But many of Australia’s First Peoples continue to encounter both discrimination and despair. Indigenous Australians are imprisoned at roughly 13 times the rate of nonindigenous Australians. They are just 3 percent of the country’s population, with dozens of peoples or nations on the mainland and in the islands of the Torres Strait, but indigenous suicides increased to 50 percent of all suicides in Australia in 2010, up from 5 percent in 1991.
Indigenous Australians also suffer disproportionate levels of poverty, addiction and unemployment in what they say is a racist society that dismisses them as second-class citizens.
I’ve spent the past several years covering race in the United States. But as part of The New York Times’s expansion into Australia, I traveled through the country’s indigenous communities to look at how they are confronting these challenges and the painful legacy of colonization. Working with filmmakers from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s “Foreign Correspondent” on a 60-minute documentary, which will air on Tuesday in Australia and online, I heard stories from dozens of indigenous Australians who shared the details of their lives with a mix of outrage, resignation and courage.
Many indigenous people are now calling for a treaty with Australia that would end the country’s ominous distinction as the only Commonwealth nation without such a contract governing negotiations over issues like land use, education and compensation. It was the topic of a closely watched conference of indigenous leaders last month, which also resulted in a proposed framework for granting First Australians a clearer role in government and greater control over their lives.
But the Australian government has yet to embrace these demands.
Young indigenous Australians in particular, from various regions and backgrounds, described their country as a place where even when they have rights on paper, they do not…