Racism within Lateral Violence and Lateral Violence within Racism

As Presented at the ‘Racism in the New World Order’ Conference
Cairns 2012 by Cheri Yavu-Kama-Harathunian – Lateral Love Australia Elders Wisdoms Patron

The Racism within Lateral Violence and Lateral Violence within Racism Power Point Presentation is available to be utilised by all provided it is done so in conjunction with the publishers own notes which can be viewed by clicking the Slide/Notes option in Power Point. For further information, clarification and permissions Aunty Cheri Yavu-Kama-Harathunian can be contacted via the information provided in the final slide of the presentation.

Yours in Unity through Lateral Love & Spirit of Care for all Humankind,

The Lateral Love Team


Slide 1 Publishers Notes
I thank Creator Spirit for allowing my feet to walk across the sacred country of the traditional owners of this place.

I thank the ancestors of the traditional owners of these sacred lands for allowing my voice to be heard across their sacred country.

I thank and I acknowledge the descendants of the traditional owners for presencing themselves with us so that we who have come into their country can do our business and leave a blessing of peace in their country when we leave.

Slide 2 Publishers Notes
For over two centuries Aboriginal Australia has survived the invasion of 1788. This invasion has never been politically, governmentally or legitimately acknowledged. As a result Aboriginal Australia has had to learn survival techniques that maintained and supported the lie that Australia was settled, a lie that is legitimised by being taught in the educational system of this country. That is the power of lateral violence. If you were to say that lateral violence does not exist in Australia, then why is it that the survival skills taught by racial dominance are so strong? Racism is the social and legitimate way political and governmental instrumentalities teach people the means, by which every day survival, and the state of being Australian, is possible. Inherent racism has always been evidenced in the polices of the past, and in the polices that govern Aboriginal Australia today.

Since the European invasion until very recently, government policy relating to Aboriginal people has been designed and implemented by non-Aboriginal people. The common justification for most policies for Aboriginal people was that the policies were “for their own good”. Policies of protection, assimilation, self-determination and reconciliation were motivated from a racist perspective, camouflaged in altruistic rhetoric that maintained racial dominance of Australia’s First Nations peoples. If you actually look beneath the motivation that drove the policies, you will see that they were made to ensure that power and control over Aboriginal people always remained in the hands of the conqueror.

Some 220 years ago, the English novelist Anthony Trollope visited Australia. He wrote, “There has been some rough work”,: We have taken away their land, have destroyed their food, made them subject to our laws, which are antagonistic to their habits and traditions, have endeavoured to make them subject to our tastes, which they hate, have massacred them when they defended themselves and their possessions after their own fashion, and have taught them by hard warfare to acknowledge us to be their master.” Our ancestors learned to survive these acts of aggression based upon what they were learning from the settlers who were progressing the development of Australia into their nation.

When the six Australian colonies became a Federation in 1901, white Australia believed that the Aborigines were a dying race and the Constitution made only two references to them. Section 127 excluded Aborigines from the census (although heads of cattle were counted) and Section 51 (Part 26) gave power over Aborigines to the States rather than to the Federal Government. In both NSW and Queensland the Department of Flora, Fauna and Fisheries was also the Department that defined who Aboriginal people were. Our country was legitimately made terra nullius, we were considered the closest thing to stone-age man, and we were not considered by the settlers who believed the philosophy of the Age of Enlightenment that was sweeping Europe at the time and fed into the British ideology of ‘the divine right to rule’. Racially we were considered to be only sub-human not truly human yet. This was the situation until the referendum of 1967 when an overwhelming majority of non-Aboriginal Australians voted to include ‘Aborigines’ in the census of their own country. To have to be subjected to the process of a referendum to say that we were Australian citizens was an act of Lateral Violence against Aboriginal people because it politically and legitimately said to all Australians that although the reality of Aboriginal Australians had been their knowledge that they had been here since time immemorial, that this was the country that had owned them for thousands of years, Aboriginal Australians only began to exist in Australia from 1967.

This is the political deception that further encouraged an image of ‘poor black fulla’ me welfare mentality amongst Aboriginal Australians and strengthened an ‘us and them’ non–Aboriginal Australian national rhetoric.

