AFRO-AUSTRALIANS AND COVID-19

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Okello Oculi urges the African Union and the Commonwealth to do more to end discrimination against blacks in Australia

On September 13, 2007, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples by a vote of 143 countries in favour and four against. The conservative government in Australia instructed its ambassador to vote against the declaration.

When that government was voted out the country’s Social Services Commissioner, Tom Calma, consulted with ‘’Indigenous individuals and organisations’’ and helped the left-wing government to reverse the vote. The 2020 Conservative Government has banned Australians from holding demonstrations in support of the global ‘’Black Lives Matter’’ movement.

In a season in which the ‘’Gang of five’’, namely: Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Britain and U.S.A. are vigorously supporting ‘’human rights’’ in Hong Kong (against China’s claim of asserting a ‘’sovereign right’’ to legislate for good governance in its province), Australia is prohibiting its citizens from drawing attention to violations of human rights of its indigenous Afro-Australians.

While it is recognized that peoples of African descent were already in Australia by 65,000 BC, convicts and destitute deported from Britain’s prisons and slums of cities have so decimated the indigenes that by 1970 the census showed that their depleted number was 116,000. In 2001 they were 427,000. In 2019 they constituted only 3.3 per cent of Australia’s total population.

The ‘’Gang of Five’’ share histories of migration and genocide against their host populations. They exhibited dynamism in establishing new spaces of freedom and capture of land for European immigrants; a rare generosity to new waves of immigrants from Europe but a tenacious resolve to imprison indigenous populations into poverty, alcoholism, mental illness and dehumanization.

In Canada, for example, ‘’Eskimo’’ children were kidnapped by Christian clerics and brutally treated to alienate them from their cultures and communities. Australia called this policy that of ‘’assimilation’’.

In 1991 a Commission reported that: ‘’Afro-Australians are in gross disproportionate numbers compared with non-Aboriginal in both police and prison custody’’. In 2016 a study found that ‘’Aboriginal and Torres Island’’ people were 13 times ‘’more likely to be in prison than non–indigenous people’’, while their women were 21 times more likely to be thrown into prisons. A Christian agency, the ‘’Jesuit Social Services’’ pronounced this reality as ‘’a national disgrace’’.

Although Afro-Australians constitute three per cent of the national population, they constituted 27 per cent of the prison population in 2016. With regard to employment, income, housing, education and access to health care, they have shared the African-American experience of a ‘’historical exclusion from mainstream provisions of the (Australian) welfare state’’.

The results of systemic discrimination are now stark. In 2019, an official study reported that as high as 26 person of Afro-Australians, or ‘’Indigenous people’’, lived in ‘’a household which in the previous 12 months, had run out of food and could not afford to buy more’’. Because the country is so vast, Afro-Australians who lived in remote areas also became victims of racist traders who charge prices for meat – including minced meat and meat stakes – far higher than those in urban areas.

The Northern Territory Council, for example, reported that, in 2019, ‘’basic goods’’ were sold by retail stores in remote areas at prices 56 per cent higher than in ‘’regional supermarkets’’. Mandi King and Lisa Phillips have recommended that government must subsidize prices and money for purchasing food and other essential goods. This view assumes that Afro-Australian will always be excluded from employment and economic production that will make them no longer vulnerable to poverty in the same way.

An African girl, Angelica Ojinnaka, who attended primary and secondary schools in Sydney, reported being ‘’spat on, told to bleach my skin, and had objects and food thrown at me’’ while walking home from school’’. On a daily basis, she writes, ‘’black people like me are dehumanized, brutalized and murdered’’. A BBC news bulletin on 27th JULY, 2020, showed a group of Australian policemen replaying the killing by suffocation of a black man knocked down the way George Floyd was murdered in Minneapolis on 25th May, 2020.

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo teamed up with Australia’s Prime Minister in a drama by leaders of the Commonwealth to rebuke President Robert Mugabe for violating human and civil rights of people in Zimbabwe. The Commonwealth has not shown similar enthusiasm towards ending several centuries of murders, dehumanization and economic deprivation and discrimination against Afro-Australians.

President Donald Trump occasionally stirs up his Pentecostal Christian electoral base by denouncing violence against Christians in Nigeria. NATO’s human rights diplomacy targets Putin’s Russia. On 29th July, 2020, China’s Ambassador to Britain blamed Britain for harming relations with China by promoting protests in Hong Kong. The African Union should use it over the human development of Afro-Australians.