politics is all about saying they do not have any responsibility for their problems! Rather that it’s the responsibility of everyone else to solve their problems! As far as I can see, this is by far the most destructive act of “colonialism”. And it is the left that is most determined to keep aboriginals in this state! The alternative leftist percription, is the Nugget Coombs one of turning Aboriginals into a landowning caste! I’m not sure how this is compatable with leftism, but lefties don’t seem to think to far ahead, odd for people who claim conservatives live in the past, but there you have it.

    The truth is that nearly half of female skeletons found by archeologists have signs of extreme levels of violence! A good friend of my other half, who taught for years in a remote community school (she has aboriginal “godmothers” etc), was quite candid that the culture was very patriarchal and violence was not “imported” by the “white man”!

    Aboriginals should be seen for what they are! And in the great variety of who they were, and are now.

    For what it’s worth, here’s my view:

    They must be assimilated into the modern economy (unless they make a good living in a hunter gatherer way). What it means to be aboriginal (in reality as part of whichever group they belong to) is for them, and them only to decide!

    Also making up faux ceremonies like this “welcome to country” garbage must stop. Surely there are real ceremonies which should be preserved and maintained, rather than facsimiles of Polynesian ones!

    • Blair says:

      ” the intergenerational impacts of dispossession, the forced removal of children, the interruption of cultural practices that mitigate against interpersonal violence, and the ongoing and cumulative economic exclusion and disadvantage experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.”
      Torres Strait Islanders were not dispossessed (remember Mabo?), none of their children were removed and they celebrate each year the arrival of missionaries from the London Missionary Society(“Coming of the Light”) which certainly interrupted cultural practices.

    • Rob Brighton says:

      On the ceremony point, my neighbour tells me that they are real at least for the Yaegl peoples of the Clarence Valley.

    • Jody says:

      As I quipped to a friend last weekend, “I’d like to create our own welcome to country and it would go something like this:

      Welcome to European Australia which has brought you, courtesy of Charlemagne, the Christian Church, the Magna Carta and the Enlightenment, the rule of law, democracy, science, religion, reason, great art and literature and an end to high infant mortality”.

      Something along those lines.

      • Rob Brighton says:

        What strikes me is the number of nations, each with their own language, culture and beliefs. I understand there is something like 500 or so that makes up the 2.5% first peoples of Australia’s population.

        It seems surprising that people who have no language in common and who’s culture are from opposite sides of the continent all have welcoming ceremonies involving smoke.

        I wonder how that can be so, like ring speciation perhaps? Or is our own ignorance leaving us open to be trolled.

        I note that fees are charged ranging from $1500 for a simple smoking ceremony right thru to $6000 for the full monty complete with dancers and didgeridoo players.

        Good luck to them, if they can part fools from their money they are one step closer to not needing support, a goal we wish for all Australians.

        • acarroll says:

          Of course we’re being trolled.

          The mainstream academic culture and media likes to present Aboriginal people as a monolithic block. They never allude to the fact that the neighbouring tribes often detest each other.

          You don’t develop 500 or so, as you say, different nations over time without serious tribal warfare.

          In fact, a stone-age people like the Australian Aboriginal is a perfect contradiction to the Commie/Lefty position that if “we” can get rid of racism and embrace diversity then we’ll create some kind of coffee colour utoptia with zero diversity.

  7. Warty says:

    The entirely misleading Australian Gov. advertisement (included in this article) conforms to the feminist narrative of a white patriarchal society. It is a mind set, shared by far too many of the same warped mentality. Through various means of ‘export’ this group seeks to introduce others to the ideology, and would clearly lose a degree of conviction if the true circumstances of Aboriginal society were to be revealed.
    It’s ironic, but that same ad. which would leave me seething with anger every time I saw it, is part of the reason that One Nation has gone from 9% to 11% in the latest Newspoll survey. Add this to the Coalition policy on Climate Change, their attachment to Gonski II, their on-going ‘outing’ on their reliance of the flawed reasoning, or more accurately, the lack of reasoning, in the Finkel report and Tony Abbot begins to present as an outright winner. Either that or the Coalition limps on like a lamb acquiescing to its own slaughter.
    We need even more articles like this to increase the level of resentful mutterings, if our society is to begin the long road to recovery. My fear is that we are continually leaving the backdoor open to another ‘honour’ based culture. I suppose that simply means we are a nation of half witted masochists.
    A nation divided is a critically vulnerable one.

    • acarroll says:

      No no no no no.

      D I V E R S I T Y I S O U R S T R E N G T H

      That’s what all the Western world leaders say. Surely they know better than your lying eyes…

  8. Warty says:

    Perhaps ‘Aboriginal society’ (line 3) is too elevated a term to use; ‘culture’ would be an outright oxymoron, so one would have to revert to the thoroughly un-PC ‘tribes’.