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I belong to the Munggurra Clan of the Alawa Nation and the Garawa Clan of the Mara Nation; while also sharing Scottish and Dutch ancestry. Descendant of the Stolen Generations but my connection to family was not lost. I know my kinship and Eternal Belonging, I belong to Roper River. Mother of one Nuro-Typical and one Nuro-Diverse child, don't mess with me on Autism I am never in the mood! I beat two-under-two, meet the Mum who birthed two under one! I am a feminist when it means we all stand on equal footing regardless of race, social class, religion, or any other human rights classification. Discrimination of any description boils my blood! Advocate for improving the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nations across Australia through the Grassroots movements Indigenous Rise, & Black GST. International connections to Grassroots Network Indigenous World of Entertainment. My focus lies in creating equal human rights for all people in Australia, including refugees. Strong opinions regarding Food Sovereignty in remote Indigenous Communities and reducing overpopulation to improve health inequality. Pro Treaty, Uluru Statement and enacting the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Vocal about the fact that Australia's Native Title Act is nothing more than another Colonial Document. Save our Sacred Sites, Waterways & Bushlands. Sovereignty never ceded. If England returned today would you say they settled or that they invaded? Change the Australian flag, anthem & Australia Day. Climate Change is of great concern to me! Warning: when angry, prone to swear on occasion (sorry to my Elders). Currently in the process of writing my first book, submissions to publishers will commence once my Editor has completed her work. I am excited to say it will be a very confrontational read for the far right side of the Australian political sphere. My most used sayings are: 1: "Australia cannot claim to be a first world country nor the Lucky Country until we behave like we are such". 2: "I know you don't think I look like a Blackfella but that stereotype was outdated 233 years ago when the first European man raped an Aboriginal woman. It's also a belief founded in the White Australia Policy, time to move on Australia!"

Website: http://www.iwoe.online

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Australia’s genocidal identity

Horrified barely scratches the surface of how I felt the day I learnt what is defined as genocide. After being directed to the United Nations 1948 Genocide Convention website. My heart sank reading Article II.

(Excerpt from the Article II of UN Website) In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

  1. Killing members of the group;
  2. Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
  3. Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
  4. Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
  5. Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

Australia has a genocidal history

Looking through the eyes of my own Aboriginal ancestors, genocides were abundant in my personal history. My family line descends from the Stolen Generations, more than 60-years of what is considered the last definition of genocide. Like most First Nation People, my clans were victims of poisoned water holes massacring dozens at a time. Plus, retaliatory mass murders after colonial violence such as women raped resulted in a payback spearing or killing. Watching ABC’s The Pacific in the Wake of Capitan Cook, I heard a Maori woman describe herself as both coloniser and colonised. The line stuck me deeply. Having grown up knowing my ancestors oppressed my ancestors, was a hard place for a child let alone an adult. This statement was another take on my own words.

The founding of Australia was dark and unpleasant to say the least. Those who continue to deny the history, please read some of my other articles on The AIMN. Relevant topics can be found here, or here, or here. Colonialism has been determined to portray a nomadic people whom were dying out naturally. Considered from the Indigenous perspective this was a means of justifying the conquering of the people and illegal seizure of lands. Phrases such as ‘punitive expeditions’ and ‘disperse the natives’ frequent Australia’s history books. A means of disguising the actions of mass murder used against the Indigenous Peoples. Currently, the world is up in arms at China over the fourth item on the description. But Australia is ignoring the implications of what constitutes genocide enacted within our own shores. We always have!

On the 8th July 1949 Australia ratified the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. The last ‘officially sanctioned’ act of genocide against the Indigenous People occurred in the 1930s. Sadly there are records of unsanctioned acts occurring much later than the official records reflect; covered up for fear of punishment. Historians are researching historical records in an attempt to bring more of these to light and improve the records of Australian history.

Whilst the majority of Australians believe genocide is not something Australia would participate in today, there are those like me who feel we cross the line when the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nations are concerned. Yes, even today in 2021! Historically the treatment of Indigenous Peoples was one of traumatic extremes. Australia’s history books belie this truth. But the words ‘war’ and ‘extermination’ have been used together to describe the treatment on more than one occasion.

“While Bathurst with its surrounding vicinity is engaged in an exterminating war, peace reigns around the ever verdant valley of Wellington.” And, When martial law had run its course extermination is the word that most aptly describes the result. As the old Roman said, “They made a solitude and called it peace’. The last effort of a doomed race thus ended.” (Excerpt from Aboriginal Sovereignty, Kevin Gilbert).

This is where the story of the Myall Creek Massacre provides the evidence not only of the massacre of the twenty eight Aborigines killed at Myall Creek but also of countless other massacres. Following his inquiry which he conducted in the Big (Gwydir) River district around Myall Creek, Police Magistrate Edward Denny Day reported to Governor George Gipps, “There is a war of extermination against the blacks in that part of the colony.” Additionally on 18th December 1838 on the morning seven of the perpetrators of the Myall Creek Massacre were to hang, the Head Gaoler, Henry Keck reported to Governor Gipps that all the men had confessed but they had said they “didn’t know it was against the law to kill blacks because it had happened so often throughout the colony.” Quite clearly those two quotes provide irrefutable evidence of just how common and widespread massacres of Aboriginal people were at that time so much so that any sceptics who choose to deny it are simply “burying their heads in the sand.” (Excerpt from the Myall Creek Massacre Website).

Today’s genocidal identity

Looking through the eyes of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people today, I argue the genocides against us never ended. The White Australia Policy and some of the others that outrightly disadvantaged First Nations Peoples were abolished. Sadly, many of the values remain in the hearts of some Australian’s today. We have had the same beliefs displayed by government and media identities today; fuelling the divide drawn in the line 233 years ago.

Racially driven profiling stems from the historic values founding the “Lucky Country”. Systematic racism exists because of the beliefs at the core of the country. Foundations that have never been addressed since they were established. Whilst they are no longer legally viable in the open, many disappeared beneath the surface layer. Our populations have always been unfairly targeted by the colonial system since invasion. In many ways we still are.

Genocide is not merely described as mass murder. Personally, I focus on the second item on the definition list. Causing serious bodily or mental harm to the group. But because the definition states “genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.” Australia has been able to get away with actions that should be classed as genocides upon the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People. Laws preventing murder and upholding human rights have enabled the ‘Lucky County’ to refuse the truth about Australia’s current day acts of genocide.

Deaths in Custody

1991 saw the release of the Aboriginal Deaths in Custody report. Sadly, First Nations People are still the highest incarcerated demographic in the world. Statistically, 23% of the population in March 2021 were imprisoned. Accountability of deaths in custody is lacking while investigations are conducted by internal forces. Occasions when failures in duty of care are directly responsible for deaths, little is changed to prevent similar occurrences.

Australia has the tools to reduce the incarceration rates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People. Instead of enacting the steps needed, political willpower is used on other means such as creating further punitive measures.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders die in custody 11 times more frequently than other nationalities. Whilst some consider this comparative under certain conditions, facts are the demographic make-up 3% of the overall population: Meaning these statistics are much higher than the rest of Australian society. If one person a month died behind bars it would take 39.5 years to reach the 474 deaths recorded on the 30th anniversary. Over the months either side of the anniversary a further seven First Nations People died in custody. Proving the system is failing yet still the remaining recommendations have not been implemented over state and federal levels.

These facts fall within the description of both the first and second definition of genocide: Killing members of the group and causing serious bodily and mental harm. The circumstances of history have imposed upon First Nations People the conditions that calculated their deaths. There are many who would suggest not enough has changed with the system to justify not meeting the terms of the third description of genocide too.

Health Disparities

My argument is that Australia has enacted decades of genocide resulting from the lack of health care as per the standards of Australian citizens. We have breached the conditions of the first three definitions. Indigenous People in remote communities have been unable to access medical treatments, and preventative measures have been outright denied. These health issues have long-term effects resulting in serious bodily and mental harm to a large population of the Indigenous Populations. And part three; deliberately inflicting conditions calculated to bring about physical death, due to the lack of preventative measures and treatments not made available to remote Indigenous communities.

Decades of reports have shown the First nations People die on average 10 years earlier than other Australians. Directly caused by the third, fourth and fifth world conditions of our communities covered below. Health disparities have been noted for generations, as have recommended solutions. Many have been left without action. Creating with numerous acts of wilful blindness by Australian governments. Preventive measures have not been enacted and the treatments are inaccessible to the communities in need.

  • Diseases at epidemic levels (Trachoma, Acute Rheumatic Disease, Rheumatic Heart Disease, Diabetes, Kidney and Heart Diseases, Iron Deficiencies etc). Preventative measures regarding overpopulation and the need for more housing has been ignored for decades. If Australia established adequate housing conditions, many health issues directly resulting from overpopulation (Acute Rheumatic Disease, Trachoma etc) would not be experienced at epidemic levels.
  • Lack of health services in communities means First Nations children are born with comorbidities. As per Closing the Gap these will not see any visible improvements for another 50 years. Treatments are not made readily available resulting in health disparities to be present. If training for health care workers was more easily accessible these communities would have a better chance of supporting themselves.
  • Aboriginal Australians are arguably one of the most traumatised people in the world” yet mental health and trauma have been overlooked within the First Nation Communities. Suicide rates within our demographics are higher due to the circumstances of communities and traumas that have never been adequately addressed within our populations.

Third, Fourth and Fifth World Conditions

This section is highly focused at the third definition: “Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in par.” Wilful blindness plays a part in the conditions intended to cause the death of the First Nations People.

  • Housing circumstances: as previously stated; the housing conditions of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders are dire! They have been in need of immediate attention for generations. But blind eyes have been turned away from the issue of overpopulation and poor inadequate quality. In 2020 the NT government were condemned by the current Indigenous Affairs Minister before some progress was made. Many feel it is too little too late. Hundreds have already had their health impacted by the poor circumstances. Minimal work being undertake will not improve the disadvantage caused by the inadequate housing conditions.
  • High levels of Uranium found in the drinking water at Laramba has been left for the community to resolve. If this was in Sydney the local, state, and federal governments would be in an uproar flying into action. Sadly, the Aboriginal community has been left to find solutions to the uranium on their own. Australians don’t need scientists or doctors to tell us that uranium kills, yet Australia has enacted more wilful blindness in this situation.
  • Lack of fresh & healthy food at reasonable prices. Again, if the prices experienced in rural areas were seen in Canberra an uproar would ensue and changes would result. Over the past decade three inquiries into the prices and conditions of foods available to remote Aboriginal populations has resulted in no changes. I have spoken to many who have to decide if $10 a lettuce is something they can afford to budget for only to get to the shops and find the ‘fresh food’ is half rotted, forcing individuals to make less than healthy choices in their weekly shopping. The lack of access to fresh, healthy foods has caused a wide array of health disparities. These contribute to the overall poor health, short life expectancies, and many of the higher-than-normal suicide rates. Creating both serious bodily and mental harm. Plus, part three of the genocide act, conditions calculated to bring about physical destruction.
  • Birritjimi – situated near Nhulunbuy – contains houses that were abandoned when a Rio Tinto mine site was closed. These houses were built in the 1970s and have received minimal upkeep since then. Residents of the area describe being able to ‘feel’ electricity running through the walls.

