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Australian Senator says Colonialism had 'Positive Impact'

‘A betrayal’: Burney condemns Price claim colonisation had no ongoing negative impacts

Burney says Price’s comments are ‘offensive’ and deny the experience of many First Nations families

Colonialism had 'positive impact' on Indigenous Australia, says Senator Price – video

Jacinta Nampijinpa Price has said there are no negative ongoing impacts of British colonisation on Indigenous Australians, dismissing concerns about intergenerational trauma.

The leader of the Indigenous voice to parliament no campaign and shadow Indigenous Australians minister spoke at the National Press Club in Canberra on Thursday, when she repeatedly declined to endorse Peter Dutton’s policy for a second referendum on constitutional recognition – further confusing the Coalition’s alternative policies on Aboriginal affairs.

Indigenous Australians minister Linda Burney called Nampijinpa Price’s comments about colonisation “a betrayal” and strongly opposed her stance.

In a wide-ranging speech, Price criticised Indigenous organisations, which she claimed sought to “demonise colonial settlement in its entirety and nurture a national self-loathing about the foundations of modern Australian achievement”.

When asked to clarify whether she thought any Indigenous people were suffering negative impacts of colonisation, Price responded: “No.”

“I’ll be honest with you, I do not think so. A positive impact, absolutely. I mean, now we have running water, readily available food,” she said.

“If we keep telling Aboriginal people that they are victims, we are effectively removing their agency and giving them the expectation that someone else is responsible for their lives. That is the worst possible thing you can do to any human being, to tell them that they are a victim without agency. And that is what I refuse to do.

“No, there is no ongoing negative impacts of colonisation.”

Burney gave a scathing response on Thursday afternoon.

“Those comments are offensive. It denies the experience of so many First Nations families,” she said.

“We only have to look at the Stolen Generations and the impacts that has had, in terms of ongoing trauma and pain. Her comments are a betrayal of so many people’s stories.”

Price’s speech made a case against the need for the voice, arguing against a focus on issues related to intergenerational trauma. She called for a greater focus on the exposure of Indigenous young people to domestic violence, abuse, neglect and lack of education.

“This relates to any person of any background, but the reality is that Aboriginal children are exposed to all of the factors at a greater rate than any other group of Australian children. Separatism attributing causes to racism and colonisation does little to nothing to address the true causes,” Price said.

“When we are led by grievance before fact, we overlook the opportunity to execute pragmatic commonsense approaches capable of realistic and positive outcomes.”

The Northern Territory senator singled out the Victorian government’s truth and justice commission, which she claimed sought to “misrepresent” pre-colonial Indigenous Australia.

In a following Q&A session, Price said she did not believe there were any ongoing negative effects of colonisation. The senator, who identifies as a Warlpiri-Celtic woman, joked about her own family history: “I guess that would mean those of us whose ancestors were dispossessed of their own country and brought as convicts in chains are suffering from intergenerational trauma. So I should be doubly suffering from intergenerational trauma.”

The remark was met with laughter from no campaign supporters and fellow Coalition MPs.

In a 2022 report, the federal government’s Australian Institute of Health and Welfare wrote that “colonisation has had a devastating impact on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and culture”, and that such factors have a “fundamental impact on the disadvantage and poor physical and mental health of Indigenous peoples worldwide, through social systems that maintain disparities”.

“Violence and epidemic disease caused an immediate loss of life, and the occupation of land by settlers and the restriction of Aboriginal people to ‘reserves’ disrupted their ability to support themselves,” the report said.

“Together with the forcible removal of Indigenous children from their families and communities, Indigenous Australians have suffered ongoing inter-generational trauma.”

The State Library of New South Wales reports a smallpox outbreak, associated with the arrival of British settlers in 1789, “killed at least HALF of the local Aboriginal people living in the Sydney area”.

“They had no immunity to this destructive disease, and it spread rapidly,” the library said.

The Central Land Council chief executive, Les Turner, said after the speech that elected grassroots representatives of Aboriginal people across the southern half of the Northern Territory had made it “very clear that they need a voice to parliament because they do not feel heard by politicians such as Senator Price”.

“They have consistently said she does not represent them and has no record of working constructively with them on solutions that make a difference on the ground.”

Price was also asked several questions about Dutton’s call for a second referendum, which he has said would be solely on symbolic recognition of Indigenous Australians. It has been longstanding Coalition policy, but the latest airing of the plan for a second referendum – resurfaced in recent weeks – was seen by some government sources as a strategy to further erode support for a yes vote.

Price has previously declined to publicly back the call, saying her focus was on the current referendum. On Thursday, she again stopped short of fully endorsing Dutton’s call, saying she would not commit to holding another referendum in the first term of a future Coalition government.

“As the Coalition, we have had a long-held commitment to recognition, but we would want to absolutely follow the appropriate processes to ensure that those conversations had taken place right across the country involving everybody, that is what needs to be done and hasn’t happened,” she said.

© 2023 Guardian News & Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. (modern)

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