Ewan Saunders, Socialist Alliance candidate for Brisbane, recently returned from the Justice Ride to Alice Springs.
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On July 14, after almost 50 hours spent on the road over four days, I, along with about 20 others, rolled back into Brisbane at 11.30pm.
The trip back from Alice Springs was the last leg of a two-week Justice Ride that changed the lives of a busload of people, many of whom hadn’t considered themselves “activists” before the bus left on July 1.
In January this year, over a beer with Alyawarr spokesperson Richard Downs and others attending the Socialist Alliance national conference, the idea emerged of a bus trip to the Northern Territory to witness the NT intervention first-hand.
We talked about the Freedom Ride of 1965, about how some of the same injustices faced by Aboriginal people and fought against in the ’60s were still around.
Five months later, the 2010 Justice Rides were a reality.
In Brisbane, Socialist Alliance and Resistance members active in the Aboriginal Rights Coalition worked hard with others to raise funds and plan the logistics.
Our comrades in New South Wales were also busy planning the Indigenous Solidarity Ride, with which we met up at the Defending Indigenous Rights convergence in Alice Springs.
All the hard work paid off.
For me and other Socialist Alliance candidates running in the federal election, it took us away from campaigning in our electorates, in the middle of the election campaign.
But we wouldn’t have had it any other way. For the big parties, the eyes were firmly on the prize — electoral victory. The Socialist Alliance followed the fight to the doorstep of racism in Australia: the shame that is the NT intervention.
The Socialist Alliance has condemned the NT intervention as racist and paternalistic from the start.
From day one we have highlighted the real motives behind the policies: weakening land rights and assimilating Aboriginal people.
These two aspects are inseparable. Policies of assimilation are just the more “civilised” alternative to the outright massacres that defined the first century of British colonialism in Australia.
The end result is the same — the extinguishing of Aboriginal land rights, culture, language, and, in the end, Aboriginal people.
The Socialist Alliance Charter on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Rights is an excellent document, which takes up some of the key aspects of this struggle:
* reconciliation and compensation;
* recognition of rights and the building of awareness;
* full economic and social equality;
* a treaty and real land rights; and
* Aboriginal control of Aboriginal affairs.
At the core of the Aboriginal struggle has always been the call for self-determination, for liberation from the yoke and the gun of colonial oppression, and for Aboriginal people to determine their conditions for themselves.
White government control over the lives of Aboriginal people, denial of the right to determine the way forward, and active continuing dispossession … these are the hallmarks of Indigenous policy in this country.
The pro-intervention agenda of the mainstream media means we don’t hear about the rising incarceration, mental illness and suicide rates since the policy was introduced.
I’ve campaigned against the intervention since then-Coalition PM John Howard rolled it out as his last-ditch power grab in 2007. But listening to the uncles, aunties and other Aboriginal community leaders from across the NT was something new.
The Defending Indigenous Rights convergence brought together the stories and the heartbreak of this latest offensive against the first nations of this country, a land never ceded to the colonial forces.
It is now clearer to me that the intervention is the modern incarnation of the colonial project, a project with genocide at its core.
Under the intervention, Aboriginal lands are being coerced out of Aboriginal hands.
Under the intervention, people on their homelands are being actively starved out, coercing peoples off their ancestral lands into “hub towns” — the missions of the 21st century.
The Socialist Alliance will never stop fighting alongside our Aboriginal brothers and sisters. We will do all we can to help this struggle along to victory, when the injustices of the past and present are recognised and addressed.
The fight is a big one, but it starts with all of us.