First Nations forum: ‘The system destroys us’

Lex Wotton told the forum: 'We have to stand up'. Photo: Indigenous Social Justice Association Melbourne/FB.

More than 200 people attended a public forum called "Resistance Rising: A Panel of First Nations Leaders" at the Brunswick Town Hall in Melbourne on April 18.

The forum was jointly sponsored by Warriors of the Aboriginal Resistance and the Indigenous Social Justice Association.

Co-founder of Warriors of the Aboriginal Resistance Meriki Onus told the audience: "The system is constantly knocking at our door. The system destroys us or takes our children."

The keynote speaker was Lex Wotton, who was arrested for protesting against the death in custody of Aboriginal man Cameron Doomadgee on Palm Island in 2004. No police officer has been charged over the death. The events around this are documented in the film The Tall Man.

Wotton told the forum: "If I see something wrong, I say something. One day it might be your child in prison. We have to stand up. This is not just about a death in custody. The government has neglected us and this has been going on for years."

In discussion, Wotton also pointed out that the only shop on Palm Island is run by a government department and as a result prices are extremely high, in part due to the fly in, fly out workforce.

Wotton said there is a campaign to get the shop to be run by the community. He has launched a class action against the Queensland government along with two others, Agnes and Cecilia Wotton. It alleges institutionalised racism by the Queensland Police Force in the way it treated the Indigenous residents of Palm Island and asserts that, had this happened elsewhere in Australia other than an Indigenous community, the whole process would have been different.

[For more information visit Indigenous Social Justice Association Melbourne on Facebook.]

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