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The Greens call on federal government to listen to Indigenous Australians

The Greens marked Australia Day by holding a Day of Mourning event which saw Indigenous Australians sharing their thoughts on how Australia should move forward with Indigenous reconciliation.

Senator Dorinda Cox was joined by her federal colleague Senator Jordon Steele-John and Western Australian MLC Brad Pettitt, as party members, guests and the public gathered for an event in Boorloo (Perth) on the banks of the Derbal Yerrigan (Swan River).

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Senator Cox is The Greens spokesperson for the portfolios of First Nations, Resources, Trade, Tourism and Sport, and she is a proud Yamatji Noongar woman.

“The grief that January 26 brings for First Nations people feels like Groundhog Day as we have the same debate fueled by conservative culture wars and selective amnesia of our black history. We cannot move forward as a nation until we fully reckon with our history and what this day represents for the First Peoples of this country.

“It is well beyond time to tell the truth about the history of this country; however, this must be followed with action that respects the self-determination of First Nations people.” Senator Cox said.

“The first Day of Mourning protest was held in 1938, it is an honour to continue this legacy and follow in the footsteps of these First Nations leaders, ancestors and Elders. January 26 is not a date to celebrate, it is a Day of Mourning.” Senator Cox said.

“Following the outcome of the Voice to Parliament referendum, it is so important that we have people alongside us as we continue to fight for First Nations justice. Many First Nations people are still hurting from the referendum result and the debate. This is the first opportunity since the referendum for allies to show their support and love for First Nations people and culture.

“The Greens continue to call for a federal Truth and Justice commission, as well as progress towards treaties in all jurisdictions and strongly urge the Albanese Government to make urgent progress on these matters.

“Now is a time for us to come together, identify the opportunities that lie ahead and how we will continue to fight for First Nations justice.” Senator Cox said.

Senator Cox said it didn’t matter whether people dubbed January 26th Australia Day, Invasion Day or Survival Day, the important thing was all Australians came together to both reflect and commemorate by creating a respectful conversation.

While the Voice to Parliament referendum was not successful last year, Senator Cox said it was vitally important that the Albanese government maintained its commitment to all the elements of the Uluru Statement from the Heart.

Speaking to OUTinPerth Senator Cox said it was understandable that many members of the Indigenous community were feeling disheartened after the outcome of the referendum. Asked how people could find the strength to continue their fight, Senator Cox said she personally drew from Indigenous people’s long history.

“I think you continue to ground yourself in the fact that this has been a struggle for 236 years.” Senator Cox said. “We are grounded in our communities and grounded in grassroots movements, whether it’s in politics or social issues, we continue to walk alongside others.

“For us it’s the momentum that which keeps us going, it’s a bit like being in the ocean, it carries you forward. We can’t forget that those tides will change, they will ebb and flow, and we’ll continue to work in different ways.

“The recovery has to come from healing, and to be recognised and to be seen, and most of all to be heard.”

WA Greens MLC Brad Pettitt said in 2024 it was vitally important to show solidarity with First Nations people.

“In the aftermath of the Voice Referendum, it is more important than ever this January 26 that we join in solidarity with First Nations and demand that the truth be told about our colonial history.

“Truth-telling is a powerful, and necessary, step for communities to build respect and understanding of First Nations connection to land, sea and sky Country; it is time for the WA Government to act and establish a Truth-Telling commission.

“Only through this process of truth-telling and truth-listening can we take steps towards recognition of our shared history and the more than 65,000 years of culture that preceded it, reconciliation, and ultimately justice.” Pettitt said.

Greens Senator for WA Jordon Steele-John said January 26th should not be a day for celebration.

“January 26th isn’t a day for celebration, it’s a day of mourning and it’s up to all of us in our community to reflect on the 236 years of dispossession, inequality and destruction.

“Today is a chance to understand the experiences of First Nations people, including the injustices past and ongoing and how we can all come together to advocate for better outcomes.

“Australia must work towards truth telling, justice and treaties with First Nations communities across the country” Senator Steele-John said.

On January 26th the senator said his priority as an ally of Indigenous Australians was listening to their concerns.

“Today I am deeply listening to the First Nations community and reflecting on how we can put allyship into practical action.” Senator Steele-John said, highlighting that action also needed to heed the call from community members to show allyship with other communities experiencing pushing back against dispossession and colonisation – such as the people of Palestine.

Senator Cox said she hoped Australians could listen with their hearts and their minds to hear the message that was being shared from Indigenous Australians.

Following a Welcome to Country and a traditional smoking ceremony, a succession of speakers spoke about their concerns about the lack of progress in addressing inequality in society relating to Indigenous Australians.