Systematic Racism

Racial discrimination is classified as a hate crime by many societies. Conducted upon a national scale within Australia, it is a breach of both domestic and international human rights standards. Systematic racism exists within most of the colonial systems of Australia, resulting in a high level of disadvantage experienced at the expense of the First Nations. Police, Corrections and Child Protective services have arguably always heavily persecuted the Indigenous Peoples at a much higher rate than any others within Australia. Generations of advocacy has highlighted many of these issues, but they have often been refuted or deflected and dismissed. Inadequately addressing problem areas does not make them go away; they prevail in the background.

While Australia persists in disregarding the existence of systematic racism within the constraints of the society, we will continue seeing the deep racial divide we have experienced since the invasion.

Racism creates a feeling of terror, when committed on a national level for generations it creates intergenerational traumas. Meeting the definition for the second definition of genocide; causing a high level of mental harm. Suicide and domestic/family violence levels as a result of homelessness/overpopulation could be applied to category three; deliberately inflicting conditions calculated to bring about physical destruction. Due to the repeated wilful blindness perpetrated against these problem areas from Australian Governments and citizens.

Opinions regularly expressed by News Commenters on shows such as SkyNews are extremely racist. In 2018 Channel 7 released a segment on the Sunrise show suggesting it was appropriate to begin another Stolen Generation. Something they offered an apology for in early January 2021 as a voice over reading the words on the screen. Even with such an unacceptable apology, the damage has already been done. The all-white panel has influenced the beliefs of the wider population; many who have never even met an Indigenous Person in their life. Those views have been passed onto friends, family and children. This flow on of a misrepresented opinion of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders will only continue the racism and oppression we face as nations daily.

Homelessness

Homelessness has always been a crisis within the Indigenous communities of Australia. Ignored by the wider community and governments for generations. These rates of homelessness impact a wide range of areas within the nations. From health and education through to domestic and family violence and the substance abuse often used to undermine our peoples.

Noted on Twitter by an acquaintance I have a great amount of respect for @TiddaPage, she wrote to me “Great thread Jen also First Nations People experience homelessness at 14 % higher than non-Indigenous counterparts a large number are children between 10 and 16 yrs.”

 

 

Over the years many Indigenous Communities have been closed. Many were shut due to the costs associated with providing water and other essential services, but these closures resulted in further dispossession of cultural connections causing mental harm. This could arguably be a case for part three of the genocide definition. As these measures disconnect the cultural aspects of the belief system, resulting in high levels of depression and other mental illnesses.

The lack of houses for the population has created a huge discrepancy in homelessness. Community do not have enough houses to provide for the people and squeeze two, three sometimes four bodies into single beds so everyone has a roof to sleep under. This level of homelessness causes even higher rates of overpopulation results in higher-than-normal health complications.

Australia’s wilful blindness regarding the levels of homelessness within the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples could be considered under definition two and three of the genocide act.

Serious Mental Harm

  • Destruction of Sacred Sites and cultural heritage, combined with a lack of action towards language and culture retention. Colonisation has wiped out so much our history and knowledge. These days our Elders are crying out for assistance in retaining what we have left. Minimal work has been done to ensure our cultures and way of life survive into the future. Forcibly assimilating people into a culture is a violation of human rights. It also erases the people in a way, meaning the way of life is being killed.
  • Intergenerational trauma has not been addressed and is often denied by Australians.
  • Fights for stolen wages are demeaning while cause for a great deal of anxiety & depression.
  • Impacts of the higher suicide rates.
  • Denial of Aboriginal history, for example: sovereignty, dispossession, genocides, slavery. The constant favouritism towards the colonial history tells the oldest living cultures in the world they are not valuable.
  • The anthem was written in 1878 when we were literally in chains, slaughtered by the dozens, or left to starve when our food had been eradicated and water sources poisoned. This for some are open wounds still causing agony. Promoting small steps as a positive creates as much harm as the past has. Many welcomed New Year’s Eve 2020 with tears of pain, our voices once again overlooked. Scott Morrison altered a single word in an action considered further assimilation. Enforcing colonialism over Indigenous Cultures is traumatic, it causes trauma.
  • Australia Day is highly polarising. Invasion Day is merely one of the titles we apply to 26th January. We have voiced how much pain celebrating on this day causes us. For what we would count as a lifetime; this pain has been ignored or ridiculed by the wider Australian population.
  • Representing Australia’s Flag with the Union Jack causes many in this country to feel sick to their stomach. The symbol pushed into our soil and proclaimed British property. Our own flags are refused by governments which tells us we too have been refused as included in the term Australia.

Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

Child Protective Services released data in 2019 showing 15.6% of First Nations children are living in out of home care. This statistic increased by 39% in 2020. Times extended family members have come forward to ask for the children of their family they have been denied with barely even an assessment to determine their suitability. These children are instead handed to other people who do not have the same cultural beliefs, language, or values.

Statistically, First Nations People are the highest demographic involved with Child Protective Services in Australia. Many suggest these relationships have not improved (nor have the interactions reduced) since the Stolen Generations occurred, meaning they feel this act of genocide never ceased.

Australia’s history with genocide may not be as far behind us as many would choose to believe, the facts speak for themselves. If government departments honestly wanted to see these truths change, initiatives such as Closing the Gap would not consider fifty years a suitable time frame to stop infants being born with comorbidities. Actively work at resolving the level of health disparities seen within the First Nations communities.

Without systematic changes across the board, my opinion will always be that acts of genocide still occur in Australia on a daily basis. Unless Australia actively works at preventing the genocidal identity within our own shores, it is hypocritical to accuse others of the same crime.

Until such a time, we rightfully deserved to have more than 30 countries point their fingers at Australia in February 2021 and accuse us of human rights violations. We are much worse than a violator of human rights. We have spent 233 years covering up acts of genocide against the oldest living cultures in the world! Shame on the Lucky Country. It truly is only lucky for some.

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Australia’s longest war is within its own shores

War in the Middle East has often been referred to as Australia’s longest war. But is this genuinely the truth? My whole life I have been exposed to people from the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander nations who have used those same words to describe the effects of colonisation. As a child in school one teacher after another refused to acknowledge a war had ever been fought upon these shores. I was always that kid who pointed out their error because Japan bombed Darwin. Then I would ask about the stories I had heard from my own family and clans. A part of Australian history that was referred to by my Elders as the killing times. During what is now described as the Frontier Wars, where some reports estimate 90% of the Indigenous population was lost.

Australia’s founding is filled with stories of mass murder; a fact many choose to ignore or outright deny. But the accounting from one nation to the next are too numerous and alike to refuse their truths. Evidence has been found of similar tactics employed in the United States of America and Canada, including instances where blankets infected with small pox were used as biological weapons. Sadly, the acts of genocide did not end with mere physical deaths. Between 1910 until well into the 1970s the Stolen Generations occurred. Children of mixed European and Indigenous descent were removed from their clans: The fifth definition of an act of genocide as described by the United Nations in the Genocide Convention in 1948. “Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.” Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are removed at a rate of 15.6% according to a report released by the Child protection Australia 2018–19. SNAICC released a statement “As at February 2020, there are 17,979 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children living in out-of-home care (an increase of 39% from last year’s Review on Government Services report)” – leaving many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders stating the Stolen Generations never ended.

Highly overlooked in the act of genocide is the wording of the second item on the list of five genocidal actions: “Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group.” Mental harm is the area I focus on in the clause more often than not. This could arguably be said to still be committed every time someone dies in custody or due to poverty. Every year on Invasion Day or when our eyes look upon the flag with the Union Jack. In many eyes, a tool used to dispossess, slaughter and enslave our ancestors. What ancient eyes would have regarded as fabric upon a stick planted into our Great Mother, suddenly meant a faraway man owned what we have belonged to for centuries longer than their crown had ever existed.

Australia voted against the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and we have done nothing whatsoever regarding implementing the systems we agreed to. Establishing a baseline standard for Indigenous Rights within Australia has resulted in black voices becoming invisible inside the colonial system: Something we have been protesting about for generations. Closing the Gap has highlighted how the systems we exist within do not meet nor understand our needs. The health disparities experienced inside this country were seen to increase on many fronts, including life expectancy rates. Australia is the only developed society with epidemic levels of trachoma, while we get the tick of approval for being a first world country. Before we continue pointing at other nations to condemn them for acts of genocide, we should look in the mirror at ourselves first.

The fact is First Nations People have never ceded sovereignty, means Australia is fundamentally a non-consenting democracy! As written by Kevin Gilbert in Aboriginal Sovereignty “Our land has been invaded by a foreign power that broke international law and its own Imperial Directive: ‘You are, with the consent of the natives, to take possession i.e. a Treaty. Instead, in 1770, Captain Cook declared the legal lie that our land was terra nullius, a wasteland and unoccupied.” During a TEDxTalk Bruce Pascoe discusses records where James Cook had referred to the First Nations as “Indians”. People the English had signed treaties with almost two-years before the Endeavour’s arrival. Yet still Australia is the sole country in the Commonwealth to have no treaties signed with the Indigenous peoples. Prior to colonisation there were more than 500 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nations. That’s more than twice the number of countries officially recognised by the UN. Through the eyes of many Aboriginal people, these sovereigns are all being oppressed by the one named Australia. Sovereignty refused by the Australian Governments since their conception upon these shores. Driven by many of the values of the population who claim the title ‘The Lucky Country’. Opinions founded in the White Australia Policy, arguably one of the most racist pieces of legislation enacted upon these shores.

Racism has a systemic rooting within Australian society. It is a driving factor behind every issue faced by all nations of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples today. Sadly, we are one of the few first world countries who do not track racially driven profiling within our society. Many would agree it is easier to deny that which you do not note. I like a statement Claire C Coleman has been known to say, “the denial of racism is racism”. Moreover, ascertaining what is considered racism cannot easily be determined by someone outside a race: Facts confirmed by people like Jane Elliot and Robin DiAngelo. Information many Aussies refuse to acknowledge while they continue to deny systematic racism exists within Australian society. Some Australians are quite fond of denying the levels of disadvantage seen have been a result of the historical impacts of colonisation. All too many times individuals reach for lines such as “intergenerational trauma does not exist” to “They should stop breaking laws” or “if they want better, they have to do better themselves”.

