Forty-five people attended a public forum called "Indigenous Survival and Resistance: Solutions — Rudd vs Chavez and Morales" in Sydney's Resistance Activist Centre on January 30. The forum was co-sponsored by Socialist Alliance and the Sydney Latin American Social Forum.
Green Left Weekly journalist Peter Robson outlined the history of the oppression of Aboriginal Australians, beginning with the forceful dispossession of Australia's original inhabitants by the British colonialists, up to the racist policies of the current Labor government — especially the discriminatory Northern Territory intervention.
The intervention was introduced by the previous Coalition government and continues under Labor. Robson described its failure to improve the lives of Aboriginal children or adults. "Not one new house has been constructed in the targeted Aboriginal communities", he said.
Nevertheless, there was a proud history of Aboriginal resistance to white occupation that continues to this day. This resistance was encouraged by indigenous struggles internationally, and by ongoing solidarity from all around Australia.
Oscar Perez, a founder of the indigenous organisation Adepu in Chile, spoke of the long history of oppression of indigenous peoples in Latin America, and the strong record of resistance and revolution in response.
Perez summarised the story of indigenous resistance to the Spanish colonisers in Cuba, Haiti and Puerto Rico, and the struggle of the Mayan peoples in Mexico and Central America, against Spanish and US imperialism.
He also stressed the continuing resistance of the Mapuche people of Chile to the theft of their land and culture.
Coral Wynter, from the Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network (AVSN), pointed to the back cover of GLW, which read: "Avatar is real". The battle over indigenous land and resources continues in Latin America today, she noted.
But revolutionary governments, like that of President Hugo Chavez in Venezuela and President Evo Morales in Bolivia, were supporting and defending the rights of indigenous peoples in those countries, she said.
The Venezuelan constitution guarantees the rights of indigenous peoples, and the Chavez government has radically improved services to their communities for the first time in the country's history.
Morales, Bolivia's first indigenous president in its history of Latin America, has based his government on defence of indigenous communities. Not surprisingly, he has the overwhelming support of the majority indigenous population.
Wynter urged the building of closer links between the indigenous peoples of Latin America and Aboriginal Australia in the cause of mutual solidarity and help.