Speakers at a 100-strong rally supporting the November 17 national day of action for Indigenous rights condemned the Howard Coalition government's "emergency" intervention into Northern Territory Aboriginal communities and expressed disappointment with the ALP for its "me-too" approach
Ted Wilkes, associate professor of Aboriginal health at Curtin University's School of Developmental Health, told the crowd that the life expectancy gap of 17 years between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians was unacceptable. "We need a new beginning in Australia", he said.
Dennis Eggington, CEO of the Aboriginal Legal Service, stated that while imprisonment rates for non-Indigenous people have remained steady, the rate for Indigenous people has been increasing. "That means that all those new prisons and juvenile detention centres that they're building are being built for Indigenous people", he said.
He argued that the gains that Aboriginal people had made in the 1960s and the '70s were achieved through struggle. "We need another generation of activists to win back what has been lost over the last decade", he said.
"Escalating drug and alcohol abuse amongst our young people is a symptom of despair and powerlessness", said Curtin Student Guild Indigenous officer Natasha Moore. "We need more young Aboriginal people to step forward in the struggle to change this."
Curtin Aboriginal studies lecturer and Black Deaths in Custody Watch Committee spokesperson Helen Bishop said that Indigenous people are the most disadvantaged in Australia. "This represents unfair outcomes in every aspect of Indigenous people's life experience ... Their contact with the criminal justice system anywhere in Australia sees them fill jails in proportions that are grossly extreme."
Long-time anti-racism campaigner Paul Kaplan called for unity in building a new anti-racism movement.
Greens' Senator Rachel Siewert mocked PM John Howard's supposed ignorance about the conditions of Indigenous Australians in the Northern Territory until June this year. "We need a comprehensive approach that deals with the underlying causes and is based on proper consultation with the community", she said.
Annolies Truman, the Socialist Alliance candidate for the seat of Pearce, incorporated the alliance's lead Queensland Senate candidate and Murri leader Sam Watson's vision statement for a new Australia into her remarks. She contrasted the dishonest, greedy politics of the Coalition and Labor with the Socialist
"We support reconciliation with justice — a treaty; an apology; payment of stolen wages; compensation for the stolen generations; justice for victims of police brutality; and adequate resourcing and democratic control of communities", she said. Truman stressed the need for an on-going campaign for these demands.
The rally finished with an "open mike". Many of the speakers encouraged rally participants to vote for the Greens or the Socialist Alliance.