Is there racism against Indians in Australia?

Envy and racism towards Australia's "white" Aboriginal people

Check out at the mall. The sound of a barcode scanner is music to accompany everyday life in Australia. Delise Freeman pulls her goods through the laser beam. Pantsuit, slightly tinted skin color, hair tied back, glasses. The woman in her mid-forties disappears into the crowd who shop quickly after work.

But actually Delise Freeman is very different, especially in fact. It belongs to the oldest surviving culture in the world, Australia's Aboriginal people. She stands on land that her ancestors have inhabited for tens of thousands of years. Around 800,000 people in Australia today are indigenous people - 3.3 percent of the total population. When Australia celebrates Australia Day, its national holiday, on Tuesday, not everyone is celebrating: A growing number of indigenous people are calling for the holiday to be changed. They call it the "Day of the Invasion".

On January 26, 1788, the first British convicts and their guards docked with their ships in what is now Sydney's harbor. It was the beginning of a genocide. The people who had populated the continent for at least 60,000 years were supposed to disappear because they wanted their land. They were poisoned, slain, enslaved, disenfranchised, driven from their soil, they died like flies from diseases brought in. The occupiers mixed with those who survived. Mostly through rape, sometimes through purpose, very rarely through love.

"Stolen Generation"

The result were children, "creamies" as they were disparagingly called. Thousands of them were taken from their parents, put in children's homes and placed in white families. Many lived servants' lives, often associated with sexual abuse by the adoptive father. The aim of this practice, which continued into the 1970s, was the forced assimilation of representatives of a group that at the time seemed doomed to extinction. Many of those affected by these "stolen generations" still suffer from politics today. Many feel that they have no identity - neither black nor white.

Delise Freeman feels the same way. "You don't have to be dark-skinned to be Aboriginal," she says. Freeman is the head of an Aboriginal organization in the small town of Goulburn, around two hours south of Sydney. Here she organizes help for the needy in the indigenous community and provides advice and assistance to those who cannot cope with everyday life.

"Stereotypical Image"

Contrary to popular belief, most Aborigines do not live in the red "outback" or in the jungle, but in cities. The majority of early Australians live much like non-indigenous people. She buys her steak in the supermarket and doesn't hunt with a spear and boomerang, says Freeman. "It's just as stereotypical as the idea that all Aborigines would wander around naked in loincloths."

Or have very dark or even black skin. Two centuries of intermingling with people of other races has resulted in many Native Australians not always being externally recognizable as such. Many of those affected would only discover their indigenous roots today, says Freeman. Some because their parents hid their past from them, out of shame, out of fear. Others because they suppressed them.

Lots of prejudices

There is no test for such people in which they are checked for their origin. Because the origin, the relationship, it is based on stories among Aborigines. "They then come to us, take part in cultural events. So they are slowly being accepted by others as one of their own," says Freeman. With the identification as indigenous people comes an experience from which they were spared as fair-skinned people: envy. "White Australians believe Aboriginal people get a lot that they don't get themselves." Social welfare, free medication, even cars. "That is simply not true."

Per capita indigenous people are even less well cared for than the majority of the population in terms of health, education and economic opportunities. Nevertheless, the myth of the "spoiled Aboriginal" persists - not least because of relevant media reports. Delise Freeman has no doubt that racism plays a large role in this perception. This is part of everyday life for many natives - since 1788. She has little hope that this will change soon. Racism leaps from one generation to the next. When Freeman talks about her origins in school classes, "even small children ask questions that can only come from adults". Questions laden with prejudice "riddled with ignorance". (Urs Wältin from Goulburn, January 26th, 2020)

An earlier version spoke of "attempted genocide". The wording was changed to "genocide".

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