About sixty Aboriginal activists and supporters protested outside the federal government’s “Recognition” meeting at Kirribilli House on July 6.
PM Tony Abbott invited a selection of 40 Aboriginal "leaders", and opposition leader Bill Shorten, to discuss his proposal for a referendum on including a new clause in the Australian constitution to recognise prior Aboriginal occupation.
Aboriginal leaders including Ken Canning, Jenny Munro and others from the Redfern Tent Embassy, Michael Anderson from the Sovereign Union, Albert Harnett, Patricia Corowa and other elders protested outside with supporters.
They described Abbott’s proposed constitutional changes as a “farce” and a “sham” because the proposed change does nothing to solve the real problems affecting Aborigines and Torres Strait Islander peoples across Australia today.
As Ken Canning told the protest, “It [constitutional recognition] has been a farce from the start. The idea came from the Labor government while it was rolling out the racist Northern Territory Intervention.
“We still don’t know what is actually being proposed in terms of token changes to the thoroughly racist Australian constitution. But we do know what won’t be in there — the genocide or anything that recognises our rights to land and self-determination, or our continuing sovereignty.
“The process has only distracted from [the government’s] deeply racist policies and their effects — suicides, mass incarceration and the continuation of the stolen generation.
“From the massive budget cuts through to Abbott’s active support for the forced removal of our people from their lands in Western Australia and beyond, this PM has proved himself to be an enemy of Aboriginal people.
“Meeting with Abbott in this context can only legitimise his actions. He has nothing to offer.”
Ken Canning at the protest. Photo: Vote NO to constitutional change.
Auntie Jenny Munro said, “This Recognition sham is a continuation of the racist colonialist, capitalist government policy against Aboriginal people. We don’t recognise the Aboriginal ‘leaders’ that are in the meeting with Abbott. They don’t represent us. They are not fighting the community closures, the second stolen generation or the massive incarceration rates of our people.”
Anderson, who joined activists at the Redfern Aboriginal Tent Embassy in the morning, marched with 30 others over the Harbour Bridge to Kirribilli House.
He told the crowd, “In a so-called democratic state, such as Australia, one would not expect the veil of secrecy now being applied to a so-called public call for a referendum for recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the Constitution.
Les Coe, another activist, said: “We are a sovereign people, but we been enslaved for 227 years ... We have to ensure that Aboriginal people are not enslaved from here to eternity.”
Coe and Canning also criticised the 40 selected Aboriginal "leaders" who attended the meeting.
“When the $500 million cut was announced, the people up there said nothing, not a word”, said Canning. “Bill Shorten also said nothing. We are 2.5% of the population, but we’re putting you, Tony Abbott and Bill Shorten, on notice. Aboriginal people will keep fighting until we have our sovereign rights.
[The next solidarity action for Aboriginal rights in Sydney is at 9am on Friday July 10 when the Aboriginal Housing Corporation takes the Redfern Aboriginal Tent Embassy to the Supreme Court on charges of trespass.]
Photo below by Jarek Gasiorek.
More photos below by Rachel Evans.
Photos by Paddy Gibson/Vote NO to constitutional change.