Editorials: Only 58% of Indigenous Australians are registered to vote. We should be asking why | Paul Daley/The Guardian
The last week of the federal election campaign opened with news that Indigenous people in Western Australia’s Kimberley region are seven times more likely to take their own lives than other Australians. If ever a revelation might halt an election in its tracks, prompt politicians and the media who trail them around Australia on their set-piece campaign operations, to pause and reflect for a day – even an hour or a moment – then a disclosure of such tragic human import should, surely, have done so. But the major party caravans just bumped along, each attacking the other with fallacious claims about alleged changes to Medicare and border protection policies. While policy argument was anchored in the illusory, there was no substantive, mainstream political engagement with this real tragedy in the Kimberley. The social, political and economic indicators of Indigenous Australian wellbeing have, since the 1950s, been an acute source of international embarrassment to Australian federal and state politicians. Indeed, international opprobrium – which rightly lumped Australia’s treatment of its first people in with South Africa’s apartheid regime – were, together with the burgeoning civil rights movement, instrumental in delivering the federal vote to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in 1962.