Comments such as these neglect to capture the underlying issues faced by most Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, starting with how investments into these regions outside of the mining industry has been lacking to say the least. Wealth has a generational aspect, children who inherit assets from their parents are in a better position financially than those who do not have this head start. People who are able to gain a higher education early in life have a larger monetary reach than those who do not, as do their children. Australian policies have guaranteed the Indigenous people were refused any more than a fourth-grade education. Were denied rights such as legally owning property, and much of the income made by those of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islanders was stolen by the governments and often funnelled into paying for the Stolen Generations.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders were denied the plots of land provided to veterans upon their return from service. Many families who were bestowed these assets would have gone on to greatly profit from them. The families belonging to the First Nations did not. Generations of savings made off the cheap lands and resources sold off to the Colonial Settlers, denied to the Original Inhabitants made one side of the country extremely wealthy while the other was forced into generations of poverty. Having a connection to my Traditional Countries I have seen the levels of poverty that exist within Australia. My eyes have looked upon 4 people sleeping on a single mattress, with other mattresses filled with just as many bodies in every corner of the 4-bedroom home. I have met children who were near blind due to the trachoma infections in their eyes. Children whose limbs are so sore they cannot move because they are suffering Acute Rheumatic Fever. Diseases that are preventable and treatable yet are epidemics in this first world country. The same systematic racism leading to us being pushed to the outskirts still exists in the Australian society as it always has. The Lucky Country has refused to address the truths of the past, meaning the questions have gone nowhere. Neither have the issues or the line in the red dirt drawn when a flag was plunged into the soil.

These days the levels of education still do not meet most standards of the colonial system. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children attend school at a lower rate than other populations. Many factors contribute to these low numbers; from accessibility, health, family and cultural reasons through to understanding how the system works. All resulting from the levels of poverty seen for generations.

Sadly, the constant inadequate focus on education has created intergenerational consequences. I have met individuals who have never been introduced to the concept of a mop and broom and have used a hose inside their house. People who have never used an oven so have filled the grill with firewood when it broke down. These actions are not due to a lack of care, but inadequate education. On the other hand, education regarding what is important to the First Nations culturally has been overlooked as less important that the culture applicable to the colonial side. The oldest living cultures in the world are ignored, while Aussies look to civilisations with awe and wonder; barely a fraction of the age of what is right here under our own feet.

Beneath our red sands are thousands of generations of history waiting to be rediscovered. Many nations have indicated they would welcome research into themselves. Re-learn what they have forgotten and share what they have remembered. Numerous violent ends were met by those who held the knowledge of our ways. Many have lost most of what was once a network of amazing civilisations. Much of the knowledge is tucked away within the minds of those we are losing at the moment. A saying often repeated in Africa always comes to mind when we lose our elderly; “When an Elder dies a library is burned”. Mourning the loss of life is merely one aspect when our Elders are dying. The culture and language forgotten with them is of great worth for our peoples too.

Again, I am drawn to the wording in the second clause in the definition of genocide. Causing mental harm. Losing an entire “library of knowledge” for a people is harmful. Not merely culturally but emotionally and spiritually too.

I’m not fond of ‘whataboutism’ or playing ‘What if scenarios’. But I will here: If Australia lost a section of the public market (say the NBN or AustPost) to some hacking team and the authorities were unable to resolve it, Australians would voice their annoyance loudly. Real life scenario: Google misleads customers about the data they are using and are fined. Australians are annoyed and voice their concerns appropriately.

Real life scenario: Indigenous People were invaded and thanks to the use of keywords such as ‘Terra Nullius’ and ‘Settled Colony’, determined themselves legally entitled to the inhabited lands. But the fact is those settlers did not follow their own laws nor international law. Everything since their arrival is technically an illegal occupation, being the reason the Australian Governments have never sat down to honestly work on treaties. As Pat Dodson said in Episode 3 on SBS’s The Point 2021 series. “I just don’t see the current government going anywhere near the type of reforms that are necessary. They’re too frightened of the word treaty. Because they think that’s going to upset sovereignty of some type. It’s not going upset sovereignty. It’s going to deal with the question of sovereignty as it interfaces with the modern nation of Australia.”

Whilst in high school a teacher discussed what wilful blindness was as a criminal offence. Legally speaking, it means sticking your head in the sand. Individuals are lawfully responsible regardless. I put to Australians; they are behaving in this manner on a national level. Ignoring and denying the truths of the history is wilful blindness. There is a violent history, filled with dispossession, slavery, and slaughters. The history causes pain in today’s society as do the levels of poverty and other injustices faced by the First Nations. If we are going to have a law such as this, then best it’s abided by. Wouldn’t want Australia as an entire country to be classed as criminals.

Luckily most First Nations people don’t want a great deal of change in the country. Unless you are against everyone having access to the basic human rights seen across these lands than you’ll find we are pretty similar. There’s a language barrier, yes. We also apply different values to the term known as kinship, reaching into the population further. Extending to the plants, animals, and lands around us too. Our peoples have stories stretching back to when megafauna was alive and countries such as Papua New Guinea were breaking off from these great lands. But otherwise, we have very much in common. Music is a must in our lifestyles as are the family BBQs Aussies love, though ours are slightly different in style. We love our brothers and sisters and have a similar reverence for our Elders we have seen in our fellow Australians. There are not many differences these days in the values for where we want Australia to be when measured against other citizens.

It’s high time Aussies came to sit upon the red dirt they claimed ownership over. Start discussions with the original sovereigns belonging to the Oldest Living Cultures. Finally, make peace after Australia’s 233-year war of invasion. Sign treaties, enact the Uluru Statement and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, instead of ruling from inside the ‘Canberra Bubble’. Legally speaking, perpetrators of crimes are responsible for making recompense to their victims. Until Colonial Australia takes this most important step towards healing the centuries of genocide, the line in our red dirt will continue to exist: Meaning countries will continue to point their fingers at Australia for human rights violations, like the 30 UN Members who pointed at Australia in Feb 2021.

A few facts about the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People today:

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Morrison’s Bandaids

Written with Annasis Liz Kelly

Over the years Australia has had many politicians and governments who have applied one bandaid after another. Sadly, I feel in the case of the Morrison Government more than the average have been applied. My starting point here is to point out my obvious biased: I do not like the Prime Minister of Australia. He is misogynistic, racist, and corrupt to the core. Of course, that’s my opinion but it is one I feel many others share!

Scott Morrison received a lot of goodwill from the citizens of Australia over his early handling of the initial COVID-19 impact, closing the borders before the WHO suggested the move, requesting an investigation into the source of the virus, plus many others. Good will that has quickly unravelled. Let’s face it, this is due to the numerous transparent bandaids applied to both the small and major issues affecting our country.

Many missteps and mismanagements have been seen during the pandemic. For me, the most shocking were the revelations that deaths within the Aged Care System made up 42% of all COVID-19 related deaths. Each new death was another hole in the hearts of Australians, whether we knew the victims or not.

As soon as COVID-19 hit Australia it became obvious many Australians were going to lose their jobs. Sadly, his actions impacted the pretence that people on welfare payments are bludgers when he announced an additional allowance to the JobSeeker by a $550 payment each fortnight. Some economists have suggested financial assistance should have increased as per the CPI inflation rate; had they not been frozen some 25 years ago.

Australia learnt a few things based upon the sudden increase in the welfare payments:

1) Morrison knew the payments provided to Australians requiring financial assistance are too low to live upon. But he did not want the majority of the country to feel the same levels of poverty experienced by pensioners for decades.

2) Evidence showed that by raising the rates greatly improved pensioner’s lives. Some were granted opportunities to finally seek employment; others could feed themselves fresh healthy foods for the first time since they went onto the payments.

3) Our rich country can afford to give pensioners the much-needed increase towards their financial assistance.

The sudden rise told us that our Prime Minister is fearful of losing the next election, and the COVID-19 payments are a bribe as such.

Sadly, the same day JobKeeper ended, Brisbane and other areas of Queensland had 4 local transmissions of the more contagious and severe UK variant of COVID-19. With the added complication of a widespread contact tracing area due to the travel of the individuals now infected. Which means that one of the less transparent bandaids Morrison applied was ripped off. At a time it is still sorely needed by many Australian citizens. The removal was rather painfully removed, too.

There are numerous bandaid implementations put forth and others maintained when they should have been removed. The Morrison Government established enough votes to extend the ‘test’ of the Cashless Debit Card (CDC Indue Card) during the pandemic, creating a widespread lack of available cash accessible to pensioners. Implementation of this program acts as a punitive manner towards the lowest social class of our society; purely for the fact that they are unfortunately found in the situation of needing financial assistance to live. Individuals already forced to live well below the poverty line are now struggling to purchase second-hand goods when first-hand are unaffordable, cannot catch buses to job interviews, or have been forced to carry armloads of shopping when they are unable to catch a taxi home. Unable to attend family birthday celebrations and forget about going for a coffee with the Mother’s group because that requires dipping into that 20% portion of your payment allocated as cash.

What’s worse is the Indue Card is not able to be used when there is a power outage. As evident in WA currently, many CDC recipients have had outages due to the recent cyclone that’s passed. In some cases, having to drive many kilometres to get even a bottle of milk with the tiny amount of cash that they are forced to have because of the Indue Card. Because they will only have access to a tiny portion of their welfare payments. But this is not the first instance of power outages preventing individuals from accessing their money. This failure has occurred many times in the Card’s short lifespan.

The absence of service accessibility within Indigenous communities experience all round are amplified when payments are tied up by Indue or Basics Cards. With food prices three times higher than other regions of the country a cashless system has created further hardships in the face of health and nutrition. The Northern Territory frequently lose power to the remote townships at a rate Australians would consider unacceptable. During these power outages the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples starve when there is no money to buy anything from the local store. The Morrison Government ordered a report to be created supporting and validating the Cashless Welfare System; it was allocated to Parliament members only but was leaked to the public.

More information can be found on the Say No Seven Facebook and Twitter media accounts.

For us (Jennifer and Annasis) all good will towards the Morrison Government disappeared instantly when he denied this country’s relationship with slavery. The most senior leader within this country who has refused the Uluru Statement from the Heart, including the truth telling aspect, has shown he has no understanding towards the First People of these lands. His denial refused people like Jennifer her own family history; in favour of saving himself a form of ancestral guilt due to his family history within this country.

When he changed one word in what we call a racist national anthem, he broke our hearts and Jennifer welcomed the New Year with tears of pain. Days later Scott Morrison was determined to centre the ‘hardships’ experienced by his ancestors as more important than the genocides that of the Indigenous Peoples. The PM gleefully told Australia he is a descendant of the First Fleet, which to us says he is a man whose ancestors played a part in merely 10% of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nations surviving the war of invasion of what he calls a Settled Colony. He knows his side of the Aussie propaganda, but he has failed to educated himself about the people he serves. Morrison does not know the many nationalities of this country and that leads him to ultimately undervalue people like Jennifer and other Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islanders, plus the many other nationalities within these shores. Which means we cannot trust the man leading our country. A little bit of advice for the Prime Minister; in 1838 Police Magistrate Edward Denny Day described the Myall Creek Massacre as a “War of Extermination”. We beg him and other Australians to look honestly into the history of these lands through the eyes of the First Australian’s. Many will be shocked and disgusted at the truth behind the propaganda and lies taught by the colonial side of this continent. Such as the meaning associated with the term ‘settled colony’; which suggests no lands were ceded and no people were conquered.

