Today is National Sorry Day in Australia, to commemorate injustices perpetrated against the Indigenous peoples of Australia, particularly the injustices of the Stolen Generation. Kevin Rudd apologised for that in 2008, but – as I saw in a documentary recently – we still have a long way to go.
There have been so many wrongs against Indigenous Australians since settlement. A good deal of them, as I understand it, came and still comes from, first, the original inability of the white people to see Indigenous people as people (not counted on the census, nor given the vote, until 1967); and second, the inability of non-Indigenous people, particularly governments, to listen to Indigenous people.
The recent documentary I watched makes that very clear. http://www.ourgeneration.org.au/watch/ – Please find an hour and watch it. It explains things very well, by giving some Indigenous peoples – Yolngu, in the Northern Territory – a voice. I learnt about homelands and how the NT Intervention has been a way of taking back hard-won land rights from Indigenous peoples. Among other things.
One of the things I’ve been hearing/ reading a lot lately is the issue of treaty. We are the only country, I think, in the West, who still don’t have a treaty of some sort with our Indigenous peoples. Read more about the importance of treaty here.
That’s why actions like the treaty negotiations between the Andrews Labor Government of Victoria and Victoria’s Indigenous peoples, that have been announced today, are so important. Read this article – by the end of 2016, it’s hoped that the Victorian Government and Victoria’s Indigenous peoples will have a treaty!
It only took us 228 years since settlement.
When we listen and work with each other, things can happen. There’s no denying that Australia is a racist country in many aspects. But it doesn’t have to stay that way. If we fix this, we might be able to fix a lot of other things.
Maybe. We won’t know unless we start.
Thursday 5 May 2016 11.11 AEST
Peter Dutton, what do you do between the hours of midnight and 5am? Do you sleep? If so, I really must ask – how can you?
Dozens of Australians sit up all night, every single night, comforting asylum seekers on Manus Island and Nauru. You don’t have to, therefore the task falls to the advocates.
Let me tell you what this entails, since your statement blaming advocates for suicide attempts – of actually encouraging self-harm – suggests you are clearly unaware.
It is mind-blowingly hot on Manus and Nauru during the day, so our friends there try to sleep. We, safely onshore, sit tensely in the evenings, watching for the little green light that signals people have come online. When someone doesn’t show up, there is a flurry of frantic calls between advocates; when did you last hear from them? What did they say? Are they in danger of self-harm? Who do you know in the same compound? The result of these calls can be anything from relief upon locating our friend, safe and sound, or that which is becoming more common – they’ve harmed themselves and are in International Health and Medical Services, or have been beaten by guards and thrown into solitary confinement.
We cannot sleep, Mr Dutton. We can close our eyes, but the horrors we are witnessing don’t go away. And on the rare occasions we actually do get to sleep, we know there are no guarantees that our loved ones will be unharmed when we wake.
I will never forget the last night I actually slept for eight hours – it was in September last year, and I woke to discover one of my dearest friends on Manus had stabbed