Slide 3 Publishers Notes
Racism is a manifestation of Lateral violence.

It is reinforced through the legitimatisation of the history of Australia that was manipulated to suite a dominate authorities values and beliefs.

History says that Australia was ‘settled’. It was not. Australia was invaded.

For example history says that Australia was discovered by Europeans. How can something be discovered that has and was already found by the people who lived here for eons of time?

What European explorers found was a vast country, and they discovered that the country they found was already inhabited by a people who, to their enlightened minds, were very different to their own understanding and knowledge about their world.

Western powers used, and continue to use, racist processes to violently intimidate their own people and people who they colonise to believe that the ‘other’ people who do not look like, speak like, act like or understand like the people of the dominating authority, are a deficient “species“ of human kind, perhaps even savages or something less than human. This view was and continues to be necessary to justify prejudice, and bigotry, and even war, particularly at a time when Western culture promotes individual rights and human equality. For Aboriginal Australia the dominating authority for many years and for many reasons promoted the false belief that we ‘dark skinned’ people were all the same, all part of one homogeneous society. Yet Aboriginal history tells us that we were and are many different nations, many different cultures, many different societies and some of our nations were warring nations and some were not. Aboriginal history is and has shown just how diverse and complex our ways of being and doing are.

No human being is born with the belief that a particular race is superior or inferior to another. No human being is born with bigotry or prejudice against another human being, thing, or place, something that is defined by our five senses to exist. We all are taught these altitudinal facets of ourselves as we grow and relate to the world around us. What we do not realise however, in many instances, and through racism, that we ourselves perpetrate the lateral violence of a dominating authority. An important feature of racism toward Aboriginal people is that racists will often see us as merely some ‘other’, subhuman, a people that must be protected, looked after, cared for by others who have our best interests at the core of their reasons to do good toward us. The lens through which a superior people or persons focus their altruistic endeavours upon Aboriginal people stems from a notion that we, as a people are somehow inferior, morally degraded, ethically unsound and lacking any ability to move from the place into which their racist attitudes continue to place us.

The dominant authority has, to a significant degree, viewed Aboriginal people through a ‘welfare perspective’. We have been labeled victims of colonisation, victims of societal progress, victims of portrayals and images of us, victims of a people who never really fit into what Australia has become. That is, there is this belief that was espoused by scientists and social scientists that certain races, especially ‘black races’ were subject to inborn shortcomings. So Aboriginal ‘inferiority’ a belief based upon a false understanding of race continues to validate the Lateral Violence embedded in this racist belief that because of skin colour, hair and facial shape, certain people are not really able to be human to the fullest of their life potential.

A philosopher of the 20th Century wrote, “There are few genetic characteristics to be found in the population of England that are not found in similar proportions in populations in Zaire, or in China … those differences that most deeply affect us in our dealings with each other are not to any significant degree biologically determined.” In the second half of the 19th century and not just in Australia, Darwinism, the decline of Christian belief, and growing immigration populations were all perceived by many white Westerners as a threat to their cultural control. European and, to a lesser degree, American scientists and philosophers devised a false racial “science” to “prove” the supremacy of whites. Out of these discourses flowed the expressions of global Lateral Violence in the form of wars where in Europe a group of peoples were gassed, atomic bombs were used, economies were threatened, ethnic cleansings took place, countries far removed from the Western world were invaded for their natural resources and men and women from all different races and cultures fought for their countries. The Western dominating global authorities’ power and control was shifting with the rise of China, Russia, the Middle East and Japan. Australia because of its ties with mother England began to recognise their vulnerabilities because of where Australia is situated. We are not part of Europe nor are we part of the Americas. Australia sits amongst non-Western countries like the Pacific Islands, Asia, Africa and parts of the Middle East.

I recall being educated about the yellow hoards to our north, the black savages from Africa, the cunning and merciless Asians and Middle Easterners. Because Lateral Violence is at the core of racial prejudice, attitudinal values and beliefs about Australia’s whiteness continue to ignore the knowledge that Australia’s history was and is one of black nation hood. In their own country, Aboriginal Australians was pushed into the background and Lateral Violence in the form of policies, was a key element in a prejudiced governments rhetoric that once again saw Aboriginal Australians becoming refugees, displaced persons and welfare victims gratefully receiving ‘handouts’ from a racially prejudiced government.

