Sam Watson: ‘I'm not convinced there has to be a national day’

February 2, 2018
Socialist Alliance Indigenous Rights spokesperson Sam Watson.

Socialist Alliance’s Indigenous Rights spokesperson Sam Watson considers there has been “a definite strengthening and expansion of the Black political struggle”. Watson was referring to the record-breaking attendance of tens of thousands of people at Invasion Day rallies around the country on January 26.

“You can't really pinpoint this phenomenon geographically or by age or gender,” he said.

“In Brisbane there was a massive turnout from our community from right across south-east Queensland.” Further, he pointed out that some attendees came from Northern NSW, south-west Queensland and from as far north as Rockhampton.

“Indigenous people and our supporters wanted to come together on the day and be a part of the rally and protest and as always the very, very popular community event at Musgrave Park.”

“There were large numbers of children and large family groups where grandparents brought grandchildren. There were large numbers of young warrior people, young men and young women.”

“One thing that was very pleasing and uplifting was the strengthening of the relationship between the Indigenous community and our supporter groups. We had over 5000 people involved throughout the day [in Brisbane] and that might have been higher at certain points.”

“We had enormous support from political groups, church groups, community groups and ordinary people from the community. We especially want to acknowledge the strong support from the trade unions, who gave money and marched with us. It was an amazing and uplifting experience.”

He said it was inspiring to get home and see the TV news reports about the huge mobilisations around the country. “There was a range of different views put forward. A lot of the younger people presented as being very angry, very frustrated, but they still conducted themselves in a very strong cultural way with respect. I don't believe any of the rallies resulted in a clash with police.”

The Invasion Day rallies achieved their political objective, which was to put a strong message across to mainstream Australia. “I was very thankful that we were able to mobilise nationally such a large number of people and to present our views in a very strong and forceful and passionate way without a single medical incident or police incident.”

Responding to the media backlash against Tarneen Onus-Williams in Melbourne, Watson said that while she and the people around her are not from his family or his community he would “support their right to come forward and talk up because the fact is that we are now here in 2018 and it's been 80 long years since the first national day of protest in 1938.

“The same challenge was put by the elders in 1938 about what has happened to our people, to our country, to our culture, to our languages. Look what has happened to our families, our children; what crimes have been committed in the names of this colonial invasion.

“The basic issues put back in 1938 at the National Day of Mourning are still alive today in 2018. So you can well understand how our young people feel. I love them and adore them and I'll stand by them.”

According to Watson, the fundamental question posed by discussion about Australia's national day is that the British occupation of this continent was an “illegal process”.

“There was no treaty, no contract, no purchase. The process was one of violent invasion and that basic principle has not changed. And that is still the core issue that lies at the heart of the Black political struggle.

“Mainstream Australia still has to recognise that.

“The bullshit argument that we should just 'get over it' is garbage.”

He pointed out that on January 27, the world paused to honour the victims of the Nazi holocaust, but similar recognition is yet to be made about the genocide in Australia.

“You have this ingrained refusal by mainstream Australia to accept that anything has been done wrong and so mainstream Australia has to be held to account for that crime.

“I'm not at all convinced that there needs to be any national day, because nationalism is toxic [and can be used to justify] terrible crimes.

“So I'm not a nationalist sympathiser at all, but if there has to be a national day, that should be the day on which a Treaty is signed between the Aboriginal nation and the British crown.”

Like the article? Subscribe to Green Left now! You can also like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

You need Green Left, and we need you!

Green Left is funded by contributions from readers and supporters. Help us reach our funding target.

Make a One-off Donation or choose from one of our Monthly Donation options.

Become a supporter to get the digital edition for $5 per month or the print edition for $10 per month. One-time payment options are available.

You can also call 1800 634 206 to make a donation or to become a supporter. Thank you.