The Endless Debt

The headlines said it all:

"Freeman family in 'debt' 50 years on".

There are a plethora of words I could use to describe what I think of this situation, but I will use only one; sickening.
The matriarch of an aboriginal family died and was buried in 1950 and somehow the Queensland Protector of Aborigines "forgot' to pay the money for the little plot of ground in which she was buried.

It wasn't enough for the Europeans to take their land, to murder the tribes one by one, to treat them with less humanity than you would extend to a dog ; they had to deny a family a small piece of their own land to bury their beloved mother.

And now, for all the world to see, on the front page of The Australian, there is the headline saying that the family of Australia's best loved and best known Aborigine couldn't pay for the land they buried their matriarch in; with the subsequent result that the grave could not be re-opened by the family to place another loved one inside until $495 (today's rates) had been paid to buy the lot and another $495 to put inside the dead relative.
Which by my reckoning makes the land paid for twice.

If this had happened to me and I saw a headline on the front page of the National paper, the weekend edition which outsells any other newspaper, I would have screamed and railed and kicked the wall and when I composed myself I would have phoned the paper to tell them what I thought of the article.
But then I am not an Aborigine, and probably do have some right to some privacy and would not have been in this situation in the first place.

It is not news.
Government ill-treatment of the black race is not news.
Ask anyone old enough and they will tell you that they have been hearing about it all their lives.

There is so little left for the Government to take from the indigenous people of this country that they are now hell-bent on taking their dignity.

Thousands of years ago when the black race was roaming around this barren continent keeping themselves alive with learned knowledge of the ecology and developing their culture, the ancestors of some of the white races were still killing each other in ditches with rocks.

Their ownership of this land is as sure and as true as a sunrise and should never have been questioned and to see elderly Aborigines subjugating themselves to have the grave of their matriarch opened is sickening indeed.

I saw the photo on the front page of The Australian of the matriarch Annie Sibley who was laid in the unpaid for pauper's grave.
She was a woman of wisdom and compassion easily seen by the stoic serenity of her eyes and the firm set of her mouth.
There was nothing poor about Annie Sibley.
The only poverty attached to her came from the actions of the Government in consigning her to a pauper's grave.
Her knowledge alone was worth millions of dollars; her compassion; priceless; her stoicism beyond reckoning.

I suppose it's all over now.
The Funeral Directors have been paid.
The black woman laid to rest with the matriarch.

But it will never be over as long as the Government, and by this I mean John Howard, allows the dignity of this old old race to be trod upon, as if they were only the stones on the ground.

Copyright: Bernie Pattison
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