Population growth threatens indigenous culture (AUG)

14 February 2009

Media Releases 2009

Aug 8, 2001 for International Day of the World’s Indigenous People – August 9

Continued high population growth threatens the survival of Aboriginal culture, according to Sustainable Population Australia (SPA).

Speaking on the eve of International Day for of the World’s Indigenous People, National Vice-President of SPA Dr John Coulter says that, since Aboriginal culture is intrinsically tied to the land, further pressure on land and resources from population growth threatens the survival of indigenous cultures.

“Even with the recognition of native title in the Mabo case,” he says, “traditional Aboriginal culture can easily be stifled in the rush for growth.”

Dr Coulter argues that the interests of Aboriginal people have traditionally been ignored in the development of national policies, including those affecting population and development.

“In the absence of a specific population policy, the most significant policy impacting on population growth is immigration. Yet Aboriginal people have never been asked whether they want an immigration program or not, or what size it should be.

“As the then Chairperson of ATSIC, Lowitja O’Donoghue, said at a Bureau of Immigration Research conference in 1990: ‘If the people who were living in Australia in 1788 had been able to determine in their national interest an immigration policy, then I’m sure very few of you would be here.'”

“And in her evidence to the Jones Inquiry into Carrying Capacity in 1994, Dr O’Donoghue said: ‘For Aboriginal people today, as in 1788, the land is not merely a resource to be exploited, a commodity to be traded; it is life itself….The Standing Committee’s reference scenario for the year 2045 has only worse to come – a population almost doubled in size, taking over more and more of the best land for housing, suffering greater pollution and congestion, and natural resources under increased threat of depletion and degradation. Such a prospect must be alarming for all Australians. For indigenous Australians it is doubly so, because the damage that will inevitably be caused to the land threatens the heart of our culture and our way of being.'”

Dr Coulter says that with current high levels of immigration (last year net migration was 104,000), the focus is on providing for newcomers. Small groups already here such as Aboriginal people become proportionally less significant.

“Even though conditions in detention camps at Port Hedland and Woomera are not ideal, they are nevertheless much better than those in many outback Aboriginal communities,” he says.

Further information:

Dr John Coulter, Ph: 08 8388 2153 E: vp@population.org.au

Jenny Goldie (SPA National Director), Ph: 02 6235 5488 E: info@population.org.au


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