Slide 4 Publishers Notes
Colonisation processes embarked upon in 1788 not only scarred the ancient land for three centuries the processes also scarred the First Nations people because the processes were initiated, based upon a false premise, that the land was empty, that nobody live here, and was declared terra nullius.

Some of the first Acts enacted by the colonial governments ensured that the perception of the settlers remained intact. The Act which acknowledged Aboriginal people as part of the fisheries, flora and fauna of Australia continued to develop attitudes about Aboriginal people that expressed the idea that we were either dying out, were hopeless and helpless, were spiritually deficit, did not have a language system and governments needed to help us to become more human in the Anglo/Celtic form through assimilation policies that ripped our social, family and kinship networks apart thus creating displaced peoples, disenfranchised peoples, and de-spirited peoples, refugees in their own country who learned to be dependent upon government hand-outs.

Slide 5 Publishers Notes
The adaptations for survival were based upon what our ancestors saw the military, the convicts and the settlers do to survive.

For role models of how to be ‘white’ our ancestors watched, so called first settlement peoples, show them how it was done so as to survive.

Therefore, to protect their mental, physical, social, environmental, and psychological sense of self, and sense of being their own interpretation of being human, they learned to abuse alcohol, learned to abuse each other, learned to disregard sacred boundaries, learned to forget their law, learned to protect themselves by speaking English, learned to treat their women as goods and chattels, learned to try to become a white man and learned to hate their culture and their heritage.

In developing survival skills our ancestors became ashamed of who they were, what their heritage meant, what and how their culture defined their identity and their connectedness to life and to nature itself. Their spiritual connection to country and to each other and to the environment and the universe was eroding, and fragmenting as the colony progressed across Australia.

Slide 6 Publishers Notes
During this period Aboriginal people were refining and continued to refine their survival skills again and again.

The seven pillars of First Nations peoples societies 1. Family, 2. Religion, 3. Business, 4. Arts and Entertainment, 5. Education, 6. Media and 7. Government, were being dismantled to make way for the British way of doing these seven way of being human.
From settlement to this day, Aboriginal people have adapted their survival skills to develop their understanding of the world in which they have been forced to live.

Slide 7 Publishers Notes
The first act of Lateral Violence against Aboriginal people was when the first boat people came off their ships and falsely accepted and believed that the ‘black’ people they saw were less than themselves, because they did not see any examples of their own agrarian way of life.

This act of Lateral Violence, historically embedded in the nationhood of Australia, an entrenched racial prejudice towards all that Aboriginal people valued as a society, valued as their culture, valued as their communication system, valued as arts and entertainment, valued as their education system, valued as their written accounts of their histories, and valued as their way of governance. There continues to be a false belief and justification that Aboriginal Laws were barbaric. They are not. In fact they are built upon principles of justice as it was known and is known to Aboriginal people today.

The new arrivals paid very little effort and very little time to understand First Nations peoples way of living and being. If they did, what they saw, or what they experienced, was interrupted through an Anglo/Celtic understanding of the world. Thus many accounts, many historical accounts were written by men and women who viewed our ancestors through a lens of racism because it was their translations, their interpretations of our living culture based upon the knowledge and understanding of non-Aboriginal ways of doing and being from the perspective of the ‘other’. Our ways of doing and being was not understood through the cultural context of our ancestors.

Slide 8 Publishers Notes
I do not have the time to go deeper into the seven Aboriginal Law principles, or talk about the seven value levels of ‘Aboriginal Spirituality’. I can only give a general understanding about our Law. The general principles presented here are what I was taught as a child, which means that they are open for us to learn.

