Tony Abbott’s 40 hand-picked Aboriginal “leaders” met him and his doppelgänger Bill Shorten on 6 July. Together they are developing the latest diversion from acknowledging the dispossession of Indigenous people in Australia.
It’s the “Recognise” campaign, which claims that an amendment to the racist Australian constitution is the next big step in dealing with racism and ongoing genocide. It’s a whitewash.
The meeting took place behind metal gates and a gang of police, who failed to stop a loud and very articulate protest from making our way up to those gates.
Aboriginal elders from many struggles and many parts of the country got on the microphone. Among them were Ken Canning, Patricia Corowa, Jenny Munro, Albert Hartnett, Les Coe, with more impromptu speeches and chants coming from the rest of the rally. Tahnea, a young child, made an impassioned plea: “Abbott, stop taking away Aboriginal kids. Shame on you!”
Speaker after speaker pointed the finger of blame at the Indigenous people taking part in the meeting. Albert Hartnett dubbed them “Tony Abbott and the 40 thieves”.
“We have to start calling these things for what they are”, Ken Canning said. “This is an act of treason against their own people.”
Deb Williams yelled up at them: “You don’t speak for Indigenous people, you sell-outs! Get out!”
Sitting down with Abbott helps to legitimise what he and his Labor and Liberal predecessors have done to Aboriginal people.
That list of crimes is long – and growing: the attacks on Aboriginal communities, which are threatened with closure from the Kimberley to Redfern; the rate of removal of Aboriginal kids, which exceeds the levels reached during the taking of the Stolen Generations; the rising rate of imprisonment and the murders in custody.
The government onslaught against Indigenous people is relentless.
Last week the federal government cut funding to the Aboriginal Medical Service Western Sydney. It will be forced to close, at the cost of Aboriginal lives.
Meanwhile other alleged “services” to Aboriginal people get plenty of money. In the town of Walgett, with its proud history of Aboriginal activism and resistance, $16 million has just been spent on a new police station.
Walgett Community College is now the first school in the state to have police stationed inside the school. No doubt this is a government efficiency measure to speed the transition of Aboriginal people from school to jail.
No constitutional amendment will address any of this. That’s the diversionary point of it. And it’s why Aboriginal activists are advising us to take a lead from the Greek people and vote no.