But we lost even more respect when our country burned during Black Summer. As an Aboriginal Jennifer’s spirit has been shared with Totems such as a species of Eucalyptus Tree, which means according to cultural beliefs, part of her own spirit (aka human soul) plus billions of her kin were killed due to a lack of action managing these great lands. Vision of the native wildlife such as koalas crying in agony still breaks our hearts. The Sydney Morning Herald stated “the 3 billion animals estimated to have been killed, injured or seen their habitat destroyed by the summer fires is now understood to have included 143 million mammals, 181 million birds, 51 million frogs and 2.46 billion reptiles.” There is no estimate on the number of plants that were lost during these fires, but we’ve all seen the images of how much bushland was lost during those fires. Imagine them as not plants and animals but your beloved family members and you may almost touch the pain Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders felt during Black Summer.

Our anger flares at the knowledge that many Australians are struggling to put a roof over their heads after the next year’s bushfire season comes to an end. More so at the unused bushfire prevention fund that has not seen a single dollar spent. These two facts make me wonder if the Prime Minister is concerned over the damage and trauma caused to the lives of this continent; trauma that I extend to the lives of the animals, too.

More recently after all the explosive scandals involving sexual violence and abuse of women from within the Morrison Government. From the Liberal Staff Member who Brittany Higgins has alleged raped her, through to the allegations denied by Christian Porter and to Linda Reynolds. Scott Morrison has shown the women of Australia time and again that he not only does not understand he does not consider women’s rights of value to him or the Liberal Party in general. Not only did most LNP Members, including the PM fail to attend the March for Justice, yet Scott Morrison found the time to shake hands and enjoy himself with the Sharks Rugby League Team in their locker rooms, resulting in further scorn from an Aussie woman. Marise Payne in her role as Minister for Women likewise did not walk outside her building to listen to the voices of the people she serves. Yet found time to go on SkyNews to talk about Women’s Rights; a minister now described by the PM as the Prime Minister for Women? I do not understand how Australia can effectively have two Prime Ministers within our democratic society with very clear rules determined by our system. I guess it’s another thing he’s going to have to explain to the country.

Shockingly, when Andrew Laming’s appalling behaviour was revealed Morrison did not punish his harassment of his own constituents nor the up-skirting photo he took. Both are arguably criminal behaviours, neither are being prosecuted. Instead of treating these as the crime they are, even after Laming admitted to them, the Prime Minister ordered his minister first to apologise in parliament, which he later laughed off, before being sent off to empathy training. Empathy First Training and Coaching Founder Leanne Butterworth laughed at the idea of Laming being ordered into empathy training. Describing the necessary steps that will need to be reached before Laming will behave in a fit and proper manner as “consequences and a ton of therapy” then going on to say “Laming would need pretty intense empathy training to see the improvement in his behaviour the PM is hoping for.”

Scott Morrison has again used platitudes to protect members within his party: Stating Laming was elected by his constituents and that he will take leave to access professional mental health support and undertake the mandated Empathy Training. Which has come after he admitted his guilt in the criminal activity; but the PM has confirmed Laming has his confidence. In the same way he has Linda Reynolds and Christian Porter from the accusations against him. Goes a long way to showing the Australian public how much he truly understands the will of the people he serves not to mention the standards associated with our legal system. Nobody is above the law, all citizens are residents are equal. Many Aussies want to know how more than one politician has not been held accountable for a wide range of alleged criminal offences. More so Laming after publicly admitting to them. Furthermore, the lack of support and acknowledgement shown towards the women of Australia falls squarely in the sights of equal human rights. After more than 30 countries pointed at Australia in February 2020 to accuse us of violating them; this is not a good look and makes us an even bigger laughingstock to the world.

Seems to people like me, that when the experts talk, the Prime Minister closes his eyes and sticks his fingers in his ears then silently chant his own mantra regarding his supreme abilities to lead the country. I only see transparent bandaids. Much to the pleasure of many Australian’s Andrew Laming has now been blocked by his own party.

What I find absurd and confronting is that SA radio FiveAA have held their host Jeremy Cordeaux to a higher standard than the PM has expects of his ministers. Cordeaux was sacked for his ‘silly little girl who got drunk’ comments directed towards Brittany Higgins account of her alleged rape. All while Scott Morrison has used used similarly dismissive language to hide Linda Reynolds for her offensive comments because they were meant to be private. But I ask how private is a work place? They are a public space where anyone can overhear what is said. Public spaces are not generally classified as a private particularly when others are around, leading me to question why the most senior leader of this country think they are for his workspace? After using phrases including the ‘rule of law’ to essentially shield Christian Porter.

Ending March 2021 with a portfolio reshuffle that neglects to hold any individuals responsible for less than acceptable behaviours, applies another bandaid that would fail the test of the real world outside of Parliament. Does it tell Australia anything with regards to the PM’s religious views and his eagerness to participate in a similar manipulation of the system employed by Churches when they transfer sexual predators? Avoidance in an attempt to deflect accountability for their criminals, sound familiar to anyone?

But when the Prime Minister cannot even hold himself accountable for the way he treated Christine Holgate when he exploded in Parliament roaring; “She can go”. What chance does the LNP have of being a party of descent human beings? To be a considered one you must be part of the humankind. That takes being both human and kind. Can anyone honestly say this is true of the Prime Minister Scott Morrison? Obviously we have very little faith in the man’s abilities. What about the rest of this society who belong to the proposed ‘Lucky Country’?

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The cycle must be broken

On the 10th August 1987 Australia announced the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody. The final report and recommendations were signed on 15th April 1991. It has now been 30 years since those pages were signed and submitted for review by the government at the time. 30 years on we have lost almost 500 more people, without any new changes being brought into effect to minimise the high number of incarcerations nor the loss of lives. Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Ken Wyatt has often said; “The cycle must be broken,” but still we see no changes that would prevent these deaths nor reduce the number of individuals criminalised by the justice system.

Listening to an episode of The Quicky Podcast I was shocked to learn that Australians often suggest they are not racist, yet we are one of the few countries who do not adequately track racial profiling. These services do not release information regarding the racial breakdown of their interactions with communities. 2020 saw two instances where this data was released to the public. A judge in NSW requested police provide the information to the court. The data they produced showed that individuals of African or Middle Eastern background were 2.5 times more likely to be stopped than other nationalities. WA Police released data to The Guardian under the FOI Act showing police officers were 3.2 times more likely to stop and charge a someone of Aboriginal background than automated systems such as traffic cameras.

These two cases show a clear bias towards certain races, who have obviously been targeted by police officers. Tracking this data and releasing the information to the public would go a long way to providing accountability and correcting the racially discriminatory actions perpetrated by those who’s motto is to “Serve and Protect.” Similarly, courts releasing statistics on the sentences handed down to the different nationalities would show where one race is more heavily prosecuted than other races for similar crimes.

At the time of the Royal Commission the statistics showed 14% of the population inside the correctional system were Aboriginal People. Today that figure has more than doubled. We have lobbied for a National Indigenous Target for years, and governments have committed to do this but none have provided any information regarding how these targets will be reached. Many of the Aboriginal People I know and have spoken to believe the Royal Commission made no impact on their lives or their communities. They tell me there was no point in the commission because 30 years on and there are still no clear indicators regarding what recommendations were implemented or to what level they applied (in full, part or noted). In my own opinion the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody is just another colonial document, as Marcia Langton has said about the Constitution.

Since the Royal Commission it has been revealed that all too many Aboriginal deaths in custody have resulted from a lack of duty of care. Such as the case of Ms Day in Victoria who died after being left fatally injured on the floor for three hours. Nobody has been held accountable for this neglect of duty of care. Now if this was the public sector each and every individual who had neglected their duty of care would not simply have been sacked; they would have faced criminal charges for the breach. Nonetheless, when the neglect to duty of care involves an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander Person who dies as a result of the justice system, nobody is held accountable. Not even the individuals who have been found guilty of these breaches. This to me is extremely telling, and it shows how much racial profiling occurs and is completely and utterly overlooked by the “powers that be” in this country!

Media have a great deal of responsibility for these issues. Take for instance the 11-year-old boy discussed on ABC’s The Drum on 12/4/2021. A newspaper headline showed on the episode that read; “Boys sad end to a life of trouble.” Instead of portraying him as an 11-year-old boy, media painted him as an intentional criminal: Listing a range of accounts of assault and other crimes such as burglaries that didn’t happen. At the time of his death he had a police curfew and needed to be home by 7 pm. The same night he died he had been at the Police and Community Youth Club. He took his own life that night in his bedroom. Twenty-four-years-ago he had faced racism and discrimination by the police, however an inquiry suggested it was not severe enough to have forced him to take his own life. He would be 35 if he had not been racially profiled by those who ‘serve and protect’.

Indigenous People are not innately criminal; we have something called the Lore of Obligation that obligates our people to protect regardless what it is we are protecting. This includes upholding legal requirements. However, we have faced unfair persecution at the hands of the Colonial System for 233 years. Changing the theme of these interactions should not be on mob; we are the victims in this instance. Responsibility lies with the justice system, as they are the ones who have created this narrative of criminalising the Indigenous Peoples. Perpetrators are responsible for making recompense, not the victims.

The fact that the NT Government have numerous occasions where SOLELY Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth have been in their detention centres should tell the country a lot. Instead, we are faced with racist remarks such as; “They should stop breaking the law and they won’t get arrested.” Or we have politicians like Amanda Stoker who laughed at Senator Dodson while he discussed the Aboriginal Deaths in Custody in the Senate. But when an Indigenous Person is arrested for something a non-Indigenous Person is not arrested for, then there is a clear issue in the system. More so in the racist opinions shared by Australians regarding the incarceration rates of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nations. Yes, this shame falls upon the heads of all Aussies, whether they care to accept it or not!

 

 

Time and again governments create new programs that will further criminalise the Indigenous Nations of these lands. The history of the police with mobs has always included a large degree of racially discriminatory people and processes. Just this year QLD instigated a new program that will see youth walk around with electronic monitoring systems, instead of providing services that will prevent those youths from committing the crimes they have been found guilty of. This Government has chosen to further criminalise individuals over providing services to support these families and prevent the criminal behaviour from being a ‘thing’ for them.

Amy Thunig discussed on The Drum that Indigenous students are excluded from formal education in the form of suspension. In QLD 25% of fixed term and permanent exclusions are Indigenous children when they represent merely 10% of the school population. In NSW 25% of short or long-term suspensions are Indigenous children, who comprise simply 8% of the NSW student population. These statistics start in kindergarten and show how quick Australia is to hyper-surveil and over-punish Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

 

Image from solidarity.net.au

 

Ms Thunig went on to explain that NSW Government set up the Suspect Target Management Program, where they identified a list of individuals they thought may commit an offence. Nobody on the list had committed an offence but they suspected they would, which led the system to stop and interrogate these individuals for not committing any criminal activities. The youngest person on that list was a nine-year-old, which we all know is under the age of criminal responsibility in this country, yet the NSW Police Service still attended this nine-year-old’s home and integrated them. Indigenous People make up a total of 5.6% of the youth population in NSW, 51% of the children identified on that list were Indigenous. This is racial profiling – aka racism – on the part of the police system!