However, there is ‘Women’s Business’ and ‘Men’s Business’ to do with Law that cannot be discussed in public. Different groups have different rules about sharing Aboriginal Law. It is not Aboriginal Customary Law as defined by Westminster Principles, it is our ‘Sacred Law’ and when and if you could understand it from within our Aboriginal cultural context you would come to appreciate how the seven principles of ‘Aboriginal Law’ complimented the seven levels of ‘Aboriginal Spirituality’ which was practiced as diversely as the cultural practices and protocols each nation group across this continent performed living in the environment which housed their sacred lands. Nations in the western places of Australia had different ways of practicing Law to those who lived in Eastern Australia. Yet there were and still are these principles running through the practices in all groups.

In following the principles and practicing the levels an ancient people were able to maintain a way of life and living for thousands and thousands of years. Our connection to our Law and our spirituality was what Lateral Violence disconnected and this disconnection impacted upon our ancestors and continues to impact upon our people even today.

Aboriginal people who are part of the ‘Stolen Generations’ know how Lateral Violence impacted on them three times when they were taken away from country, from family and from culture. What settlers interpreted as barbaric and savagery, torturous and unjust, was racially prejudiced because the first settlers could not see our way of practicing Law and order as law, order and justice.

The policies that grew out of this prejudice gave the right to others to break families apart and in doing so our sacred law was broken and our people still deal with the Lateral Violence which so many of our people experienced firsthand.

Slide 9 Publishers Notes
The survival skills our ancestors needed were refined by them so as to cope with the New World Order into which they were forced to live. Those survival skills were handed down through oral histories and family role modeling. With each generation the survival skills were refined over and over again. Yet today, no matter where you look in Aboriginal society, you will still see or experience Lateral Violence in some form.

For many Aboriginal people one of the covers under which Lateral Violence is expressed is racism.

“Racism is the belief that a particular race is superior or inferior to another, that a person’s social and moral traits are predetermined by his or her inborn biological characteristics. (Anti-Defamation League 2012).

Lateral violence is the power and control used by a dominating authority and individuals to disconnect and decimate a people’s or person’s nationhood birthrights, to their spiritual and cultural heritage, self and cultural identity and ‘sense of being’. This is done by means of colonisation processes that ‘normalise’ institutionalised systems of violent intimidation, manipulation and deception politically, environmentally, religiously, legitimately, governmentally and socially.
Yavu-Kama-Harathunian2010- 2012 ©

Racism and Lateral Violence are intertwined where one is, so the other is also.

Lateral Violence is at the core of our peoples psyche. Any people group who have been colonised, can identify with the survival skills their ancestors found so as to cope with the dominating authorities introduction into the landscape of their alien culture, and alien ways of living.

They needed to find survival skills so that their younger generations, right up to you and me could have life.

They were not just ‘coping mechanisms’, these survival skills go deeper than that and this is where Lateral Violence breeds its own violence.

This is the 21st Century and until the true history of Australia is told to all Australians, Racism in Lateral Violence and Lateral Violence in Racism will continue to be knitted firmly into the very fabric of Australian society.

Slide 10 Publishers Notes
Let me finish this presentation with a blessing.

My sacred land hears and understands Kabi Kabi, and it recognises that language because it is a language that these sacred lands taught to the traditional owner peoples, so I offer this prayer up to Creator Spirit on your behalf in a language that this region knows and understands.

My words are true and the blessings I offer you are words that have been true for 40,000 years.
“Junjarin-nga dhar’guna yau’eembai’ya ngoolam’bula dhar’kun yar war gow”

These are words from my Kabi Kabi cultural heritage. They are words given to my people to honour and bless others and they mean: “May the spiritual forces of Mother Earth guide and protect your inner self and truth”.

This blessing is offered to each and every one of you and it is offered from the spirit of my country as I welcome you to do your business today. Thank you!


  1. Janine Quine says:

    Thank you very much for this information. As a non-Indigenous woman who is involved in educating uni students – and others- about these issues, I know that it can be very confronting with many resisting it. Yet, it is a story that needs to be told, discussed and understood from Aboriginal terms of reference. it is not only important for us to understand the reasons why a significant number of Indigenous individuals and communities are struggling, but how we as the dominant culture continue this process. Until we recognise that, and come to value waht your culture has to offer, then we will never create what Aboriginal elders Mary Graham and LIlla Watson refer to as a good and abundant society.

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