This past weekend was the Australia Day long weekend. The holiday marks the genocide and dispossession of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. This day will never be inclusive or live up to ideals of multiculturalism, as it is a Day of Mourning for First Nations people. We need to not just change the date but also #ChangeTheNation. This is time for truth-telling of our national history, a Voice to Parliament and Makarrata (treaty), as outlined in the Uluru Statement From the Heart.
On 26 January, beginning at 11am, we marched at the Invasion Day rally from Hyde Park South to the Yabun Festival. The rally starts with speeches, smoking ceremony and dance commentating survival. Remembering the Waterloo Creek massacre.
Speakers discuss the injustice of deaths in custody, including David Dungay Jr and Thomas “TJ” Hickey. ‘Why do police get away with murder? …We want a change in the system.’ David Dungay’s mother shares the massive difficulties the family faces in fighting for systemic reform in police, Corrections and justice. ‘Stop killing our people.’ Paul Silver, Dungay’s nephew, told us about his Uncle’s death.
Suellyn Tighe is one of the founding members of Grandmothers Against Removals. She notes that the rate of Aboriginal children’s removal from family has increased five fold since the Apology to Stolen Generations on 26 May 1998. In November 2018, NSW changed the law to adopt out Aboriginal children within two years of being forcibly placed into the out-of-home care system.
We hear that, from a First Nations perspective, both major government parties have done little or Aboriginal justice, to reduce deaths in custody or support the Stolen Generations.
David Shoebridge, Greens Member of the New South Wales Legislative Council, discusses that Aboriginal families today are ten times more likely to have their kids taken from them, and now with adoption law changes, the State can steal them permanently. The number of Aboriginal people in jail in NSW is greater than ever. We need to change the country.
The Maritime Union representative says that while we call ourselves the country of a fair go, we’ve never been fair to Aboriginal workers.
‘Your fight is our fight.’ A Mapuche woman expresses solidarity to Aboriginal people. She talks about Mapuche environmental and human rights struggles in Chile and Argentina and then describes Indigenous resistance across Latin America.
Palestinian solidarity with Aboriginal people is expressed next: ‘Your land has been taken. Your people killed. You have no rights whatsoever,’ same as Palestinians. The speaker performs ‘Bird Boxed’ a slam poem that asks the government, ‘Open your eyes to the people of this land.’
Harry, part of the AntiColonial Asian Alliance, pays respects to Aboriginal people. He speaks about refugees, the lack of support for metal health issues, and struggles to assimilate. ‘Our liberation is inseparable from the struggle of sovereignty for Aboriginal people.’
We arrived at Yabun Festival around 1.30pm. Yabun (meaning ‘music to a beat’ in Gadigal language) is a free event. Live music, stalls market, panels and community forums, children’s activities and cultural performances.