In the United States, it’s estimated that almost 260,000 children are abducted every year. Most child abductions are by family members, with a smaller percentage committed by strangers. If you’ve ever seen an Amber Alert on TV, electronic billboards or even your mobile phone, you know the whole area goes into a kind of hyper-vigilant mode of being on the lookout for a car or a person matching the description of the perpetrator. News organizations broadcast stories about the search for the missing child in an effort to keep the abduction in the public consciousness – and to get ratings. Often times, the child is returned to the parent in a matter of hours or days, and the perpetrator is soon wearing an orange jumpsuit and awaiting trail.
According to a report filed by John Pilger on Truthout, Aborigine child abductions number roughly 14,000 in 2013 alone. It’s not family members who are taking these children; it’s the Australian government. Under a government program designed to rescue children from disease and poverty, infants and small children are sometimes forcibly taken from their parents and relatives and put up for adoption. As Pilger says in this “Truthout Interviews” podcast, the program has a kind of Catch-22 built into it. On the one hand, life expectancy among Aborigines is around 40 years of age. Diseases like trachoma (that causes blindness) are common; living conditions approach those of the poorest nations on the planet and the government claims to be trying to do something to address generational poverty among the Aboriginal population. On the other hand, to address the problem, the government sanctions child abduction, surveillance of the Aboriginal population, and secret government courts that fasttrack the removal of the children from their families. If this were an isolated case of a policy gone awry only – the Australian government spends half a billion dollars on child abduction, surveillance of the Aboriginal population, and secret government courts that fasttrack the removal of the children from their families and just half a million dollars on addressing Aboriginal poverty and health – it could perhaps be reformed in the Parliament. However, the child abduction policy is part of a long history of colonialism and neocolonialism in Australia. Assimilation policies from the 1940s to the late 1960s gave the government sweeping powers over the Aboriginal population that resulted in the removal of around 50,000 children from their communities in an effort to “breed the color out” of them. The current policy of child removal in Australia is a continuation of the assimilation programs of the past.
Pilger explains how one of the wealthiest democracies in the world that adheres to a human rights charter has so much trouble confronting and ending racist, neo-colonial practices. John Pilger’s article on Truthout and recent film, Utopia, spotlight the Aborigine assimilationist policies that have been kept out of mainstream consciousness in both Australia and the world. To ignore the blatant violation of basic human rights in Australia contributes to the papering over of the long history of abuses the government has perpetrated upon the Aboriginal people – all in the name of “assimilation.”