poverty, poor environmental health and mental distress, a high death rate for infants and small children, and appallingly high rates of suicide, violence and substance abuse.
As will become clear, patterns of ill-health lock into the struggles around land rights. At a concrete level, however, almost all IndigenousAustralians, including those who live beyond the immediate scope of land rights, are affected by high levels of disease. Questions of Aboriginal health often have a curious status. The linkage between Aboriginal ill-health and what could
This book argues for greater openness in the ways we approach human rights and international rights promotion, and in so doing brings some new understanding to old debates. Starting with the realities of abuse rather than the liberal architecture of rights, it casts human rights as a language for probing the political dimensions of suffering. Seen in this context, the predominant Western models of right generate a substantial but also problematic and not always emancipatory array of practices. These models are far from answering the questions about the nature of political community that are raised by the systemic infliction of suffering. Rather than a simple message from ‘us’ to ‘them’, then, rights promotion is a long and difficult conversation about the relationship between political organisations and suffering. Three case studies are explored: the Tiananmen Square massacre, East Timor's violent modern history and the circumstances of indigenous Australians. The purpose of these discussions is not to elaborate on a new theory of rights, but to work towards rights practices that are more responsive to the spectrum of injury that we inflict and endure.
East Timor in the creation and perpetuation of a pattern of severe and embedded abuse. That failure to pay attention to concrete circumstances marked the ‘realism’ of the prevailing international attitudes on East Timor; to what extent might it also characterise the current liberal approaches?
The third case study, which looks at the ‘place’ of IndigenousAustralians within Australian political life, returns to a liberal rights focus – in this case not involving the language of international rights talk but rather concerning the ideals
taken as already settled, and sometimes quite reasonably so. Frequently, however, as the later discussion of the health of IndigenousAustralians indicates, such analyses assume or demand a crucial zone of uniformity, whether within the state or more broadly – a realm of public discourse that is declared to be neutral and open to all citizens and others, but one that is repeatedly exclusionary. Moreover, it is easy to overlook or forget these practices of exclusion, simply because within states they have proved relatively effective, so that, for example
administrative traditions can be relevant here. Nevertheless legal (and policing) solutions can prove disastrously insufficient. It seems hardly surprising, for example, that female infanticide in western China is hardly touched by legal prohibition. Nor has formal citizenship, bolstered by anti-discrimination legislation, proved a sufficient response to the marginalisation and ‘outcasting’ of IndigenousAustralians. Moreover, as the discussion of Aboriginal health underlines, nor do welfare remedies necessarily make up what is lacking from formal, politico-legal solutions
encounters where anything of significance is at stake or change is possible. Socratic dialogue is not a form of communication for some cultures (such as IndigenousAustralian cultures). And what of feeling? Since what is being discussed is ideal exchange, those exchanges for which the need for dialogue may be most intense hardly have a place – for example, a meeting between disputing factions, or over questions embedded in hatred, grief, trauma, fear, or fragile or rigid identity, or with people who place other values above a training in argument.
evolution of human history and that the onward movement of modernisation is ultimately an innocent, transparent and emancipatory process. But as this chapter and the discussion of IndigenousAustralians’ health suggest, not simply the application but actually the constructions of human rights themselves in developed states can be ambivalent, myopic and exploitative. In the international arena, the persistence, for example, of widespread starvation as a feature of our political and economic lives – a phenomenon that is sometimes ruled out of consideration under the