INDIGENOUS Australians have no hope of being part of mainstream society unless they can speak English, Prime Minister John Howard said today.
Mr Howard today backed a proposal by Indigenous Affairs Minister Mal Brough to ensure indigenous children in remote communities learn English.
“He's absolutely right,” Mr Howard told Southern Cross Broadcasting.
“Indigenous people have no hope of being part of the mainstream of this country unless they can speak the language of this country.”
Mr Howard said the best way to ensure indigenous children became proficient in English was to send them to school.
“If you require them to go to school they'll have to learn English,” he said.
The children of non-English speaking immigrants learnt English through their contact with the school system and so should indigenous children, Mr Howard said.
“In the case of indigenous people, none of them come to Australia as mature-aged people. They were all born in this country, in that sense they're different from migrants,” he said.
“The children of Chinese and Vietnamese immigrants are forced to learn English because they go to school. Equally, Aboriginal children should learn English because they should be required to go to school.”
An Australian Aboriginal activist has labelled the Government's push to force Indigenous children to learn English as "racist".
Australia's Indigenous Affairs Minister Mal Brough says Aboriginal children should learn English so they can get jobs and have more options in life.
He says he is considering quarantining welfare payments to ensure Aboriginal parents send their children to school.
Activist Sam Watson says the government is pinning the blame on the victims instead of helping them.
"I'm absolutely infuriated by this," he said.
"The Howard government seems to be inventing new ways and means of perpetually blaming Aboriginal people and showing cultural disrespect to Aboriginal people."
Tauto Sansbury from the Aboriginal Justice Advocacy Committee says the government proposal will take attitudes to Aborigines back 60 years.
He says it is insulting and reinforces old-fashioned stereotypes.
"They still want to treat Aboriginal people back in the 30s and 40s, where they're the master and we're the servant and our attitude is 'yes boss, we'll do what you want'," he said.
Central Australian Native Title holder Rosalie Kunoth-Monks says Mr Brough needs a reminder that he is not God.
She says Mr Brough should stop putting Aboriginal people down.
"To have the freedom in an affluent democratic country to speak your language as well as access that which is outside that will enable you to get jobs and so forth, we're well and truly aware of that," she said.