As an Aboriginal woman, from the Kairi and Gubbi Gubbi nations of central Queensland, I identify with oppressed people around the world and I see our liberation as tied closely to that of other indigenous and subjugated peoples.
In September last year, I had the great pleasure of participating in the Australian Venezuelan Solidarity Network Brigade.
It was an inspiring and informative trip. In the rallies leading up to Hugo Chavez’s election win, I witnessed an outpouring of love from the people of Venezuela. An elderly woman too frail to attend the rally, on seeing our red shirts, stood up from a crate on the footpath, and began clapping her hands in rhythm and lifting her feet as she turned around dancing on the footpath, cheering us on towards the rally.
Millions of people attended, they came in the truck loads and crammed in buses with banners hanging from windows and painted with slogans. By the afternoon, after a relentless election campaign, the rain poured down but Chavez did not stop and take cover, he stood as one of the people and spoke to the millions of supporters who listened and cheered in the rain.
During my stay in Venezuela I saw the reason for this love. I saw the medical services built up in the barrios to service communities previously neglected. I saw the medical school where
doctors from across Latin America, Africa, the Middle East and Asia are being trained by Cuban
I saw the Communal Councils and how the Bolivarian revolution is empowering community
people from the ground up. And I saw ambitious housing reforms that are erecting hundreds of
new apartments for people desperately in need of housing, from decades of previous governments
ignoring the needs of its poor.
Through Chavez, the resources from oil were being spent on the people — not massive profits for a few — dramatically reducing poverty and malnutrition, illiteracy and extending the reach of education.
While in Caracas, I met with the indigenous peoples of Venezuela and heard how the revised
constitution now recognised the rights of indigenous peoples, ensuring them strong parliamentary
representation and returning four million acres to the original peoples.
But Chavez’s commitment to justice was also felt around the world as he advocated against oppression. As we know, he was central to uniting Latin America against the imperialism of the United States.
Chavez will be remembered as one of the great men of history, not just of the 20th century and his
legacy will continue. The people of Venezuela now empowered will not forgo what’s been achieved.
Those millions impacted by Chavez, including myself, will continue the struggle, building on what’s been achieved and drawing on his principled approach to inform our future work.
So while we share in solidarity the grief at his loss with the Venezuelan people, we also share the celebration of a life that has made an immeasurable contribution to fighting oppression and imperialism across the world.
[This message of condolence was read out at a memorial gathering for Hugo Chavez in Sydney on March 16.]