We‘re here to acknowledge Black Lives Matter, an international movement that has seen more than 2 weeks of sustained protest and resistance to police and state violence against Black and Indigenous peoples. Across the world, people are making a powerful stand against racial oppression, violence and inequality that is rendering Black lives very unsafe.
Since 1990 more that 434 Aboriginal people have died in police and prison custody. Since George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis by an officer now charged with murder, we have here in Perth witnessed the death of an Aboriginal man at Acacia prison, and an Aboriginal woman at Bandyup is in critical condition after being body-slammed by guards.
Slavery in Australia
The Prime Minister thinks that Black Lives Matter should not be imported into this country from overseas. He said we had no slavery in this country.
The first building erected in the Swan River colony was the Roundhouse in Fremantle, it was built in 1830 to incarcerate Aboriginal men who resisted colonists attempts to enslave and indenture them to wealthy pastoralists. Many of the men forcibly taken in neck chains to Rottnest, Wadjemup, died at the island, many were executed and this island is the largest mass grave in Australia today.
I am the great-granddaughter of Ethel Woyung who was indentured as a girl and whose brother Mindum was incarcerated at Wadjemup which he escaped.
Prime Minister, it was your people who brought the violence and the racism of colonisation to our country. Your people said that our grandmother were less than human and would not cry for their babies stolen from their arms.
This week an Aboriginal Grandmother settled her case against with TRANSWA after she was made with other Aboriginal people to sit at the back of the bus, she saw that only whites were sitting at the front and that there were empty seats available. She has been likened by UK media to Rosa Parks whose refusal to give up her seat on the segregated busses in Alabama led to the US civil rights movement.
We have elders with us today who walked the streets of Perth in the 1970s in protest at the treatment of Aboriginal people - especially the way our land was taken from us.
Deaths in Custody
We marched in the late 80s because so many lives were being lost in prisons and we knew from what happened to young John Pat in Roebourne that police killed our people.
John Pat was 16-years-old when police officers kicked him to death on the streets of Roebourne, They were charged with manslaughter and Mr Quigley, now the Attorney General, defended them before an all-white jury who acquitted all of the charges.
Many Aboriginal people have lost their lives in racial violence but ‘No Jury will convict’. And we saw that in recent years with the horrific killing of young Elijah Doughty in Kalgoorlie.
When we say Black Lives matter, here in Australia, we are speaking of Ms Dhu, Cherdeena Wynne, Chad Riley, Joyce Clarke, and many more.
We remember the two young men who died after being chased into the Derbarl Yerrigan river on a cold and windy day by police,
And we remember our people once pursued on order of Governor Stirling and chased into the Murray river Pinjarra river and shot at, they were massacred, men, women and children.
The Premier and Minister Ben Wyatt said we should cancel today.
They told us not to come. They told us to be silent.
We will not be silent,
We will say their names,
We will fight for justice in their names and for all our people who have gone before us.
Stop the Injustices
This is what we have to say now to our Premier and Government:
Stop the Killings of Aboriginal people, end racial violence and hate crimes. We demand independent investigation of all deaths in custody as required by international human rights law. Punish perpetrators and end impunity for violence.
Mass incarceration and criminalisation of Aboriginal people has been ongoing in this state since colonisation. There is racial profiling and discrimination at every stage of the criminal justice process. The state must respond to the ‘Pathways to Justice’ Inquiry, establishing immediately the Aboriginal Justice Advisory Committee (AJAC).
The widespread removal of Aboriginal children in the name of child protection is of the most serious violation of human rights. Aboriginal self-determination and family decision making must be respected including in the laws. Aboriginal child welfare responsibility must be transferred to Aboriginal people.
Address systemic and institutional racism and discrimination through investment into anti-racism strategy and human rights programs and responses. Ensure independence of human rights bodies and appoint an Aboriginal Advocate, Aboriginal Children’s Commissioner and Inspector of Custodial Services.
We are calling NOW on the state government to commit to a Treaty to respect our inherent rights as Indigenous peoples, especially our right to self-determination and the rights in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Our wirrin, our spirits are strong.
We are here together today in solidarity Aboriginal and our allies because all of us know it is right to be here and stand for justice and against racism and all the violence of it
– delivered to those in attendance at the Black Lives Matter 2020, Kaya Perth on 13 July.
Dr Hannah McGlade is the Senior Indigenous Research Fellow at Curtin University, Western Australia. She is the editor of 'Treaty, Let's Get it Right!' and author of "Our Greatest Challenge, Aboriginal Children and Human Rights" which received the 2013 Stanner Award. Since graduating from Law school in the 1990's she has initiated and supported many cases promoting Aboriginal rights including McGlade v Lightfoot. In 2016 she was appointed the Senior Indigenous Fellow at the United Nations OHCHR and in 2020 begins her appointment with the UN Permanent Forum for Indigenous Peoples, representing the Pacific.