This time last year in Sydney...
In Australia the 26th January is celebrated as Australia Day. This marks the anniversary of the 1788 arrival of the First Fleet of British ships. There is a campaign to change the date because this is a celebration of the arrival of colonisers who then proceeded to wipe out huge quantities of indigenous Australians. Personally I am not pro ‘Change The Date’ because I do not want to celebrate genocide at any point in the year. However, as it currently stands INVASION DAY is an important time to reflect and review both history and the current situations and adversities that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are still subject to.
And what does that look like presently?
Well, in 2008 an apology was made to aboriginal communities for what has commonly been referred to as the ‘Stolen Generation’ which is where indigenous children were forcibly removed from their families. Since 2008 the number of children removed has DOUBLED. The strategy for ‘out-of-home’ care when it comes to indigenous children is wholly punitive not supportive. As recently as LAST YEAR a new law was passed that allows for an indigenous child to be adopted without the involvement of their birth family. So a child can be forcibly removed and then adopted against their family’s will.
For those that have had trauma inflicted on them for up to six consecutive generations like Australia’s indigenous people have, they require SUPPORT. This isn’t the only way in which support is lacking though, no, indigenous people make up 3% of Australia’s population but 28% of the prison population. Incarceration at this rate perpetuates an inaccurate portrayal that aboriginal people are barbaric and criminal (the same was done to African-Americans in the states and now Trump is trying to vindicate Mexicans in this exact way). The implication is that they needed Europeans to build ‘civilisation’ when in fact their pre-colonial systems were recognisably advanced and sophisticated, their only crime was that they were different. It also fuels trauma amongst the present day communities and denies them of any hopeful spirit.
Indeed data for the period 2001-2010 show the overall rate of suicide for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples was twice that of non-Indigenous people. Contributing to psychological stress is that black people are over represented in the media as criminals (globally) which conditions people of colour into these self-fulfilling stereotypes. Police brutality to those black people incarcerated is as real in Australia as it is in the States. Indigenous people are more likely to be incarcerated and then they risk the possibility of being murdered by the white guards. On Saturday instead of cracking open a few tinnies with a southern cross flag wrapped around my shoulders I listened to the mother of a man who was murdered in his prison cell. Riot police stormed his cell because the diabetic man was eating a packet of biscuits. They held him to the ground while blood began to seep from his mouth and refused to release him. He died in this hold.
There is hope. On Saturday I also heard representatives of other indigenous communities from the world over join us at The Invasion Day rally and say that Australia’s fight for equality for indigenous people is their fight too. Such speakers were from Palestine, Philippines and South America. Reportedly there was 50,000 of us marching in Sydney
which makes my heart soar. Let’s unite and be the change we want to see. Let’s seek justice for the past and pursue a future of equality and opportunity. And please, let us not celebrate murder. .
(It took me 30 minutes to research all these statistics... the information is there. Take any blinkers you have off and face the reality of this country’s history AND current situation, I beg you).
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