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Cultural Genocide For Aborigines During Climate Change?

May 4, 2009

A human rights watchdog warned on Monday that climate change would force Australia’s Aborigines off their traditional lands, resulting in “cultural genocide” and environmental degradation, the AFP reported.

The government-funded Human Rights Commission said Australia’s original inhabitants, whose cultures stretch back many thousands of years, would be deeply affected by the impact of global warming.

The commission’s annual Native Title Report said that rising sea levels and soaring temperatures would make their homelands uninhabitable, severing spiritual links and laying waste to the environment.

The report suggested that the main problems that indigenous Australians will encounter include people being forced to leave their lands, particularly in coastal areas.

“Dispossession and a loss of access to traditional lands, waters, and natural resources may be described as cultural genocide; a loss of ancestral, spiritual, totemic and language connections to lands and associated areas,” it said.

The commission said that the Aborigines being robbed of their traditional caretaking role for land and water resources would also result in “environmental degradation and adverse impacts on biodiversity and overall health and well-being.”

It cited that food security for subsistence farmers and hunters and gatherers among indigenous populations would be threatened, while blood-borne tropical illnesses such as malaria and dengue fever would increase.

Aborigines were believed to number more than one million at the time of white settlement in 1788, but now account for just 2.5 percent of the population, with an estimated 517,000 people.

The report said a quarter of these lived in remote outback and coastal areas, with up to 80 percent of adults in these communities relying on the natural environment in order to thrive.

These original inhabitants owned, controlled, used, managed or had access to about 20 percent of the Australian continent, and fishing and hunting for food were common activities.

Natural resources were also used for commercial activity such as arts and crafts, and tourism.

Many Aborigines currently live in squalid camps where unemployment, alcoholism and lawlessness run rampant.

They have much higher rates of infant mortality, health problems and suicide than other Australians.

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