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Issue #1809      February 7, 2018

No peace without justice

Invasion Day 2018 – WA

Since the Fremantle City Council decided in 2017 not to hold Australia Day activities on January 26 a movement has been building around the country to Change the Date as a way of acknowledging the date as divisive and non-inclusive: Aboriginal Australians people have no reason to celebrate January 26, 1788.

On January 26 at Forrest Place in Perth a rally was organised by Deaths in Custody Watch to mark Invasion Day and propel the momentum for changing the date.

Over 500 people gathered at the early stages of the rally which started around 1:30 pm and heard from a number of speakers including Noongar elder uncle Ben Taylor. He recalled how early government authorities oppressed his people by forcing them to live in designated areas and tried to stop them speaking their language and practising their culture.

Greens Senator Jordon Steele-John spoke of the need to acknowledge that Australia has a black as well as a white history and of the need to learn about dispossession by the colonial invaders of their land as well as the resistance and war fought by the Aboriginal people to protect their land and culture. Steele-John added, “There can be no peace without justice and no justice without a treaty.” There should be no celebration of this date and there was a need instead to celebrate a shared future. Deaths In Custody Watch spokesman Mervyn Eades reminded the rally that Western Australia has the highest rates of youth incarceration in the world.

This sentiment was echoed by Dylan Voller, the Aboriginal youth featured in the ABC Four Corners program on the Don Dale Detention Centre, who said the high rates of youth incarceration were continuing in the Northern Territory and Western Australia, and youth suicide was continuing at alarming rates, especially in the Kimberley district of Western Australia. The West Australian State Coroner is expected to deliver her findings on the inquest into the Aboriginal youth suicides in the next few months.

The family of Elijah Doughty had come from Kalgoorlie to talk about their struggle with the State Director of Public Prosecutions, Amanda Forrest, to reconsider a more just prosecution of the man who had chased their son with a four-wheel drive in pursuit of a motor cycle which had been stolen and knocked Elijah from his bike and killed him. The man was convicted of a lesser charge of manslaughter and was about to be released from prison.

The family of Elijah and many people in Kalgoorlie believe justice has not been done and that the killing was racially motivated. The lack of an adequate and commensurate legal response is symptomatic of race relations in Kalgoorlie and the sorrow and despair which remain.

Noongar activist Marianne Mackay then called all people to march with them – to “walk with us on this journey” – to share our struggle for justice. So did more than 1,500 people who had gathered by then proceeded peacefully but vocally to the Supreme Court Gardens where this year’s Survival/Barak Festival took place to celebrate Aboriginal culture and life. Mackay added, “Changing the date gets the discussion going on this important issue which should give impetus on other issues affecting Aboriginal health, Closing the Gap issues and ultimately a treaty.”

One Day in Fremantle

On Sunday January 28, the City of Fremantle held its second One Day in Fremantle free public concert at The Esplanade. The numbers had increased to 17,000 from last year’s impressive 15,000 and for people who live in WA it was your typical Fremantle “alternative” crowd which was interested in celebrating Australia, one that is inclusive of Aboriginal people and their language and culture. The proceedings commenced with traditional Noongar dancers and a welcome to country followed by the Djuki Mala dancers from Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory.

Djuki Mala were followed by Danzel Baker Boy, 20-year-old Yolngu hip hop artist also from Arnhem Land and a sometimes member of Djuki Mala, who gave a professional and vibrant performance of his rapping and hip hop style music. Baker Boy played the two songs – Marryuna at number 17 and Cloud 9 at number 76, which had made the Triple J Hot 100 – now played on a day other than Australia Day. The appreciative crowd were also privileged to hear an extended hip hop version of the Yothu Yindi anthem, “Treaty”.

The concert continued with the outstanding vocal and musical talents of Kate Miller-Heidke who said she was honoured to be asked to perform at the concert and played her hits; “Caught in the Crowd”, “Make it last”, “You’ve underestimated” and “O Vertigo” the latter which dazzled the audience with her fine operatic style.

The mayor of Fremantle Dr Brad Pettit was also on stage earlier to assure the crowd that the celebration of what it means to be truly Australian would be back again next year.

The Communist Party of Australia joins in the chorus around the country calling for the date to be changed as a step toward a more inclusive Australia that celebrates a shared future.

Next article – Dingo

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