Before I go, let this fact sink in: since the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody 474 people have died. That, statistically, is one person a month since the recommendations were released 30-years-ago. ONE A MONTH FOR THIRTY-YEARS! So before you claim we simply need to stop breaking laws, please think long and hard about the system you are defending in place of the lives lost!

How can Australians say human rights are high on the list of priorities in this country, when we clearly only value those rights for the colonial side of this country? Quite simply we cannot value human rights, not while we tell the Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islanders they deserve to die for crimes nobody else would pay with their lives for. Sadly, until Colonial Australia acknowledges this fact, they will continue to fail at equality.

I say it over and again, we are only the “Lucky Country” for Colonial Australia! We are only a first world country for the same portion of the population. Until we behave like a first world country we do not deserve the title!

 

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Morrison’s undermining of sexual violence

We know the men of Australia are sick of hearing about sexual violence, but quite frankly that’s too bad for them. Women are sick of experiencing these crimes and it is high time Aussie males faced these ugly truths.

Within my circles I have not yet met a woman who can say she has not been assaulted, harassed, or targeted in one manner or another. Yes, that’s right guys, not a single one who has not experienced some form of sexual violence at the hands of Aussie men. Lately the cries of #EnoughIsEnough have been a resounding roar, and I couldn’t be happier with that news.

Sadly, little action has truly be seen on this front. Yes, Scott Morrison has decided to finally act on the Respect@Work report. But then he made what has become his typical move when dealing with sensitive topics. At almost the same time as he tabled the details of the changes, he held a press conference. Leaving no time for anyone to read the reference material prior to presenting. Just like he did when he announced the report from the Inquiry into Aged Care. This time he and Michaelia Cash said we will do this, and we will do that, and all will be fixed with regards to sexual violence in our society. I don’t call him Half-Job-Morrison without reason. Every policy released by his Government seems to, in my opinion, leak like a sift.

Discussing the recommendations accepted by the government Laura Tingle is not backwards in coming forward. She writes in her article titled The government’s credentials for dealing with COVID are turning to dust amid vaccine confusion “It took some time to get clarification that the act would be tweaked to make clear that politicians and judges aren’t exempt from the act, but that in itself would not create a sackable offence, even though it might open them up to civil proceedings by victims.”

Personally, I do not think it is right for someone guilty of – or allegedly guilty of – perpetrating sexual violence to work within Parliament nor the justice system. Considering 51% of the population are women, I dare say the Government would receive a resounding “yes” if they asked Australian’s whether they wanted a Minister to be sacked for sexual violence towards staff within Parliament House. The fact we have to wait four years before we can vote someone out for committing crimes like these is absurd. I would prefer to have the authority to sack anyone found guilty of sexual harassment the moment they are found guilty. Especially when they do so within what should be the pillars of Australian society. Instead, the Parliament of Australia has become something straight out of a tabloid news column. Except Aussie women have made it more than obvious they have the proof in numbers that sexual violence is a heavy part of our society.

Time the men of this country come to terms with the hard truths and finally judge themselves with the same standards they place upon the women the stand alongside. Time they all practised what they preached. Men who witness sexual harassment in the workplace and say nothing, their silence is a mechanism that enables this behaviour to continue. This silence makes them complicit in the crime. Women are harassed for their outfits and looks, diminished by their co-workers based upon their gender. We have for decades suffered the injustices of being raped within the workplace at a rate of 1 in 3. Is this worthy of the society we wish to be? Are these facts synonymous with what should be “the Lucky Country” as we call ourselves? I say all the time, Australia is only lucky for some.

How can the men of this country say they are ready to face these crimes, when our own Prime Minister uses political gaslighting tactics towards victims of sexual violence? And does so on the international stage provided to that position. When we have had a man win the position of Prime Minister after using the words “Ditch the Witch” and “Julia is Bob Brown’s Bitch”. How can men suggest they are ready to accept these crimes against the women of our society as wrong?

One in five women in Australia “have experienced sexual violence since the age of 15.” Given that we women make up 51% of the population, consequently if we are speaking mathematically, 5% of 49 means that 2.45% of the Australian males are perpetrators of sexual violence. These statistics do not take into account the various other forms of violence, but this data is not as easily accessible in our current system. But when people like me cannot find a single woman who has not been sexually violated, odds are the statistics showing the percentage of males who commit these crimes are much higher than 2.45%.

Consent has been discussed over and over again of late, it’s clear that many men do not understand the concept of what consent entails. But this confuses me. As a mother I teach my eight- and nine-year-olds the basis of gaining consent. They must ask each other if they want to play a game, or if they want what the other is holding. The fact that grown adults cannot understand what my young children can understand is completely and utterly mind boggling. Did Oz grow up without a moral compass? It seems so.

Well guys, the basis is that you must know with absolute certainty the other person is happy with your behaviour and actions. Body language is a key indicator. Is she pulling her upper body away from you (i.e. leaning in the opposite direction) then she’s not keen on how close you are to her? Is she looking away from you more than she is at you? Then she is more than likely looking for an escape. Has she used short one worded answers to your uninvited questions? She more than likely doesn’t want to continue the conversation.

Until the Australian male stops toxic masculinity in its tracks, Australia will fail the test of upholding equal human rights. The Lucky Country will remain lucky merely to some, and we will be condemned by our international neighbours. Australia’s shortcomings are many, before we can truly claim to be a “first world country” we must behave like one.

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Mere men are not godly beings

Australian politics is filled with men and women who have and actively practice their Christian beliefs. Whilst I do not fault the individuals nor the religions themselves, I do not condone many of these values guiding the society of Australia today. Before I go any further, I must point out my own bias here as a descendant of the Stolen Generations. Christian ideals at the core of this country have resulted in me being a survivor of acts of genocide, on more than one occasion. Please know I am not trying to upset nor create any hatred towards anyone, but I think it’s about time we have this talk with ourselves as a nation to define our society’s values.

Recently, I spotted an article in the Sydney Morning Herald (‘It’s our turn’: Inside the Christian Right conference plotting a political takeover) that left me alarmed for many reasons. Firstly, due to my family history with the values that meant my Old People were slaves in all but name; dispossessed of everything in their lives to make room for the colonies. Or they were simply slaughtered. Christianity enabled slavery for more than eighteen centuries, values that established the White Australia Policy many suggest still exist in the country today. Christianity enabled the racism shown not merely on a historical level, but likewise in the systematic version seen within all aspects of Australian society towards my people.

But my fear of these groups dives deeper than my own prejudices against the religion’s history. Over the decades the world has witnessed numerous accusations of sexual violence from within this highly private system; went denied for as many years. Australia is currently in the middle of a debate regarding women’s rights in the light of alleged sexual assaults revolving around Parliament House. Many of the politicians and staff who surround the people accused, and in fact the individuals themselves, are active participants in their churches.

Whilst Aussies debate a new level of respect and normalcy for women, the groups mentioned in the above article, advocate for the conservative factors of their religious values to once again guide the nations in a deeper manner. My fear is that Christianity will be used as another shield for the powerful men who have never ceded the control of said power to the women who stand alongside them. What I find more frightening is that they are openly encouraging these potential politicians not to reveal their true purposes until they have created enough political power around themselves. Personally, I feel that is misleading the individuals who would vote and elect them to Parliament, how are the wider public to know what they stand for? How will these potential politicians guarantee they are acting in the best interests of the people they serve and not those of the church? Secrecy has caused widespread backlash across Australia in the face of legislation such as Immigration, Indigenous Rights, the Indue Card for welfare recipients, and even the report in the Prime Minister’s Office regarding who knew about Brittany Higgins’ allegations. My amazement that the general public are not more wary of these groups advocating for secretive ways before they even run for office.

During the middle of a pandemic the leaders of Christianity are counselling against a vaccine. As someone who has members of my family who belong to what we call the ‘anti-vax community’ I do not want to undervalue their opinions; but advocating against vaccines that will save millions of lives worldwide is something that horrifies me.

Many religious groups around the world refuse breakthroughs the medical industry have made and individuals whose lives can be saved are left to die when treatments are denied upon beliefs of faith. Raising fears that value placed with Australia’s various scientific research networks will be considered less important to these groups.

Most alarming to me, the article speaks of a panel discussion where the head of the Australian Christian Lobby, Martyn Iles, joked about a war with China as a distraction to concerns over climate change or gender identity. When asked if he was “advocating violence or revolution… today“, he replied, “Not yet, that’s down the line.” The use of such words by Mr. Iles worries me about his intentions. Speech like this reads to me as a threat of acts of violence they wish to see: anarchy as it could quite possibly turn out to be if left unchecked. Lawlessness of the same value right wing members of society have accused those standing alongside the Black Lives Matter movements of creating.

Whilst Australia is experiencing increasingly difficult relations with China, the last thing our international interests need, are individuals involved with Parliament House, making jokes about wars with China to distract us from our political complications. Not only would these issues re-arise after a war, but the devastation such conflict would create is not something anyone should take lightly; least of all with humour.

My apprehensiveness of disorder or lawlessness fall along similar lines to these right-wing groups. Except mine differ with regard to raising the rights of all people including individuals with black skin as equal to those Colonial Australia enjoy. Fears I harbour are with respect to the oppressive values that come along with Christianity. The denial of the position the LGBTQIA communities have fought to achieve. What I can only describe as a refusal of women’s rights, as seen by the lack of females in the heights of church’s ranks. Terrified at the possibility the systematic racism underpinning everything in the Lucky Country will deepen and widen the divide between Colonial and Indigenous Australia, in fact I fear this will occur for all the nationalities calling these shores home. Dread that I and other First Nations people like me, will be open to unfair criticism more pointedly racial discrimination as seen in our past, purely because we follow our own religious beliefs over those written in the bible.

Mr. Iles is quoted as talking about needing to get more Christians into politics as the belief of rewarding the good people and punishing the bad has gone by the wayside. But I ask how many more people do we need in politics pushing Christian beliefs before we acknowledge this has been part of the problem within our system? Since the first politicians in Australia who were mostly Christian, can we genuinely suggest any of these individuals behaved the way God intended? Were this true then a large percentage of our nation would not be currently living below the poverty line. Aussie citizens would all have access to fresh, nutritional foods and adequate housing with running power and water at all times regardless of what they can or cannot afford to pay. Preventable and treatable medical conditions such as Acute Rheumatic Fever or Trachoma would not exclusively be affecting the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders at epidemic levels. One third of working Australian women would not have endured sexual assault in their workplace. Aged care residents would too not have experienced staggering amounts of these same crimes, combined with all the atrocities the most recent inquiry have revealed.

Australians seriously need to ask ourselves as a society if we truly desire more hard-right Christian politicians running our country and pushing the ‘conservative’ messages of their past.

