Campus & Community

Visiting scholar highlights plight of Aboriginal Australians

Claire Smith will address the impact the Australian government’s intervention has had on the Aboriginal communities in Australia’s Northern Territory. The lecture, “Headline Anthropology,” will take place April 2 at 6 p.m. in Sturm Hall Room 451.

Smith is a professor of archaeology and a visiting Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences Scholar from Flinders University. She has worked with the Aboriginal people in the communities of Barunga and Manyallaluk for nearly 20 years.

On June 21, 2007, the Australian government announced national emergency measures in response to the Little Children are Sacred report (Anderson and Wild 2007) on the sexual abuse of Aboriginal children. The report indicated that alcoholism and drug addictions were rampant, and that people were selling young girls into the sex trade in exchange for alcohol and drugs.

“This intervention was implemented too quickly, without proper consultation with the people affected, with too little forethought, without valuing existing indigenous health expertise and against the advice of the Law Council of Australia,” Smith says.

The outcome, Smith says, has been an increase in suicide and mortality rates and a breakdown of families.

During her talk, Smith will show Aboriginal viewpoints through video footage of interviews taken in the communities where she worked.

“This is a hot issue in Australia, and complex,” Smith says, noting that although the intervention was aimed to save Aboriginal children from sexual abuse, eight months later no cases have gone to court.

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