Social Justice Matters – Aborigines Edition

This is a point I have been arguing in several posts: social justice is more incarnated in redistribution mechanisms (such as fishing rights) than in recognition of a particular identity or particular historical grievance. Having rights is not enough and can be meaningless in the absence of the opportunities to exercise these rights and corresponding resources.

In this case, the Aborigines gain control over the resources, which, of course, raises fear of loss of opportunities for other categories of the population: recreational fishermen. I would argue that there is a stronger case for control for people who depend upon a given resource for their livelihood, rather than those who exploit such resource for leisure (which, by itself, implies a power and wealth differential that social justice should balance). Similarly, the existing commercial fishing industry is likely to be hurt by this as they lose partial access to the resource. And as always, more powerful categories of the population get to have their concerns taken into consideration and heard:

"He sought to allay fears that the ruling would have an adverse effect on the non-indigenous fishing community. "A negotiated outcome will mean traditional owners around the Northern Territory’s coastline can jointly participate in the management and development of a sustainable fishing industry," he said. This would include the protection of fishing stocks as well as sacred sites, he said, rejecting suggestions that the ruling would endanger the Northern Territory’s billion-dollar fishing industry: "Traditional owners have developed a constructive relationship with commercial and recreational fishing representatives over the past year." Mr Wungungmurra said he looked forward to "obtaining a win-win outcome for all Territorians" in a negotiated settlement, with anglers and commercial fishing operators accorded temporary permits for at least a year."

It will be interesting to see how much redistribution actually gets done and whose interests (more or less vital) prevail.

Compensation for Tasmanian Aborigines

This is as good a time as any to bring back that great Midnight Oil song:

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As the Guardian states:

“Tasmania today approved millions of dollars in compensation for members of the “stolen generation” of Aborigines removed from their families, its premier calling this an attempt to right a shameful wrong in the island’s history. (…) The stolen generation refers to Aboriginal children – mainly those of mixed race – who were removed from their families and sent to institutions run by the church or state, or who were adopted into white families, in practices that began during the 19th century and only ended in 1970.”

This tragedy was was best depicted in Philip Noyce’s film, Rabbit-Proof Fence. It’s about time the Aborigines get compensation and recognition for past racial discrimination and what we today consider a gross violation of human rights. However, Tasmania is so far the only Australian state to have back its apology with money, a step even newly-elected PM Rudd will not take.

A short except from Rabbit-Proof Fence: Skin color check

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It’s a great film, without any reservation and Peter Gabriel’s music is perfect for it.