Indigenous leader to asylum seekers: 'You are welcome here'

September 16, 2011

Some years ago I and many others, fought and demonstrated against the toxic verbal bile that was mouthed then by what was seen by most Australians to be a fringe party.

Their disgusting rantings only proved them to be an ultra-racist party. Some politicians agreed with them, some used them politically whilst the rest whimpered and whispered in case they lost votes.

The greater load of racist rubbish was aimed at those they conceived to be non-Australians, including of course Aborigines who historically are more Australian than anyone. But the most poisonous vitriol was aimed at those called refugees, or asylum seekers to describe them correctly.

It took people of conscience to bring this party to its knees even though there are still the odd twitchings of the party attempting a political Lazarus.

That party of course was One Nation, with its fire-haired leader, Pauline Hanson.

Sadly, however, it is my solemn duty to have to inform Hanson that she will now need to come up with a more draconian platform to push her agenda of hate.

I watched Gough Whitlam pour the dirt into Vincent Lingiari’s hand and agree that it was always Aboriginal land.

I watched as Malcolm Fraser accepted the Vietnamese people coming by boat and welcomed them into Australia as true asylum seekers.

He fully upheld the UN convention on asylum seekers, for which act he has great honour. I watched the same prime minister endorse and push the land rights act into the NT.

Since then, however, we have been shamed by every prime minister from Bob Hawke to Julia Gillard on these two human rights issues. The two main parties can now be considered acolytes of the One Nation party.

I am absolutely disgusted by their collective actions. Each attempting to outdo the other to see who can hit a social hell first.

By their actions they prove themselves ignorant of several human rights facts that not only demean our parliaments, but also demean us as a nation.

And a supposedly Christian nation at that, as exemplified by the prayers heard in our parliaments. The words mean nothing. Their prayers are more based on the White Australia policy than any bible.

Allow me to put some facts to my argument.

There is no queue to join in the countries from which the asylum seekers come. So please ignore such calls as they are but empty words from questionable sources.

The UN refugee convention was founded in 1951 and most countries of the world agreed and signed. Australia also signed the convention into law. The original need for the convention was the many millions of people who were either stateless or could not, or would not, return to their country of birth at the completion of World War II.

Australia took what it saw as its fair share of these refugees/asylum seekers. And it is undisputed history that our country grew in a positive manner.

This influx was counter-balanced by schemes like “Bring out a Briton” and the “Ten pound Pom” to name just two. Another, far more criminal action, was the bringing out of British youth, those now known as the “Forgotten Australians” to whom Kevin Rudd also made an apology.

“Boat people” were an unknown entity to Australia but quite common in Europe. We were lulled into a false sense that we were in charge of who came here. From time to time, requests for asylum did occur, perhaps the most famous being Mrs Petrov as she was being bundled into a Russian aircraft.

To the best of my memory, the defeat of US forces in Vietnam allowed for the first boat arrivals from that country as people of South Vietnam, including those who had worked for the US, attempted to seek safety for their families, as was their inalienable right under the convention.

Then PM Fraser accepted our obligations under the UN convention and, again, we grew to accept our new Australian citizens.

Bob Hawke then knifed Bill Hayden just prior to the 1983 election to become prime minister. It was his government that attempted to side-step the UN convention.

Paul Keating, while being dragged kicking and screaming, did do some positive things for Aborigines. His Redfern speech is still powerful. His actions on asylum seekers were less honourable.

Howard plumbed new depths in his fascistic actions to stop “coloured people” and people of non-Christian faiths being found to be legitimate asylum seekers.

They became the pawns of criminals. Their human rights were ignored while the government huffed and puffed about a faux concern for their safety at the hands of these “criminals” who provided assistance, for a price, to reach Australia.

This practice is thousands of years old — during World War II such people were war heroes. Now our governments label them criminals.

One way to slow down the exercise, perhaps, is to take those already assessed by the UNHCR as legitimate refugees and lower the numbers in the camps, including in Malaysia. We have already stated we will accept 4000 from that country, so let’s take them.

The reason that Nauru is not favoured by the Gillard government is the false and cynical claim that during its use by Howard, Australia and New Zealand finished up with most of the camp residents as bona fide asylum seekers.

The problem was that a large number of that intake had been mentally scarred by that process, so it cost more Australian resources to properly treat and settle these successful applicants.

Our once great Labor Party has now become so mired in their horror of dealing humanely with the current asylum seekers that Nauru must be off limits to make sure that there is no chance that they can be processed by the UNHCR and finish up back in Australia.

The government wants a system to make sure that when asylum seekers are processed they become an addition to the tail end of many other thousands of hopefuls who have already been waiting in the camps for years.

Hence Malaysia is favoured. No risk of return to Australia — therefore keeping Australia relatively white.

Australia is a signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, yet every day we are bombarded with news that children’s rights as asylum seekers, whether they are accompanied or not, are to be excised from the convention to allow them to be sent to the tragedy that is the Malaysian camps.

This is just beyond the pale, it is an attack on their human rights, it is a social and criminal abomination that is being done in our name by our governments that have totally lost their way.

I have nothing but disgust for both Labor and the Coalition that dare to put my name to their nefarious and inhumane actions. I have but two more points to make.

First, these governments rule over the stolen lands of the traditional owners and yet firmly believe that they have some moral right to dictate who comes seeking refuge on stolen Aboriginal lands.

I do not accept that they have that right. Our lands were invaded 223 years ago and Australia has become most wealthy on our sequestered resources.

The asylum seekers being imprisoned in isolated privately managed-for-profit incarceration camps, with the singular exception of Christmas Island, are all on Aboriginal lands. And I, as a Wiradguri man, say to those asylum seekers, you are most welcome to our lands.

I realise, of course, that other Aborigines may have different views to mine and, of course, that is their right. But I will state most strongly in their defence that these refugees did not invade us, they did not steal our lands, they did not suppress our culture and language, they did not commit genocide, they did not steal our children, they did not steal our wages, they did not steal our human rights as a first people to exist and to grow. The parliaments of the invaders have done all that and more.

Again, I say to the asylum seekers, you are welcome to our lands.

Second, as I have put so many times, these racist One Nation clones do not speak in my name.

[Ray Jackson is president of the Indigenous Social Justice Association.]


Perhaps if Aboriginals had stonger border protection all those years ago, you would not be in your percieved predicament. Perhaps that's why the Australian population as a whole supports strong border control More to the point, you accept these assylum seekers but not the first fleet? A few holes in your argument there fella.
Holes in your brain, "fella", not just your argument. Where did Ray Jackson say he "doesn't accept the first fleet"? He says they invaded. You reveal your racist contempt of both aboriginal Australia and desperate asylum seekers. "these refugees did not invade us, they did not steal our lands, they did not suppress our culture and language, they did not commit genocide, they did not steal our children, they did not steal our wages, they did not steal our human rights as a first people to exist and to grow. The parliaments of the invaders have done all that and more." Does that shame your racism a little, "fella"?

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