This essay argues that the dispossession of native peoples around the globe originates within the worldview of the colonial empires of western Europe. This worldview underpins globalisation and continues impacting human lives and natural ecosystems. In Australia, one clear example of this worldview in practice is mining: one tentacle of globalised industry. The result for ancient Australians is dispossession: a central theme in Australian identity and which indirectly defines sovereignty. Mining in Australia continues with strong governmental support based on the colonial claim of sovereignty. However, the Indigenous worldview of sustainable resource management is gaining recognition as climate disasters intensify and Aboriginal sovereignty, which predates colonial claims, gains recognition. With government funded by corporate donations, democratic discourse has moved online to social media platforms and through multimedia presentations. Despite over two hundred years of the most brutal marginalisation, Indigenous Australians are the most avid users of social media: raising awareness, combating misinformation, and truth sharing. This essay concludes that the Australian government works in tandem with mining companies to flout law and integrity due to their worldview, and that First Nation peoples around the world are gradually succeeding in protecting themselves, and ultimately the world, with modern technology.
Part A: Dispossession, its causes and consequences.
Dispossession in Australia began through the Doctrine of Discovery, the Christian practice of acquiring lands from non-Christian peoples based on the theory of the ‘just war’ (World Conservation Congress 2013). This became the basis for western law, has been practiced through the centuries around the world, and is founded on the three components of discovery, possession and uninterrupted occupation of land (Attwood 4 August 2020). This doctrine was critically challenged in Australia by the 1992 Mabo vs Queensland Case No. 2 which recognised prior and continued occupation of the land by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples (The University of Sydney 2 June 2017). However, successive governments have weakened the Native Title Act 1993 by proscribing claims directly with Crown freehold, mining and pastoral leases, and indirectly through required ‘proof’ of continued connection to land as defined by the invaders, extended judicial processes, and exorbitant legal fees (Korff 23 August 2021). Western sovereignty is based upon the Doctrine of Discovery, the acquisition of land from native peoples, and the military power to ensure continued occupation.
The word ‘dispossession’ does not elucidate the consequences for Indigenous peoples within settler Australia, during colonial, federation, or contemporary times. The immediate consequences of dispossession were homelessness, starvation, and utter dependency on the settlers (the Bar Book Project 2020), a people devoted to genocide and theft (Allam and Evershed 4 March 2019). A key practice related to both genocide and theft was removing children from families through coercion, violence or deceit resulting in the Stolen Generation (Australian National Museum 21 July 2021): dispossession creates severe multi-generational psychological trauma (Das et al 2018). The continuing homelessness of Indigenous peoples in Australia symbolically began with the planting of a flag, colonial Britain’s assertion of Crown sovereignty. The ongoing activities of mining companies, supported by government policy within the framework of globalisation is the machine of dispossession in Australia and continues to violate Aboriginal sovereignty.
Part B: Mining, politics and worldviews
Resource development and extraction formed the basis of Britain’s colonisation of Australia and political and legal forces continue to this economic development. Where laws facilitated environmental protection, settler Australian politicians and lawyers weakened those laws and environmental protection groups were labelled as ‘economic vandals’ (Rose 17 September 2015). With this response to settler citizens, the response to Indigenous peoples goes further.
Under the Native Title Amendment Act 1998 and by engaging in Indigenous Land Use Agreements, Indigenous communities can state conditions on the use of their lands, but mining companies are not required by law to honour any agreements made: where agreements cannot be reached, mining companies pay no royalties to the affected communities, and in any case, mining goes ahead (Howlette & Lawrence 2019, p. 825). Mining is a core activity of capitalism and exemplifies the western worldview and western attitudes to unregulated land and resource exploitation.