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2021 Human Rights Action, or Rather, Inaction

Written with Annasis Liz Kelly

Human rights core fundamental worth is that all people are treated as equals, covering a wide range of areas it is said to be high on the list of values within Australia. But we are regularly left asking how can it be equal when it is dependent on your colour, beliefs, sexual orientation, social stature and gender.

Australia has proven over and again that, if you are a white, straight, Christian male with financial means, you can get away with a fair bit of crap. We merely need to look at the times a politician has been sacked instead of charged to know this is true. But can a trans woman of colour who is poor get the same deal? How about an Indigenous child whose family have been heavily involved with the police for that child’s entire life? No, in fact these demographics are treated like they are the worse people in the world; when in most instances they have done nothing to deserve such treatment.

My own life experience includes a Mother who judged her husband as innocent of raping a child, valued his time and respect as worthy. While towards her own blood, it’s like she says “Liz your sexual orientation is one I do not like and makes you unworthy of the same respect I give my husband.” Christian beliefs instilled into the Australian society valuing those human rights so highly. As children, we are taught that if you want respect then you first show it, but when these are our teachers, the people meant to guide societies values where do human rights come into your purview?

When the British came to Australia, they never showed any regard to the Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islanders yet when the English demanded respect none was given so they were smacked and degraded into submission. Today, British and Aussie citizens still wonder why First Nations Australians refuse to respect the European descendants, when we don’t show any themselves.

Equal human rights include aspects such as abiding by international laws with regards to how Aussie rights are managed. But, Thursday, 13 September 2007 the United Nations adopted the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Australia was not among one of the countries to adopt the Act, even though First Australians aided in the creation of the document.

Human rights include the right to live free of torture. Recently while scrolling through Twitter I have seen posts discussing accounts of torture from someone I follow; many Australian’s follow this man, just as many know of him and his plight. He is someone we have locked up, a man we are subjecting to acts of torture! His name is Nauroze Anees, and Border Force Australia are holding him at Villawood Immigration Detention Centre in Sydney, NSW.

Wednesday 17 February Nauroze posted on Twitter, as he does most days, in this tweet he shared a video and wrote: “Not content with keeping me in Solitary Confinement & withholding my vital medications. Now @AusBorderForce is playing loud music via the intercom speaker at 0450am, to keep me sleep deprived. They don’t just want to kill me, they want to do it painfully.”

 

 

Saturday 6th March he posted: “To Date the Australian LNP Govt has subjected me to State Sanctioned: 1509 Days of #ArbitraryDetention, Physical Torture, Psychological Torture, Sleep Deprivation Torture, Withheld my Medication, Solitary Confinement, Dehumanisation.”

 

 

We know why he’s been locked up, well we think we do at least. Australia’s government have been extremely tight-lipped over the immigration policy currently being worked on. Jacqui Lambie recently wrote an article for the Canberra Times where she explained why she was back flipping on her promise to reveal the policies, stating:

“The problem I’m facing is that the agreement I made gets torn up if I reveal it. Not out of spite, mind you. The reason it gets torn up is because it can’t be delivered if it’s out in the open. It literally can’t be. To work, the people affected can’t know.”

My issue with trust, is the fact that numerous human rights have been impeded for decades. For example, women, elderly, and Indigenous rights have been violated as have the many individuals in this country live below the poverty line on welfare payments. Rights regarding accessing health care services are all but denied to the remote First Nations communities facing epidemics in preventable and treatable diseases such as Acute Rheumatic Fever or Trachoma. Basic rights for example water or fresh foods all but denied to the remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island communities. With these facts in mind, it is very difficult to extend the trust the Government are requesting when it comes to the immigration policies being worked on by our politicians.

Australia has a long way to go before we are ready to tackle human rights with an adequate plan. If it wasn’t for black men in America who voicing outrage regarding the mistreatment and lack of equality, women in general wouldn’t have been able to have their own rights established. Even then there are more than a few issues.

Included within the UN standards of Human rights is having full control over one’s finances regardless if they are working or receive welfare from governments. But, in Australia this right was refused to those relying upon Centrelink Payments to live. Initially this program was introduced in the NT in 2007 and solely focused at the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations; after the NT Intervention was enacted. This first program was named the Basics Card and distributed 50% of social security payments onto the card while the rest was deposited into a nominated bank account. December 2020 other regions in Australia have been forced onto the Indue CDC, or Indue’s Cashless Debit Card. One of the main differences between the Basics and Indue cards is that the latter has 80% of social security payments restricted to the card, where the individual is unable to access their money as cash. Any extra income, such as family tax returns, or even advance payments from Centrelink are 100% on both cards. You have to ask permission to use any extra money.

These cards have shown to be extremely concerning for those forced to use them. Disabling the parents to provide for their families. For example, due to the inability to access cash, families are unable to purchase a cheap air-conditioning unit, or fridge. If they (Centrelink) deem it too much money to spend, yet you are left to swelter in the heat or feed a family without a fridge.

Both cards now subjected to Indigenous and non-Indigenous people, with the hopes of becoming a national program for all individuals accessing welfare payments in Australia. Resulting in a violation of the basic human rights for every citizen forced to rely upon them!

With money being paid by the government to Indue to manage it at approximately $10k per person. All to “stop drugs and alcohol” being consumed. But with punitive measures like this, no wonder why numerous people turn to these substances as a means of evading the reality of their lives. Approximately 80% of women are on this card. Some have escaped from DV to be controlled by someone else.

Is this the legacy we want left for our future children? Remember, Australia, if we wish to retain the title of a first world country, we had best behave as though we are one!

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Violence in Australia’s Parliament House: Runs Deeper Than Sexual Assaults

Australia has exploded with talk of what has been taboo for all too long, sexual violence. Watching the media reports regarding the accusations Brittany Higgins has made against a former senior staffer, prompting further women connected to Parliament to speak out. I am at a loss for words, other than to thank Miss Higgins for her courage in coming forward. I likewise must convey gratitude towards Chanel Contos for beginning her online petition about sexual violence in schools and lifting the lid in such an important arena. But the individual most deserving of credit in my heart is Grace Tame for smashing the taboo and raising awareness for what seems to be a horrific culture of sexual violence in the Lucky Country. With an eloquence that many survivors of this grievous crime are less able to deliver, Grace has led the charge towards lasting changes empowering those who have been sexually victimised, particularly children.

My words fail me the more I watch what I bitterly describe as the egregious fiasco of the attempt at managing this ‘situation’ by the Morrison Government. Aussie politics is filled with behaviour that would be heavily criticised within the public employment sector, many of the actions seen recently would have resulted in termination, others may have been criminally prosecuted. My point to this article is to express how repulsed I am listening to the people elected to lead the Lucky Country. Unfortunately, the violence in Australia’s Parliament runs profoundly deeper than sexual assaults.

Over the years Australians have witnessed behaviours from the members of our government institutions that can be depicted as lacking. These days we have a word that is becoming increasingly common in our society, gaslighting; more specifically political gaslighting. Described by Medical News Today, “Gaslighting is a form of psychological abuse where a person or group makes someone question their sanity, perception of reality, or memories. People experiencing gaslighting often feel confused, anxious, and unable to trust themselves.” The description provided by the Political Dictionary is, “Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation that seeks to sow seeds of doubt in a targeted individual or group”.

During Scott Morrison’s denials regarding his awareness of the alleged rape in the Defence Minister’s Office resulted in Brittany Higgins releasing a statement stating that the Prime Minister was engaging in victim blaming rhetoric. Peter Dutton did the same thing when he used the words “he said, she said.” Scott Morrison was likewise gaslighting when he firmly insisted he was listening to Miss Higgins, yet paradoxically he failed to read the accusations against Christian Porter. Jane Norman suggested on the ABC News that she wasn’t sure what Miss Higgins was referring to when she released the statement stating that Scott Morrison had committed victim blaming rhetoric against her. Linda Reynolds used the words “lying cow’” in relation to Miss Higgins account of her treatment after disclosing her alleged rape to the Minister. Or Scott Morrison’s speech that incorporated the words “the mob” and “the tribe” process dismissing legitimate distress from a substantial portion of the population by gaslighting the nation and applying derogatory labels to those concerned that an alleged rape is not being adequately tested against the legal system.

This same victim blaming can be seen in the words spoken by ADF Chief Angus Campbell when he suggested attractive cadets drinking alone put them at risk of sexual assault. Or all the times past ministers have used insults in their discussions regarding old political rivals, such as when Kevin Rudd recently did in a tweet stating, “It’s touching that so many people can imagine me being a trained pugilist like Abbott.” Withholding reports relevant to the public; for example, the results of the research enabling the Cashless Debit Card or the inquiry into the Prime Minister’s Office determining who knew what and when with regards to Miss Higgins’ allegation of rape inside Parliament House. How about that time that Scott Morrison forced an angry bushfire victim to shake his hand when she verbalised a desire not to? In Australia, these things are all called political gaslighting. Examples of a horrible form of emotional abuse, conducted upon that international stage awarded to leaders of countries.

Tactics of political gaslighting have been present in the Australian Government since its conception. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders have faced this form of emotional abuse when the Dutch arrived, well before Cook and the First Fleet reached upon these shores. From the construction of laws that included the phrase Settled Colony and the lack of truth in the history books (something many of us Blackfellas call propaganda). But in more recent years individuals such as Senator David Leyonhjelm who has suggested Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders may not be the first people here, or Pauline Hanson when she implied that the name (a noun) Indigenous is the same as the description (an adjective) indigenous she applies to herself. These are all aspects of political gaslighting against the Oldest Living Cultures in the World. Remember that time Andrew Forest suggested before the High Court that because the Aboriginal People had previously had their lands taken away it was grounds to do it again? Recently politicians across the Lucky Country have taken up strong advocacy against China, all while we Aussies suggest there has been no racially driven actions; in the same way we deny the identical divisions towards other ethnicities such as African or Middle Eastern. Yes, we have several politicians who fight for these nationalities, but how many actively advocate against them? Yeah, it’s that nasty title again.

During high school one of my Social Education teachers was covering Australian Politics as part of the curriculum, and incorporated into one of the lessons was a live streaming of Question Time. Unfortunately, at that period there was a commotion going on in Parliament because someone had made fun of another during a media engagement. Which led to the Speaker of the House losing control of the room when one politician after the next stood up to make fun of someone across the chamber; that person has a big nose, this one has strange looking ears. The most pathetic of actions that as a teenager, I knew was not considered socially acceptable behaviour. As a result of my understanding, I stood up and demanded to know why we were watching the leaders of our country behave in a manner that would see the students in the room sent to the principal for bullying. The teacher turned off the TV, and we returned to writing out his lectures in our notebooks, much to the annoyance of the class.

At a time when our nation is considering coercive control laws we have witnessed almost a month of political gaslighting from those in power. Conducted upon an international stage often targeted survivors of an act of sexual violence perpetrated against their will. As previously covered in this article, considered a form of emotional abuse and in many instances a criminal act. Yet our elected leaders are using gaslighting tactics, almost on a daily basis.

