The creators of the Black Lives Matter movement are calling on all levels of Australian governments and the community to stand with Indigenous Australians.
1 Nov 2017 - 5:58 PM  UPDATED 2 Nov 2017 - 4:18 PM

Black Lives Matter co-founder, Patrisse Cullors, told the National Press Club in Canberra on Wednesday that the nation needs to be 'courageous' in the fight to address injustice against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. 

"We've been courageous, our ancestors have been courageous. We need you, elected officials, appointed officials, and journalists, it's your turn to be courageous," she said.   

Ms Cullors, an artist and freedom fighter from the United States, said Australians need to make a choice to heal this country. 

"We need you to believe, to listen to the community in Australia, because silence, that's the silence that often gives way to more murder, that's the silence that often gives way to more disadvantages." 

It comes as the co-founders have been meeting with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities around the country, and say there are parallels between the experiences of people of colour in Australia and in the United States. 

Rodney Diverlus co-founded the Black Lives Matter movement in Toronto, Canada. He says the similarities between black people in the North America and Indigenous Australians are striking. 

"We went to Mildura and heard from service providers who are providing direct services to victims of violence, we had a yarning circle in Redfern in which we heard the number of Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander and South Sea Islanders who have died in police custody," he said. 

"We know the incarceration rates are disproportionate, we know about the cycles of depression, the lack of access to services, poverty and disenfranchisement, a justice system that just doesn't work for us. Across the board it's the same story over and over, and over and over again." 

Their tour of the country comes as the global movement is set to receive the 2017 Sydney Peace Prize, it's the first time such a movement has been recognised. 

But Mr Diverlus says their visit has another purpose. 

"Beyond this prize, we want to throw it to you all, the people of Australia, what will you do beyond this week. What will you do in your spheres to address anti-blackness," he said.  

He says the role of challenging anti-black racism and anti-blackness is not left only to people of colour. 

"It is up to all of us, this is all of our problems. We all have to fix it." 

National Congress of Australia's First Peoples Co-Chair, Dr Jackie Huggins, joined the two co-founders on the panel. 

She says Indigenous Australians resonate so much with the Black Lives Matter campaign. 

"We have felt every pain, every word that you make and it's really wonderful that you've come to our country," she said. 

"Our history, colonisation, dispossession, separation, assimilation, and failed attempts to destroy our culture means that [we] all very much feel the same that our lives as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are treated as less than, and less valued by, the systems and the institutions that are supposed to support and protect us."

Dr Huggins spoke about the incarceration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. 

"Many people know about the mass incarceration of people of colour in the United States, but most aren't aware that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are the most incarcerated in the world" 

She made mention of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women in prison who are the fastest growing prison population. 

"Our mothers, sisters, nurturers and leaders of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, they make up 33 per cent of the female population in prison," she said. 

"Ninety per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women in prison have been victims of violence or sexual assault and eighty per cent of them are mothers torn away from their families and from their children." 

Patrice Cullors says the Black Lives Matter movement is built by all. 

"It is our duty to join the growing movement for justice inside of this country and outside of this country. If you don't see yourself as an active participant in the liberation of black people, now is your opportunity. All of our lives depend on it," she said.  

Dr Huggins hopes the global movement will inspire the Australian community to support its First Peoples, particularly in relation to incarceration. 

"We welcome the Black Lives Matter movement, who I hope, will shed some light and give us strength in terms of the struggles that we pursue in the very high incarceration of our people."  

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Black Lives Matter is a revolutionary peace movement
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Australia calls for 'Black Lives Matter' campaign
'Black Lives Matter' is a campaign that originated in the United States - created in response to a series of police killings of African American men. There have been calls for a similar movement here in Australia, due to our own troubled racial history.