Tag Archives: Indigenous

Why Australia deserves a Truth Commission

All Together Now’s volunteer Erika Rodriguez explores the possibility of a Truth Commission for Australia

As a Latina from the U.S. who only recently moved to Australia, I don’t pretend to know everything about the struggle of First Nations People, but my experience does give me an unfortunate familiarity with systematic racial discrimination and injustice. Regardless of my cultural background, as a human being I believe that after years being tortured with massacres, shootings, beatings, theft of their children and land, poisonings, and deaths while in custody, the First Nations People of Australia deserve a chance at peace, to live their lives free of discrimination and racism, and to have their stories accurately heard and documented. Many organisations have been working to research and report accurate information on this history that has been kept out of Australia’s history books, such as The Guardian’s interactive map of “the systematic process of conflict and expansion,” but there is still much left to be done.

The United Nations’ legal definition of genocide reads:

“any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such: killing members of the group; causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part 1; imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; [and] forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.”

Office of the UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide

The forced removal of First Nations children from their parents and placement into white homes and the large-scale massacres and other atrocities committed during and after the invasion of Australia are all blatant examples of genocide. It is important that the facts and stories are recorded and available so that racial discrimination, hate, and trauma does not continue to affect future generations, such as the PTSD and nightmares that children of victims of the Rwandan genocide are facing now 25 years later.

As my Master’s Degree in post-conflict peacebuilding has shown me, in many areas of the world that are dealing with post-conflict societal repair, truth telling is a complex and challenging concept and the processes and proposed outcomes may be overwhelming or seem out of reach. Many question whether society could handle hearing all of the brutal details of killings that occurred, wondering if it would feel like rubbing salt in open wounds, create further division, or cause more hurt for the community and the younger generations. Some also consider the idea that documenting these atrocities would officially admit to committing acts of racism and abhorrent human rights abuses by a nation that is now internationally considered to be safe and successful. People often don’t want to believe the worst, especially about the country they call home.

These concerns, however, are meager compared to the proposed benefits of an official truth-telling body, and demonstrated successes that they have had in other areas of the world such as South Africa and Timor-Leste. The First Nations communities could finally have their documented accounts recognized, a true and accurate description of what happened could be updated into school curriculum, a platform for healing of those affected could be opened, and those who are unaware of the details could then have the archives available. These recognitions and progress in human rights could ultimately contribute to an international example of reconciliation for Australia.

According to Reconciliation Australia’s 2018 report, an overwhelming 80% of Australia’s general population “believe it is important to undertake formal truth telling processes in relation to Australia’s shared history.” Considering the resources and international support that Australia has access to, there is no reason that a truth-telling body should not be established. Doing so has the potential to take a step toward combating the systematic racism that continues today, and finally releasing the tight grip that White Australia holds around First Nations communities and their history.

Let us know what you think in the comments. Is truth-telling an important step toward reconciliation and healing for Australia?

Dr Cornel West and a theory for change

“Justice is what love looks like in public.”

What could you expect from an Evening with Dr. Cornel West? He is a man who is a theologian, philosopher, poet, author of 20 books, and a love warrior. His real, truthful and revolutionary philosophies reverberate in the changeable and mood swinging beats of jazz and blues greats of the 20th Century.

Dr. Cornel West opened with his most important point:

In the face of 400 years of being hated for the way [African-Americans] look the community has produced the ultimate counter product: “love warriors.”

This is the ability to love in the face of animosity and is the most beautiful action one could possibly take. The death of restrictions of social concepts like gender, race, sexuality, the poor and wealthy allows for openness through that positive force of love. This is what makes governments so timid and frightened by non-violent movements like Martin Luther King, Gandhi and Nelson Mandela.

The creation of love warriors is part of this three-point theory to create love that occurs in the social down-trodden and marginalized communities: At first grief and crying occurs; then there is silence; and finally, music.

Music and dance was one thing that could not be taken away from the African slaves taken to America. Even though their language, culture, food and children were altered until they no longer knew where they came from; they held on to what they could through dance, song and music. This is the case for many displaced peoples. Poetry and music are important parts of holding on to a culture and remembering history. This is a long tradition that is still relevant and important in our contemporary culture in reviving the untold history keeping this nation from moving forward.

What we learnt from Dr. West:

What Australian society can really take away from Dr. Cornel West is the point about collective understanding to create great social change. We should not white wash over the history of this nation. It is important to remind ourselves of the true facts and to teach them to the generations to come. The arts will play an important part in reclaiming that history and restoring it. The arts helps us listen to the voices of the marginalized, and most importantly of the Indigenous population of Australia to create a new identity. By embracing this, Australia would begin to move forward and become the harmonious country it is striving to be.

 

Australia: Are we ready to dance to the new sound track to reform this nation?

priscilla-cornelwest

All Together Now Managing Director Priscilla Brice with Dr. Cornel West, Big Top Luna Park, Sydney 2015.

 

 


 

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You can also sign up to the All Together Now fortnightly e-newsletter to see what projects we are undertaking to do our part in engaging in social reform and bringing an end to racism nation-wide.

If you would like to learn more about Dr Cornel West you can go to his website, discover some of his past lecture on YouTube or like and follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

 

 

Reconciliation: Have we moved forward?

In 2008 Kevin Rudd, then Prime Minister, said “Sorry” to the Stolen Generation. This was a symbolic move to apologise for all of the harm that was been inflicted on to the Indigenous population since the British invaded in 1788. It was meant to represent a new beginning towards harmony and reconciliation. In 2015, 8 years on from Rudd’s “Sorry” have we as a nation moved forward to embody a new age of unity and harmony or are we regressing and living in a land of hypocrisy instead?

Unfortunately, we are most definitely the latter. Tony Abbott, Australia’s Prime Minister, has made it abundantly clear that his position is a regressive one when it comes to the Indigenous population. His comments “that in 1788 it was nothing but bush” that the “marines, convicts and sailors…must have thought they had come to the Moon, everything would have seemed so extraordinarily basic and raw and now…a country that is free, fair and prosperous’ harkened back to the now overturned position of ‘terra nullius’ declared by British forces when arriving to Australia (stating there were no inhabitants therefore the land was free to claim).

Tony Abbott also seems to be stalling on the constitutional recognition of Indigenous population, and staving off the vote until 2017. Perhaps such stalling is related to the Recognise campaign’s recent poll which showed that if voted on today the constitutional reform would most definitely pass.

These opinions are not Tony Abbott’s alone, but instead represent a wider ignorant understanding from the non-Indigenous population on what the land, the people and the 1788 invasion means to the Indigenous population.

While Reconciliation Week (May 27- June 3) is about reconciling with Indigenous peoples, the Western Australian government is hypocritically cutting off needed services, such as water, to Indigenous roughly 150 communities in remote areas. The WA Premier may state that he is not breaching any UN conventions. However, by creating an environment which is cut off from essential services, he is effectively forcing them off their rightful land.

In its Rights for Indigenous Peoples the UN states that the Indigenous population of any land have the right to live their life as they see fit, according to their own laws, spirituality and education. This includes the ability to live as they please on their land. After invading over 220 years ago, and nearly committing genocide on an entire nation of people, it would seem that to create true Reconciliation basic services and allowing Indigenous peoples to define themselves and their Sacred Sites as they see fit is the least that could be done?

Join the Recognise campaign today.

Courtesy of http://www.recognise.org.au/why/why-recognition/

Courtesy of http://www.recognise.org.au/why/why-recognition/