Personally, I want to know why Australians are allowing our politicians to behave in this manner towards our own citizens. Calling into question the character of victims is further victimising human beings who do not deserve such treatment. Why are we indulging this behaviour from our leaders? These people are meant to be providing examples for the rest of us. When ABC’s Four Corners released the report titled “Inside the Canberra Bubble” Australia was made aware that a number of women have left politics due to the treatment they received; is this the legacy we want for our children and grandchildren? Why are we accepting this behaviour from those who are elected to serve the people of the Lucky Country? These individuals hold us, the citizens, to higher standards than they themselves are held to. They are our leaders, our institution of lawmakers, they are the core foundation to the civil, democratic society central to the Commonwealth of Australia. They should be held to higher benchmarks than the typical Aussie.

While these issues are not exclusive to the Australian political sphere, I am not a citizen of another country and don’t feel it is my place to comment there. But as Aussies, it is within everyone’s vested interest to be critical of the government that is designed to serve us. The privilege to not experience political gaslighting boils down to human rights, not the ones Aussie politicians parade about as platitudes pinned upon their chests, real equality for all people within our borders. Without it how can we claim to be the Lucky Country owning the Australian Dream?

Realistically, if Aussies wish to retain the title of a first world country, then we had better start behaving like we are one.

#RapeIsACrime
#StopSexualViolence
#StopPoliticalGaslighting
#StopEmotionalAbuse
#StopCoerciveControl
#StopTheHate
#EqualHumanRights

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Australia’s racial terrorism

Wednesday 24th February I was horrified, shortly before I went to bed the night before I spotted an article on Twitter that left me deeply worried. The article spoke of an attack in Perth where an Aboriginal mother and daughter were victims of a man with a backwards swastika symbol upon his forehead who target the women with a makeshift torch blower.

Such an attack alone left me deeply unsettled but there was very little information alongside the article in the articles I found. My awareness was heightened by the utter lack of coverage upon the ABC for the whole of Wednesday. Australia’s national broadcaster turned a blind eye to what I can only describe as an act of Domestic Terrorism.

Police made a statement on Tuesday 23 February, reported by many new sources since the attack; the man had a white swastika painted upon his forehead. After using racial obscenities he attempted to use a flame and a deodorant can to burn the woman and her teenage daughter. He then fled on foot and was last seen on Dwyer Crescent near Corfield Shopping Centre in Gosnells.

My horror that the national broadcaster of Australia would not mention this the day after Police issued a statement, and allowed this hate crime to go practically unnoticed by the general public. In their credit they did cover it the following day, as part of this story was the release of information from ASIO warning that far right extremism is on the rise.

But by not reporting upon this story the day after the press release empowers the belief Aussies hold denying racial discrimination exists. This behaviour of enabling is a form of systematic racism, inbuilt within the foundations of what we call the Lucky Country. But how lucky are we when our nation are not made aware of acts of domestic terrorism against Australia’s Indigenous People they claim as citizens? As someone who identifies as an Australian Aboriginal I am deeply saddened by this lack of awareness; it does not make me feel lucky.

Systematic racism is a term that has infected many lives for far too long, Australia claims that human rights are high on our list of values, but twenty-seven countries pointed their fingers at us this month at the UN Convention. Twenty-seven separate nations accused the Lucky Country of human rights violations against the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nations; yet this too was barely a blimp in the news. Showing how aware Aussies are of systematic racism, while they take little action to rectify it.

How is this Lucky Country to retain their title if we disregard facts such as these? How are we to grow if we refuse to change? How are we to become an inclusive society if we ignore the criminal acts dividing us? How can we call ourselves a first world country when we are not behaving as one? These are the questions that plague me almost daily as I watch the news and other current events within the bounds of the society who owns the Australian Dream. I still do not have that lucky feeling.

Terrified is the emotion that comes to mind! Will my children be targeted because they are proud to claim their Aboriginality? Will they be left motherless if I am attacked for recognising my ancestry? Will I lose my Mum because she acknowledges her heritage? What about all my Cousins, Uncles and Aunties? Are we all next? That Lucky feeling has escaped me.

Image from fairplanet.org

This country is founded upon racism, and anyone who understands the facts behind the words “Settled Colony” cannot deny this truth. Yet our fellow human beings look aside the moment they stumble across the phrase “racism”; assuming it does not apply to them personally. I am not the type to sugar coat the important matters; all Australian’s perpetrate racial discrimination at some level. Take for instance those who know an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander Person, have you ever referred to their Country or Clan names? Instead of forcing us to meet you upon colonial terms; with only our European heritage. Who refuses to capitalise the names we apply to ourselves, Aboriginal or Indigenous? Who among us still claim the adjectives of these words and insist they mean the same as the nouns our People use? Who only uses the word ‘Aboriginal’ and forgets about naming the Torres Strait Islander nations? Yes, Australia, these are acts of racism whether you want to hear it or not!

In the same manner that those who suggest they do not see colour are refusing the differences that make us individuals. Whilst Aussies may wish to deny their racially discriminatory tendencies, we need to remember those who are not from a nationality are not in a position to determine what is racism to that race. Which is why it baffles me to the core when we deny racial discrimination occurs against China in today’s society. We, Australians, are not qualified to suggest what China consider racism, yet we constantly imply we are. In the same manner we tell those of African or Middle Eastern nationality they are not to advise us what they regard as racism to their societies. This is a minimalising tactic, and yes, this is once again racism.

During the 1970s our nation abolished the White Australia Policy. Unfortunately, as someone who has always claimed their Aboriginality without fitting the 233-year-old stereotype; I would suggest this racist policy lives on in the hearts of the typical Aussie today. More so when we look at the immigration policies that have seen children locked behind bars for half or all their lives.

Appling the terminology of today to what Colonial Thinkers call the “Settling of Australia” our citizens would call it terrorism; the sole debate here would be if it was counted as international or domestic (were they Aussies or British subjects). Considering many of the mob I have spoken to feel the White Australia Policy lives on, how can we call the racially driven acts of violence today as anything less than Domestic Terrorism? Those who feel the luck of the Lucky Country, can they share some with me, it’s still not manifested in my life.

Again, I am not the type to sugar coat it; Australia, your colonial thinking enables you to ignore our feelings of terror! Just the words applied to Colonial Australia, The Lucky Country and The Australian Dream enable this ignorance. News media failing to report on these acts of racially driven domestic terrorism provide the mechanisms for these groups to operate behind the scene. Until Australia takes a long hard look at the past, and how the systematic racism influences the people of today, the Lucky Country will only be lucky to some.

The Original Inhabitants of these lands may have been reduced to a mere 3% of the entire population, but we, the Oldest Living Cultures in the World, are still here. We stand upon Aboriginal Land, why are we solely meeting on Colonial grounds? Australia, we are fellow citizens and it is time you stood by us, on our terms not yours!

#AustraliasRacialDivide
#AustraliasRacialTerrorism
#AboriginalLandColonialGrounds

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An Australian Outcry

An Australian Outcry: Political Offices, Churches, Libraries and Grave Sites Destroyed.

With #BlackLivesMatter such a hot topic around the world I have not only been challenged in many of my views lately; I have dished out my fair share of opinion challenges myself during online debates. One of the points I often find myself referring to in these discussions is the topic of Aboriginal Land Rights. Pointedly, the injustices our Traditional Owners face when Sacred Sites, with such a huge impact to culture and our way of life, are damaged or destroyed.

Recently Rio Tinto caused significant damage to a Sacred Site in Western Australia. Juukan Gorge was said to be over 46 000 years old, containing a cave showing evidence of human habitation during the last Ice Age. Now while Rio Tinto has received widespread backlash for the damage to Juukan Gorge, BHP have received approval to destroy a further 40 sites, all with significant value to heritage, all within Western Australia.

I do not dispute the importance of the mining companies within Australia, but to allow this continued desecration of Sacred Sites is sacramental to the Aboriginal People. Our ties to land do not give us the same ownership our fellow citizens value; quite the contrary, our lands own us. They own us because we not only draw our life directly from the land and sea, our bodies have become the very dirt that is being exploded across what appears to be nothing more than barren, red earth.

Many only see minerals such as iron ore ready to be dug from the ground. To the First People of Australia there is a great deal more than meets the eye. For our People, this land holds our ancestor’s bones, record our histories, are the locations our laws were made and provides our places of worship; just to name a few! In other words, our Political Offices, Churches, Libraries, and our grave sites are being blown up to extend another mining operation or increase roads within Australia.

While these sites are damaged or destroyed Australia has a long line-up of buildings seen upon heritage lists. Buildings where paint colours cannot be changed; let alone see the buildings placed upon a list to be destroyed. These buildings are aspects of Australian history without the age and in many cases lacking the same combined significance as the Sacred Sites; not to mention the fact a building can be re-built. A cave used for thousands upon thousands of years cannot be recovered once it has been blown apart, nor can the history be recovered after the fact.

Mining companies within Australia have suggested electronically recording the sites proposed for destruction; however even my eight-year-old understands the difference between seeing something electronically and the value of viewing it with your own eyes. My son would not give up the ability to see an eclipse in person for the option of having them online instead, and I doubt anyone would be happy to see a horse or a dog only available via online means.

Would a church be better captured virtually to be prayed in? Can a library share the volume of knowledge via an online image of covers stacked upon shelves? Would recording family gravesites to only see them in an online fashion bring the same comforts to our souls?

Yet this can be considered by highly educated individuals as compensation for losing another place of worship, another burial ground, and generations upon generations of history; especially when significant portions were lost generations ago.

Herein lies a furthering of the difficulties for the Aboriginal People; religious beliefs are protected within Australia. They cannot be discriminated against without legal repercussions. Nor can the rights of the various religious beliefs be overruled or undermined in other professional undertakings. For example, an employer cannot insist an employee miss Sunday Mass as it is a protected right under Australian Law. Break down exactly what the term Dreamtime means, and it quite clearly fits into the category accepted around the world as religion. Dreamtime records the history of the First People. It explains the afterlife, defines laws and teaches social structures. If one were to look at the dictionary meaning of religion these topics are exactly what you will find. Yet the cultural and religious connections of the First People are not protected in the same manner. The rights of the religious beliefs held by Aboriginal People are not upheld under Australian laws like other religions are within this country.

Personally, I have come to believe the main reason for this relates directly to the minimal understanding of what the Dreamtime is. Those outside the communities, or Aboriginal family networks, are not regularly exposed to the spiritual beliefs or the connections to land and how they affect our afterlife; or in other words the First People’s many versions of Heaven.

