"Utopia" seeks change for Aboriginal Australians

Tue Nov 12, 2013 6:20am EST
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By Patrick Graham

LONDON (Reuters) - Veteran investigative journalist John Pilger accuses Australia of running a system of apartheid towards its Aboriginal communities in a new documentary released in cinemas in Britain this week.

"Utopia", named after a large, dry region in the north of the country, documents high levels of disease and asbestos-ridden housing, imprisonment rates eight times higher than those for black South Africans under apartheid and male life expectancy of as little as 37 years in one community as evidence of the failings of the state and its passive racism.

Politicians in the film say they have done everything in their power to cure what is an intractable problem and are proud of the state's efforts to find a solution.

But Pilger, who has sought to draw Western attention to Aboriginal poverty since the 1980s, blames ordinary Australians, politicians and mining companies for what he calls a "shaming national secret".

He says mining profits from the Australian outback's extensive mineral reserves now top $1 billion dollars a week and attacks the government for backing off plans two years ago for more extensive taxation of the sector that could have been funneled into indigenous communities.

"According to the Credit Suisse global wealth survey the other day, Australia is the richest country in the world," Pilger said in an interview before the film's release on Friday.

"That makes it even more extraordinary that it has its original people living in poverty at levels of Africa and India with preventable diseases that have long been extinguished in the majority community."

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