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AUSTRALIA RMIT FACT CHECK REPORT: Jacinta Nampijinpa Price Impacts of Colonisation on Indigenous Is This Correct?

RMIT ABC Fact Check presents the latest in fact checking and misinformation.(AAP: Mick Tsikas)none

AceNewsDesk – Jacinta Nampijinpa Price says there are no ongoing negative impacts of colonisation on Indigenous Australians. Is that correct?


Ace Press News From Cutting Room Floor: Published: Sept.22: 2023: ABC RMIT Fact Check Edited by Ellen McCutchan and David Campbell TELEGRAM Ace Daily News Link

RMIT ABC Fact Check presents the latest in fact checking and misinformation.(AAP: Mick Tsikas)none

CheckMate September 22, 2023

This week, we look at whether the lasting impact of colonisation on Indigenous Australians has been entirely positive, as claimed by a leading No campaigner in the Voice to Parliament referendum.

We also explain why social media posts about carbon emissions and “global greening” don’t tell the full story.

Jacinta Price says there are ‘no ongoing negative impacts’ of colonisation. Here are the facts

Jacinta Nampijinpa Price speaks at a podium at the National Press Club
Senator Nampijinipa Price also dismissed the notion of intergenerational trauma in her address.(AAP: Lukas Coch )

Ahead of October’s Voice to Parliament referendum, Shadow Minister for Indigenous Australians Jacinta Nampijinpa Price has sparked controversy for comments made during a recent appearance at the National Press Club.

Asked by a journalist whether she believed the history of colonisation continued “to have an impact on some Indigenous Australians”, the senator responded:

“Positive impact? Absolutely. I mean, now we’ve got running water, we’ve got readily available food.”

Prompted to clarify whether she believed there were negative impacts for Indigenous people, Senator Nampijinpa Price said there were “no ongoing negative impacts of colonisation”.

The Nationals senator also dismissed the notion of intergenerational trauma — that is, where a person’s traumatic experience affects their children and other descendants — as a result of colonisation.

But experts disagree, and numerous scientific studies and articles contradict her comments.

In a statement drawing on research papers and government documents, researchers from the University of Western Australia’s School of Indigenous Studies told CheckMate the impact of colonisation was “far more catastrophic than physically taking control of Country and its Indigenous people”.

“Instead, it is the traumatic actions and events that continue long after the initial takeover of lands, like the unprecedented spread of Western diseases that caused death to many communities and/or mass killings of Indigenous peoples during the frontier wars and more,” they said.

“Colonisation has a flow-on effect to everyday Australian life, such as law, systems and organisations.”

The researchers pointed to a number of papers that found Indigenous Australians who had been subject to policies of colonisation such as the forced removal of children and elders from families and communities consistently suffered adverse outcomes as a result.

2018 report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW), for example, found that members of the Stolen Generations were “more likely to be worse off than other Indigenous Australians of the same age on a range of health and socioeconomic outcomes”.

Their descendants “were also consistently more likely to have experienced adverse outcomes over a broad range of health, socioeconomic and cultural indicators”.

Another report referenced by the UWA researchers illustrated that “children living with members from the Stolen Generations are more likely to experience poor health, experience financial disadvantage and are more likely to experience life stressors”.

Dr Tracy Westerman, a clinical psychologist with 25 years of direct experience and publications in Indigenous trauma, suicide and mental health and Nyamal woman, took to X (formerly Twitter) following Senator Nampijinpa Price’s speech to share more than a dozen scientific studies and articles countering the senator’s assertions.

Among those studies, a 2020 systematic scoping review aimed at understanding the impact of historical trauma due to colonisation found that historical trauma “continues to have a profound impact on Indigenous young peoples”.

Similarly, a 2016 review of scientific literature found “general consensus that the impact of colonisation on the health of Indigenous people manifests negatively … [and] is experienced intra-generationally and inter-generationally”.

Elsewhere, a 2022 report published by the AIHW stated that “colonisation has had a devastating impact on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and culture”.

“Violence and epidemic disease caused an immediate loss of life, and the occupation of land by settlers and the restriction of Aboriginal people to ‘reserves’ disrupted their ability to support themselves,” the report, Determinants of Health for Indigenous Australians, found.

“Together with the forcible removal of Indigenous children from their families and communities, Indigenous Australians have suffered ongoing inter-generational trauma.”

fact sheet published by the Centre of Best Practice in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention concurs.

“The combined effects of colonisation and oppressive policies and practices have had a profound and enduring impact on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ health and social and emotional wellbeing,” the fact sheet states.

