On the Australia Day Protests

The news has been full of it – but no-one, as far as I have seen, has bothered to actually write about the reasons for the protests that took place yesterday. (No, the media seems to think Australians are more interested in whether our Prime Minister got her shoe back.)

So we have an opposition leader who says that the Aboriginal Tent Embassy has long outdated its purpose – basically, that it’s not needed anymore. He cited events such as the Apology to the Stolen Generations (which he himself opposed, if I remember correctly) in 2008, and the recent decision to hold a referendum recognising Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as the original inhabitants of the land in the constitution to back this up – wonderful achievements that obviously negate any disadvantage faced by Aboriginal people (snark).

I would like to say that I completely agree with the Aboriginal woman on the 7:30 report today who said that Aboriginal people still suffer human rights abuses every single day. They absolutely do. This is why we have such a divide in white and Aboriginal life expectancy, literacy rates, education, employment. Discrimination abounds – both societal and institutional. The protesters were absolutely, unequivocally justified in their anger.

Sad thing is though, I don’t think the protests will do any good in the end. Cynical as I may be, I don’t think the government will take this opportunity to really sit down and say “why did this occur?” and  “what can we do to address these issues?” I think that the protests will only reinforce the (unjust and inaccurate) stereotypes of all Aboriginal people as violent and aggressive. Maybe they will start a much-needed dialogue that speaks with Aboriginal people, not for them; a dialogue that actually values Aboriginal voices. I sincerely hope that it will. But I have my doubts.

It makes me think about what I can do to be a better ally to Aboriginal people in Australia. I’ll certainly be speaking up to anyone who brings this up in conversation. Because the tent embassy is not an outdated concept. Discrimination and disadvantage are still real, pressing issues – and however far the government sweeps them under the carpet once again, they’ll still be there.

6 thoughts on “On the Australia Day Protests

  1. Hi Jo,

    I do have to say although I completely agree with what you said about Aboriginal rights I think that the protesters took things too far. Yes, they should be able to communicate their point, but no, they shouldn’t do it in a way that makes anyone feel unsafe. I was watching a video on the new today showing Julia Gillard talking to Tony Abbot. They were both feeling very uncomfortable, and as you can see in the footage, they got bombarded by protesters as soon as they were escorted from the building (they were told that they had to leave because of the threat to their safety).

    That should never have happened, nobody deserves to be treated in that way – politicians or not! If Aboriginal people want to be heard, they shouldn’t have acted in a way that would only reinforce the negative attitudes that some people have towards them.

    Just some food for thought..

    1. Hey Em! Thanks for commenting.

      So I agree with you in that I generally question any violent action – protests, wars, violence against anyone really. I just don’t think it should be necessary. I don’t think the protesters “should” have reacted violently either – but I don’t think I can blame the protesters for becoming violent in this case. And making two people feel “uncomfortable” doesn’t compare with the history (and present reality) of what Aboriginal people put up with every day. I am all for peaceful protesting as opposed to violent protesting – but in my view, there simply aren’t enough platforms for Aboriginal people to speak and actually be heard. I think that’s something that really needs to change.

  2. I agree. I think we also need to consider carefully whether any actual “violence” took place on the part of the protesters. By many accounts, the media has blown the so-called “riot” out of all proportion.

    I am sickened by people in the media like Andrew Bolt who jump on this and use it as an excuse to disparage the Aboriginal rights movement. Did you read his response to this event? Totally ridiculous.

    1. Yes – that’s another really good point, the media blowing the “riots” out of proportion. And the police – look at the way they even dragged off poor Ms Gillard! Manhandling, indeed.

      Haven’t read the Andrew Bolt response… Do I really want to? Thansk for pointing it out! *totters off to search and get angry*

      Edit: Ok, so I am now even more angry and disgusted than I thought I would be. Fuck you, Andrew Bolt.

  3. Great post. Agree with these comments too that the media has let this overshadow all that is great about Australia Day. The whole world now has heard about her lost shoe and that is shameful.

  4. I agree with everyone’s comments. The violence, in the end, has been negative for all parties…except for the man who started it all, Mr Tony Abbott! Grrr. The stupid comments Chris Pine was making about the protest being a set up by Labor just shows you how quickly things shifted focus.

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