Howlette and Lawrence (2019, p. 820-2) list philosophers and researchers who identify possession of land as a primary requirement of capitalism:
- Marx: conquest, slavery, theft and murder and necessary for capitalism to expand
- Luxemburg: capitalism must always expand
- Harvey and Coulthard: capitalism requires dispossession
- Hall: transferring land from native peoples to government control then allows for the passage of that land into (state approved) private ownership
- Bird-Rose: Indigenous peoples living in their traditional homes is a critical obstacle for settler-colonialism
Aboriginal peoples value the land and water as the anchors which sustain existence, not as treasure troves waiting to be plundered as capitalists do. Warlpiri Elder Jerry Jangala clarifies the relationship as reciprocal: the people respecting and the land welcoming (Australians Together 2021). Indigenous culture represents a force which protects the land in perpetuity; western culture represents a force of continuously expanding environmental destruction: this conflict in worldview has been taking place in Australia since the first colony at Sydney Cove in 1788. The balance of this conflict is slowly favouring the Indigenous worldview with social media providing a voice for Indigenous people. Ultimately, worsening climate disasters prove the catastrophic effect of capitalism.
Part C: Technology use and application
The way tools are developed and used provides insight into cultural values. Tools developed by Aboriginal peoples over millennia reinforced the sustainable continuation of Indigenous civilisation (Leigh & Kutay n.d. p. 1). These holistic technologies were developed and used for millennia and were either dismissed or went unrecognised by the ostensibly scientific and rational British colonisers (ibid p. 3), but Aboriginal people developed technology which functioned within the sustainable Indigenous worldview. The application and use of technology for sustainable survival continues today with the widespread use of social media and modern technology to raise settler awareness of Indigenous identity, sharing the truth about colonial invasion, and combating misinformation, marginalisation and human rights (Korff 2021). Rather than viewing the much higher rates that Aboriginal people engage with social media as some form of ‘evolution’ or ‘assimilation’, this holistic application of technology to ensure survival is evidence of continuing core Aboriginal identity, despite the centuries of homelessness and genocide.
Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube provide a voice for Indigenous activism and education which mainstream media does not (Carlson & Frazer 2018, p. 17). However, as of 2020, only 14 out of 39 Australian universities indicated they have courses with Indigenous-specific content (Universities Australia 2020, p. 9). Good work, USQ! A key factor in the use of technology is its multimedia nature, where visuals and the spoken world correspond with the oral culture of native peoples and emoticons are used as cultural signifiers (Rice et al, 25 May 2016). The inherently creative and flexible nature of multimedia technologies provides a solid platform for people separated by time, space and policy to reconnect and rebuild familial and cultural identity. Many Twitter accounts have been organised to platform Indigenous voices (Carlson 11 June 2020), a slew of Aboriginal Facebook pages and Instagram feeds, and uncountable websites and YouTube videos.
However, cyberbullying is prevalent, and educating especially younger people to handle harassment is vital to psychological health: cyberbullying has been connected to suicide (Molloy 5 July 2019): Molloy notes the contexts of colonialism and intergenerational trauma in relation to the higher instances of Indigenous cyberbullying. In one study, emotional intelligence was indicated as a buffer against cyberbullying (Yudes et al. 2021) and respect shown amongst family members and emotional intelligence counteracted cyberbullying in another (Bai et al. 2020). These results indicate that children should be taught about respect, Indigenous identity and history, and how to be detached when being harassed online.
Dispossession, which involves homelessness and genocide, is the expansion of capitalist investment through the theft of lands from Indigenous peoples. The Australian government, Australian law and the mining industry collude to weaken native title and deny climate impact, driven by the capitalist worldview. Mining is intrinsic to western civilisation and globalisation and any threat, such as native title or climate disasters, are ignored by both government and corporations. Indigenous and climate change representatives are vilified. Agreements with mining companies do not need to be honoured, and native title claims with the settler government give capitalist interests the right of veto, not native peoples: clear denial of Indigenous sovereignty. The use of social media and multimedia platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube provide Aboriginal peoples with a voice but younger people must be taught about cyberbullying before going online. Raising awareness of Aboriginal lives is a gradual process and the Indigenous worldview of sustainability may become a critical technology for continued civilisation.
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