A young Aboriginal man
The negative effects of colonisation can be passed down generations, according to experts.(ABC News: James Dunlevie)

In an email, Jon Altman, an emeritus professor at the Australian National University (ANU), told CheckMate that in short, colonial legacy was “a key explanator” of the disparities between Indigenous Australians and the remaining Australian population.

Professor Altman pointed to a paper he co-authored in 1991 explaining “the exclusion of Aboriginal people from the mainstream provisions of the welfare state until the 1970s”, which he said “left a deep legacy reflected in socioeconomic disparity”.

This could be seen in differing outcomes for measures such as life expectancy, education and employment, said Professor Altman, who also noted the impact of other factors.

These included remoteness, ongoing neglect, demographic differences and “cultural priorities”, such as a desire to stay connected to ancestral lands where governments did not provide services and where there may be no employment prospects.

“So intergenerational disparities in themselves generate poverty for many,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Central Land Council (CLC), which represents the Aboriginal peoples of the southern half of the Northern Territory, also rejected Senator Nampijinpa Price’s position, describing her remarks as “hurting members of our community and homelands”.

“The senator’s denial of history and its ongoing impacts is disgraceful,” the council said in a media statement.

As for her claims about the positive impact of colonisation in regards to the availability of running water and readily available food, the council noted: “Our families still do not all have access to affordable healthy food, drinkable water and sustainable water supplies.

“Many of our communities live with water stress, food insecurity, exorbitant costs and living conditions that would not be tolerated by any other Australians.”

‘Global greening’ occurring, but not the full story

Extra CO2 might result in more greening, but there are other effects of climate change that are more adverse.(Reuters: Amanda Perobelli)

Some social media users have suggested climate change is a net benefit to the planet, pointing to the “greening” effect of increased atmospheric carbon dioxide on plant growth.

In a post to X, United Australia Party national director Craig Kelly shared a video claiming that satellite data showed the earth was experiencing an increase in leaves on plants and trees, including within the Amazon rainforest.

“Global Greening is real and happening now,” wrote Mr Kelly. “Yet children are taught the exact opposite in schools — and we wonder why they come out completely brainwashed.”

Another X user shared an image from the same video, arguing that plant growth was the “main effect of increasing CO2 in the global atmosphere and oceans”.

But such posts miss crucial context.

The satellite image featured in the video shared by Mr Kelly appears in a 2016 article published by NASA, titled: “CO2 is making Earth greener — for now.”

That article, which cites a major international study that used satellite data to determine the leaf cover of the planet’s vegetated regions, states that “a quarter to half of Earth’s vegetated lands has shown significant greening over the last 35 years largely due to rising levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide”.

Importantly, it adds: “While rising carbon dioxide concentrations in the air can be beneficial for plants, it is also the chief culprit of climate change … [whose impacts] include global warming, rising sea levels, melting glaciers and sea ice as well as more severe weather events”.

Indeed, one of the study’s co-authors has previously taken aim at “contrarians” who cite global greening as evidence to argue against curbing carbon emissions.

“The fallacy of the contrarian argument is two-fold,” said Philippe Ciais, associate director of the Laboratory of Climate and Environmental Sciences, Gif-suv-Yvette, France.

“First, many negative aspects of climate change, namely global warming, rising sea levels, melting glaciers and sea ice, more severe tropical storms, etc. are not acknowledged.

“Second, studies have shown that plants acclimatise, or adjust, to rising CO2 concentration and the fertilisation effect diminishes over time.”

Similarly, the CSIRO’s Oceans and Atmosphere chief research scientist Pep Canadell — another of the study’s co-authors — has written in the Conversation: “We don’t know how far into the future the greening trend will continue as the CO2 concentration ultimately peaks while delayed global warming continues for decades after.

“Regardless, it is clear that the benefits of a greening Earth fall well short compared to the estimated negative impacts of extreme weather events (such as droughts, heat waves, and floods), sea level rise, and ocean acidification.”

These and other impacts of climate change are spelt out in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) Sixth Assessment report, published in 2021.

In an email to CheckMate, David Karoly, an international expert on climate change and a professor with the University of Melbourne’s School of Geography, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, labelled Mr Kelly’s statements as “misinformation and misdirection”.

Meanwhile, University of Melbourne professor Peter Rayner said that “most observers would rate a 1.1C change in surface temperature as a bigger impact than the greening”.

As for the state of the Amazon rainforest, he noted that there had been “vigorous debate” among the scientific community, which was unlikely to have reached a consensus.

“Intact parts of the Amazon are probably becoming more green but there are significant land-use emissions as well.”

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