Aborigines of Australia, like the Tribals and Dalits of India, are victims of neglect and callousness and dispossessed of their land and other means of livelihood by non-aboriginals. The community, especially the children, is in the midst of major problems, according to Howard Bath, Children's Commissioner, Northern Territory, Australia.

A well-known clinical psychologist, 58-year-old Dr. Bath has a long history of providing consultancy, clinical and training services relating to the needs of disadvantaged children and young people. His particular clinical interests include work with young people who have experienced developmental trauma and those with problems around aggression and sexuality.

He was in Madurai for a short trip to look at the programmes organised by Nanban, an organisation working among children hailing from marginalised sections of society.

Asked about the situation in Australia on child rights, he said that child rights issues are very important and always find a prominent place in the public discourse. In Northern Territory, the child rights issue becomes significant as more than 40 per cent of the people are Aborigines and three quarters of all the children abused are also from that community of Indigenous People. Neglect by not recognising their rights and their status as citizens were the major problems the community face, he said.

“In Australia, the biggest problem is not money but history; yes Aboriginals do not believe the non-Aboriginals and do not trust them because they dispossessed them of their lands, their culture and history. So, as far as child rights are concerned we are making Aboriginals to become representatives of their own cause.”

To the rescue

Urbanisation has somewhat helped the Aborigines as one could not find any tangible differences in their socio-economic status when compared with fellow inhabitants. However the problems remain in the countryside where they find it difficult to accustom with the changing environment and they do not want to come to cities but cities are going to them. On the similarities and differences with the Indian experience, he said that poverty is still a major link with neglect and abuse. Alcohol is another major contributor to the condition and this could be the similarity.

He also pointed out that there are very few social workers and psychologists working for child rights in India whereas in Australia even a small city like Darwin has close to 300 social workers and psychologists.