Woolombi Waters, Marcus: Australia is a nation of white privilege

Woolombi Waters, Marcus

Whether you’re listening or not, Australia is a nation of white privilege‘, The Conversation, 17 November 2015

The author is a Kamilaroi man who has recently returned from travelling overseas for work. This article received more than 200 comments of varied quality.

It doesn’t take long as an Indigenous Australian returning from overseas to be reminded that we are a nation of white privilege. Examples of such privilege include people being able to experience the following:

  • assume that most of the people you or your children study in history classes and textbooks will be of the same race, gender or sexual orientation as you are;
  • assume that your failures will not be attributed to your race or gender; and
  • not have to think about your race, gender, sexual orientation or disabilities on a daily basis.

The author offers a number of examples, one of the most telling of which is a comparison of flight safety videos for Australian, American and New Zealand airlines. The Australian one shows exclusively white, Anglo-looking staff. This image has clearly resonated overseas.

Everywhere we travel overseas as a family we are asked our ethnicity. Whether in Europe, the US or elsewhere, people are generally shocked to find out we are Indigenous Australians. Why? Because they had no idea black people, let alone Indigenous black people, come from Australia.

Australia is known exclusively as a country of white people. Could you imagine thinking of New Zealand without any idea that Māori people existed, or the US without black people or Native Americans?

The author concludes with a telling statistic from 2007. Would it be better or worse today?

The greatest demonstration of white privilege is that Australia consistently ranks near the top in the annual United Nations Human Development Index – which measures health, economic well-being and life expectancy.

But if Australia’s Indigenous population were to be ranked separately, it would come 100th out of nearly 200 nations. In other words, Australia is one of the richest Western countries in the world built on an industry of mining from the lands of Aboriginal people who remain living in third-world poverty.

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