Sam Watson: ‘Ready to continue the struggle’ in 2017

Sam Watson. Photo: Alex Bainbridge

As Invasion Day approaches, Murri leader Sam Watson told Green Left Weekly that January 26 was “only a date when a motley collection of boats made landfall on Gadigal country to establish the colony of NSW”.

“It is important to mobilise and march [on Invasion Day] to remind everyone that an illegal invasion took place on this soil," he said..

“They came here to launch a war of genocide against the 500 sovereign nations of this land.

“They came to invade as a fully-armed military force. They massacred and slaughtered tens of thousands of innocent people.

Watson told GLW that already this year Aboriginal people in Brisbane have observed the January 5 memorial for Dundalli — a senior resistance leader of the tribes of south east Queensland.

He was executed in 1855 while hundreds of Aboriginal people paid their respects on the slopes of Wickham Terrace. Many white people fled town that day fearful of the consequences of murdering the Aboriginal hero.

Watson explained that Dundalli had “been charged with responsibility by the senior leaders to carry out a war of resistance against the white invaders”.

There were a number of massacres and terrible crimes against Aboriginal people right across the area, Watson said. These included rape and the poisoning of local Aboriginal people. Dundalli's actions were a response to these, yet he faced an unfair British court and was sentenced to death.

Dundalli fought an honourable war, Watson said.

“We need to honour the tens of thousands of men, women and children who died in the struggle to hang onto their sacred homeland,” Watson told GLW.

“You can walk right through the city of Brisbane and not find a single plaque or memento that acknowledges the terrible crimes against humanity committed against the Aboriginal people.

“This is despite the fact that Campbell Newman, when he was lord mayor of Brisbane, promised there would be a plaque established.

“White Australia has shrines and war memorials right across the countryside celebrating their heroes who died in foreign wars. But there is nothing to commemorate those Aboriginal people who died on home soil.

“So that's a struggle we're going to fight again this year,” Watson said, referring to ongoing efforts to get adequate recognition for Dundalli and other resistance fighters.

This year is the 50th anniversary of the 1967 referendum which allowed the federal government to make laws regarding Aboriginal people and to count them in the census. It will be important to recognise this anniversary, Watson said.

Also important according to Watson, is the campaign against the new Stolen Generation. “This year is the 20th anniversary of the Stolen Generations report” he said. “Yet far more of our kids are taken from their homes than ever.”

As the February 13 anniversary of then-Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's apology to the Stolen Generations approaches, we need to “stand and honour those generations of Aboriginal children who were taken away by white authorities”, at the same time as we campaign against the record numbers being removed from their families today, said Watson.

In response to the decision by Fremantle City Council to reject the January 26 date for national celebrations, Watson said “the people of Fremantle are making a stand and we salute them”.

The date of January 26 has “nothing to do with setting up the so-called Australian nation,” he said.

“I've always said it should be June 3 — which is Mabo Day, the first time ever that a British colonial court has ever acknowledged Aboriginal people.”

Watson is a staunch fighter for the rights of his people: “We start 2017 stepping up to the line and ready to continue the struggle, ready to take on the challenges that are before us.”

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