Young people speak out against racism

February 7, 1996

BRISBANE — "The Fight for Land Rights" was the topic of the first Resistance meeting for 1996, held here on January 27. Speakers addressed the topic of how to create a society in which Aboriginal people have justice, in a country where 208 years of white occupation have left Aboriginal people with one of the highest incarceration rates in the world and no compensation for the theft of their land. The meeting was held the day after Invasion Day, when protests focused on black deaths in custody. Resistance member JASMIN PRESTON talked to young people at the protest about what they felt the government was doing for Aboriginal people. What has the Royal Commission into Black Deaths in Custody achieved? Selina Moore, a young Torres Straight Islander woman, explained, "I think the royal commission started out as a national commission, but the federal government left it up to the states to implement the recommendations, which has been pretty ineffective. The states have done nothing to implement them." An Aboriginal teenager, Sarah Johnson, felt that the commission had done "jack shit except allow an increase in the number of black deaths in custody". Another woman commented that the commission was "a cruel joke to give hope to the community and the boys on the inside that something was being done. The recommendations won't be able to help my people unless they change the prison system and the Corrective Services are forced to implement the recommendations. At the moment they are doing nothing; they are just snubbing their noses at us." What can we do to combat racism? Norman Johnston, from the Australian Indigenous People's Party, explained, "What we need to do is sit down and work out a way we can share this country. When that happens, we can all go forward together, and until that happens, nothing will change". An Aboriginal man commented that there need to be more "cultural healing centres where we can go an learn from some of the older people who still have the knowledge and culture. The spirit is strong while there is still blood in the veins. Cultural centres should be a priority." Tanya McDonnell, an activist in Resistance, said, "Racism against Aboriginal people, ingrained in Australian society, will not begin to be addressed until Aboriginal people have land rights. The government is whitewashing the issue with clever rhetoric and fancy legislation like Mabo, but the reality is that most Aboriginal land claims will be denied. And while the government pretends to be addressing the issue, social conditions for Aboriginal people are not improving. "There are a lot of racist myths out there. For example, you always hear people saying that Aboriginal people get too many welfare payments. The reality is that the biggest 'welfare' payments get made to giant companies like CRA, who get tax breaks and millions of dollars in subsidies. Aboriginal people, whose land has been stolen by these companies, get almost no compensation and are forced into poverty. To change this, we have to fight together for a society where human rights come before private profit. This is why Resistance campaigns for land rights and an end to police harassment of Aboriginal people."

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