Australia

'Unjust, unfair, ungodly': Martin Luther King Jr's son slams Indigenous treatment

Martin Luther King III speaks in Alice Springs. Source: AAP

Martin Luther King III has condemned Australia's treatment of Indigenous people in a Reconciliation Week speech in the Northern Territory.

The son of US civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr has criticised Australia over its treatment of Indigenous Australians, saying he is disappointed in the lack of progress since his last visit 20 years ago.

Martin Luther King III delivered a speech in the Northern Territory on Tuesday for Reconciliation Week, hosted by the local Arrente Nation.

The human rights activist highlighted the poverty and disadvantage many Indigenous Australians endure, citing the controversial Whitegate/Irrkerlantye community town camp near Alice Springs that has no water or reliable power.

He said it was not a good look that the dominant central building in Alice Springs was the Supreme Court and Australia's First Nations people were locked up more than those of any other nation on Earth.

Youth crime and alcohol abuse are major problems in the town.

"When I went to Whitegate I was told that they have no water, the water has been turned off," Mr King said.

How do you justify mistreating human beings who really were here first, before anyone?

Martin Luther King III

"I just want to ask how do you justify mistreating human beings who really were here first, before anyone?

"I don't know why any of us can stand here today and feel good about ... the mistreatment of human beings on a consistent basis."

Martin Luther King III, is seen with his wife Arndrea and daughter Yolanda, in Alice Springs.
Martin Luther King III, is seen with his wife Arndrea and daughter Yolanda, in Alice Springs.
AAP

Mr King visited Whitegate with traditional owner Felicity Hayes, whose family were granted native title on what is their ancestral land in the 1970s.

However it is not formally recognised as one of Alice Springs' town camps, the water was cut off several years ago by the Northern Territory government and it is not provided with basic services.

He says the Australian government has the resources and ability to work in partnership with Aboriginal communities but chooses not to.

"That is wrong, that's unjust, that's unfair, that's ungodly."

Mr King said something significant had to happen before Australia, which had much beauty and "phenomenal people", could begin the process of reconciliation and become more humane and just.

Aboriginal groups this week marked the first anniversary of the Uluru Statement, calling for Indigenous Australians to be guaranteed a constitutional "voice" in parliament, which was rejected by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

"Just as we in the United States must find a way to engage in unity because division will create a failed nation, but unity will create a great nation," Mr King said.

He quoted his father during what was also a positive speech designed to inspire local indigenous and non-indigenous children.

"My father said even in life, if it falls your lot to be a street sweeper well go on and sweep streets like Michaelangelo carved marble ... do your job well, whatever you are, be the best of what you are," he said.

Martin Luther King Jr pictured in 1963.
Martin Luther King Jr pictured in 1963.
AP

 

 

Stay up to date with SBS NEWS

  • App
  • Subscribe
  • Follow
  • Listen
  • Watch