When the term Dreamtime was made popular the Aboriginal Elders would have had a revolt on their hands had they described Dreamtime as religion, a result of Aboriginal history that has compounded this misunderstanding of culture and religion further. Religion is the word given to what was taught to the Stolen Generations, resulting in Dreamtime being referred to as culture instead of “many religious beliefs aligned in a similar fashion within a single ethnic group.” Because the Dreamtime of one Aboriginal Person is not the same as another Aboriginal Person. Each area of Aboriginal land has their own version of Dreamtime, their own individual Heaven. And you must die upon your own land to join the Elders and other ancestors of your family, meaning those forced from their homelands, those who die in another person’s land never see their loved ones again. They spend eternity without their siblings, never again to see childhood friends, their children cannot even share the same Heaven if they do not die upon the same lands.

If this was the way of your religious belief system, would you too raise your voice against an injustice to your loved ones when your communities were closed or you had been provided no choice but to leave your homes and the land you love so dearly?

Another reason for saving these Sacred Sites are the benefits lost to scientific communities around the world! Scientific communities that can give our society a much clearer understanding of our history. The scientific benefits have barely even scratched the surface to explain to the First People what their ancestors ate, where they hunted or how they lived. With the current finds surrounding Stonehenge the world has come alive with new talk inspired by history; including the recent discoveries in the Pilbara with the amazing find underwater. Imagine the ancient discoveries that could be found if more research were done into the past of this great country!

Imagine the benefits new information could provide the next generations seeking
employment or benefiting from scientific advancements. What about tracking where the Stolen Generations came from? Enough full genomes of our descendants could potentially reconnect families and finally heal the losses felt for generations. None of these things will come to pass if we continue destroying the Sacred Sites!

Considerations shown by the Australian Government since the introduction of Traditional Land Rights can be described as nothing short of lacking! How many times do amendments need to be put on the back burner by the very people elected to run these departments?

How many more election promises need to be broken before the changes we have asked for are considered, let alone made? How many times do the voices of the Traditional Owners need to be ignored before their objections are taken seriously? How much more of our history needs to disappear forever before more can finally be rediscovered? How much longer until the value of our history and culture can be understood for the enormity it really is?

I have often asked myself; “What if the heritage listed buildings were to suddenly become the target of approved destruction? Would my fellow citizens be so silent on the matter? If other religions beliefs were so blatantly discriminated against; would Aussies sit back in complacency? If significant political buildings were repetitively blown up, would our population turn a blind eye? If our combined historical records were so keenly targeted; would our society see high value to prevent such destruction? If churches were demolished across the country with such frequency, would the protests become a deafening roar?” Personally I think there would rightfully be an enormous outcry if any of these things were to become a reality for many other Australians; yet not enough are or have been actively seeking to prevent similar losses of significance to the Aboriginal People.

Aboriginal Elders have often sought advancements in areas such as tourism as a way of creating economic value within their communities; thus, becoming a benefit to the rest of Australian society. How many people travel the world for cultural value? How much do they spend? Tourism is widely accepted as one of Australia’s largest economies; yet vastly undervalued upon Aboriginal Lands!

Could the creation of real tourism in communities be valuable as a post-COVID recovery plan? How many new jobs could be created in building infrastructure? Would TAFE and other RTOs around the country benefit from teaching community members? What benefits would be generated by teaching the community members how to run their own businesses? How much of an injection could the Australian economy generate with a tourism industry dedicated to Aboriginal culture?

Appreciation for Aboriginal art, music and other cultural values has already spread the world over. Might opening these doors wider offset the losses felt by mining giants from denying the destruction of Sacred Sites? Please join your voice to the outcry and help our great country finally save our First Peoples’ Churches, Political Offices, Historical Libraries and Burial Grounds for future generations.

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Birth of an International Tradition: The Post-Covid Commemoration Day

Many agree that recognising the heroes who saved the lives and livelihoods of Australians during COVID-19 should be a very important aspect of Australian society moving forward. Scott Morrison suggests we essentially piggyback off Australia Day as a way of commemorating these individuals. Personally, I feel that is a little short sighted. COVID-19 is not an Australian problem, this is something that has impacted the entire world. Which leaves me asking about a day of commemorations dedicated to our heroes worldwide instead? How about a date to recognise the effort the COVID-19 heroes have made worldwide? Recognising the lives lost worldwide, the shutdown of economies worldwide and the sacrifices each and every member of society have made and continue to make, worldwide.

Quickly labeled as The Great Shutdown; a period in society that took us by utter surprise. Vast majorities came together in the beginning only to turn on each other, almost to the point of falling apart, before the pandemic had even finished the first sweep of the world. Fears were heard for a second spread and dare I say a third or fourth before the peak had been seen; a fear now sadly becoming a reality for many parts of the world, Australia included.

Moving forward this is a time in our life we could use to reflect upon in the future, a time used to bring us together and recognise how difficult our battle has been, and still is. Teaching our future children and grandchildren the important lessons this crushing blow has taught us. This is a time in our lives that has created unforeseen uncomfortably and unforgettable uncertainty worldwide!

The very people who worked night and day to save lives; who stepped up their rush of products for consumers; who spent hours longer cleaning the very places needed to provide essentials; who reinvented themselves to provide the absolute basic necessities! These are all heroes who need to be recorded upon the pages of history. Yes every worker is an essential worker during a crisis; but some are considered to have slightly more value, some deserve highlighting, some deserve more than we can ever give back! So why not honour them in the most significant manner society can and has ever provided?

Our leaders say let’s include a ceremony on a day our people cannot even agree about. I wonder how many feel the same as I do? I want to recognise the phenomenal impacts of this virus worldwide. Highlight the acts of kindness. Celebrate the lives saved while we also commemorate the lives lost. And I want this focus not just within Australia, but around the world. I want to see our countries come together after all the turmoil seen in recent times. This virus, international tensions, recessions, riots, the worldwide impacts of 2020 are going to be felt for generations. Why are our political leaders only looking to bring Australia together, not seeking the same with those we call our friends; our international neighbours. Extending the hand of healing towards our foreign relations on a never before seen worldwide scale.

Parts of the world come together for sporting events, education and for many other reasons. But have we ever had the need for such international recognition? Has anything impacted the planet with such drastic results? Lives have never before been lost on this scale, economies have never seen shifts of this magnitude. Even our impact on the environment has seen large scale change!

International partnerships have strained revealing many facets with rising complications. No single society can say they have avoided negative impacts in more than one area of their country’s ability to provide. Using these similarities can surely be a means of providing countries a deeper level of connection to each other, finding a wider understanding of each other, establishing a more open acceptance of each other. Coming together as a single people worldwide could surely go a long way to mending the cracks we are seeing in every society across this remarkable planet!

For nations who turned towards discussing commemorative events on an international scale; might aid in establishing new friendships that open up new avenues for trade between parties, while further establishing Australia’s positive relations on the world stage.

A comment I stumbled across on social media recently has stuck with me: we are humankind and should be both; human and kind. So, I for one say; “No, let’s not only celebrate on Australia Day. Let’s instead be the country that suggests generating worldwide communication, worldwide healing, and worldwide reconciliation for all of humanity in the aftermath of 2020.”

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Change the Meaning not the Date: Australia Day, Meet ANZAC Reverence

Australia’s special day of celebration; 26th January, the date Aussies have branded Australia Day. For others, a date for mourning. The Aboriginal people have heavily objected to Australian Day since its introduction. For those who do not understand why; 26th January 1788 is the date Captain Arthur Philip raised the Union Jack (the flag of Great Britain) and Australian soil was proclaimed British Territory. For the Aboriginal people, this date signifies the beginning of 200+ years of war, loss and hardships that can only be described as slavery by many who are still alive today.

With all the discussions regarding racial discrimination lately, I have taken time to contemplate both sides of the story as they apply to me personally. Considering I am a descendant of Aboriginal background, and as much as I may wish to just close my heart to what for years my own prejudice called “that other side” of my ancestry; I should not! My hands were not responsible for what we now know are “atrocities.” And although I grew up with family members who experienced some of these “atrocities,” my hands did not personally experience these either. Therefore, I should not feel the guilt as I believe a child does not shoulder the errors of their forefathers. Yet I cannot escape the guilt or the other emotions that travel hand in hand with both sides of the Australian story.

My eyes cannot close to these injustices as the effects are still relevant in our society today. This means my feelings are amplified in January. Amplified because it seems my fellow citizens show a lack of empathy towards the pain celebrating and discussing Australia Day creates. Because we chose this date to celebrate a special patriotic connection to each other. While simultaneously failing each other in recognition of the sacrifices and benefits, both parties have and still do bring to the table.

Drawing my own conclusions from discussions flying around social media I will admit some of my opinions have changed forever, but not in the way I would have imagined! If someone asked me last month what I thought about changing the date, I would have instantly replied with a blunt explanation backing the call. Yet I have been forced to admit the prejudices and ignorances within my views; after the frenzied replies to online comments challenging my opinions regarding Australia Day and the call to change the date. I was forced to admit I feel the same way about other dates of mourning within Australian history and culture, namely Remembrance Day, ANZAC Day, and the bombing of Darwin.

After contemplating these challenges of my opinions, it is hard not to draw parallels between ANZAC Day and Australia Day. Especially as it seems to be a popular reason to undermine the call for changing the date.

I am by no means trying to say these days should not be celebrated. They are extremely important dates for me, as they rightfully are for many Australian and New Zealanders in the case of ANZAC Day. Without these heroes in our history, I might not be here or have the freedom today to even write this. Especially when one considers the fact my great grandmother was evacuated from Groote Eylandt during the bombing of Darwin.

However, the biggest difference I personally draw from these days is the reverence applied to our days of mourning such as ANZAC Day. Reverence that brings us together.

Australians memorialise the sorrow and celebrate the freedoms saved by some aspects of our history. Each year speeches are heard around the world recognising not only the support, but also the losses of our fellow ANZAC heroes. Including acknowledgements of these same impacts on those who were on the opposite side of our lines. Ceremonies are conducted to commemorate the Australians who fought to protect Darwin when it was bombed in 1942 by Japan. Commemorating those who paid the ultimate sacrifice saving a country they never saw again.

Those same principles of reverence have not been applied to a date that left a deep scar in our history books, a date that is of similar significance to many Australians. The date that changed everything for both sides. The date that signifies the conception of the Australian society as we know it today. The same society the ANZACs and our other heroes in history fought so hard to protect.

This deep scar that has been talked and argued about for decades, without successful resolutions agreed upon. Remove either party’s involvement in the Australian story and our country would not be the multi-cultural community it is today. Nor would our fellow citizens know and understand the sacrifices nor the benefits both our ancestors have contributed to this beautiful land.

Now I ask, if our ANZAC heroes are so highly regarded; if the Bombing of Darwin and Remembrance Day have ceremonies still held in their honour; why are similar ceremonies not practiced around Australia to commemorate the founding of the country we all love today?

Recognising the fallen Aboriginal ancestors? Commemorating the fallen British Settlers, Convicts and Soldiers? Bringing an aspect of recognition? Clearing the misunderstandings? Resolving at least some of the feelings of both sides to our historical story?

Ceremonies from both sides of our proud cultures provide platforms for all Australian voices to be heard equally. Finally achieving political correctness, with what should be one of the most highly regarded and celebrated days in Australian culture.

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