Jim Morrison: All Australians need to understand the issues facing First Nation’s people

Jim Morrison who founded Queers for Reconciliation and was a founding member of Reconciliation WA and is the Co-convenor of Bringing Them Home (WA) and the inaugural Chair of the WA Stolen Generations Alliance said it was difficult time for Indigenous Australians.

“There are times when I think I hate white people.” Morrison said, reflecting on the outcomes of the Voice to Parliament referendum. “But some of my best friends are white, so I’ve really got to assess my feelings today, because I don’t want my children and grandchildren to think like me and think I’m racist.”

Morrison said January 26th was a day that highlighted just how many issues relating to Indigenous Australians need to be talked about.

As an advocate for people from the Stolen Generation, which includes his own mother, Morrison called on the state government to commit to providing compensation to those who were removed from their families.

“There 6,200 people in prison today. Approximately one in fourteen aboriginal men in this state are in prison, at a cost of $800million a year.” Morrison said, asking the audience to imagine how society would react if the same percentage of white Australian men were incarcerated.

“Our role models, our fathers, our grandfathers, our uncles – locked up.” Morrison said, noting that many Indigenous children are still removed from their families.

“These are not things for celebration. There’s been several Royal Commissions recently that have been very scathing for Aboriginal people, not to mention the Bringing Them Home report – which was tabled some 27 years ago – that spoke about compensation for stolen people.”

Morrison said the recent report on historical child sex crimes was also a great concern, but it was alarming how many of the victims of these crimes were aboriginal. While 34,000 people were registered as victims, Indigenous Australians made up 36 per cent of those reporting they’d been abused, despite only making up 4 per cent of the Australian population.

“Two out of three applicants in Western Australia are aboriginal. So, what kind of country have we come from, and why are people still telling me their sexually abused as children. Not telling their siblings, their families, their children, but telling me.”

Morrison highighed that the Royal Commission into Aged Care had also show huge disparities when it came to Aboriginal people and said it should be of great concern that Indigenous people qualified for aged care when they turned just 50 years old.

“Everyone else is eligible when they are 65, what does that say about the quality of our services, the quality of our community services, and the qualities of our lives.”

“The data tells us that this not a day of celebration. The data tells us that every social indicator doesn’t go well for First Nations people in this country.

“I say, there’s a majority of white people here. I don’t hate you. I need you to understand the issues we’re dealing with, and why we don’t want to celebrate this day.” Jim Morrison said.

Mervyn Eades: We need to embrace all cultures in Australia

Mervyn Eades, the former chair of the First Nations Death in Custody Watch Committee, told the crowd that Australia needs to be a place that embraced First Nation’s culture, as well as the cultures of all the people who have made Australia their home.

“We need to embrace the oldest culture and people in the world. Just like we, the oldest culture and people in the world, need to embrace multicultural Australia.” said Eades, who is a Menang/Wilaman man.

“Last year was Australia’s biggest miss – the biggest miss in the 50 years that I’ve been here – of us being recognised, of us being in the Australian constitution.” Eades said. “We’ve been here for 65,000 years but a 230-year-old document refused us the recognition that we deserved.”

Eades said he’d like to see January 26th be a day where people recognised the people who came before.

“Our ancestors past, that what today should be recognising. The old people who were here first, the blood spilt across this land, the Australian killing fields, that’s the crux of this country’s history. Let’s not hide it. Let’s come together, and walk together, and acknowledge it.”

Eades said more needed to be done to combat suicide rates in Indigenous communities, and urged for more action on incarceration rates, while also drawing attention to the situation at Banksia Hill youth detention centre.

Des Blurton: We need our culture to be embedded in the justice system

Ballardong Noongar man Des Blurton, who has worked with people experiencing homelessness and advocates for better pathways to housing for Indigenous people, shared his thoughts on what Australians should consider on January 26th.

“The sad stories continue today, but only together we can make a difference.” Blurton said.

“We need to stand strong, on our tribal lands, in solidarity with everyone. We need to start making a difference, but this is wrong that the colony can still oppress, murder, our people.

“There are police officers who murder our people, and they get off, Scot-free, which is sad. None should be immune to the law, their own law. You break it, you too should do the time.”

Blurton said the Western Australian justice system would be improved if the government banned all-white juries, thanking state MLC Brad Pettitt for his advocating in this area.

“We need our culture and lore heard in courts and justice systems. We need our culture heard, our lore heard, in all communities, in housing, in children being removed…”

The housing advocate also stressed that the state government could do more to tackle homelessness and provide better housing for those who desperately needed it.

Alongside other speakers, the event also featured traditional Indigenous music and dancers.

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