The Australian Chapter of the International League of Peoples’ Struggle marks Invasion Day 2021 with a forthright call for respect for the First Nations Peoples of Australia, for their lands and waters, for their Elders Past, Present and Emerging.
January 26 as the national holiday called “Australia Day” is a great affront to First Nations Peoples and degrades the entire Australian community for its wilful celebration of invasion and colonisation, ideas that the majority of Australian people reject.
So on this day, ILPS Australia calls for the date of the national day to be changed, we can suggest May 27, the day of the 1967 Referendum which did show overwhelming respect for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, but the date should be the outcome of a respectful discussion with First Nations Peoples.
On this day we call on all Australians to actively reach out to First Nations People in their communities to show solidarity.
This is a day to call out 24 years of repression of First Nations aspirations since the Howard government in 1996 rejected self-determination for Indigenous communities, savagely cut funding to Indigenous services, decided to undermine the newly established Native Title Act, refused to accept the report on the Stolen Generations, worked to destroy the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission, and then launched the military into the Northern Territory in the shameful 2007 “Intervention”. Labor in its six years of government did make the Apology to the Stolen Generations but did not turn around the new paternalism created under the Howard government, and the incoming Abbott government continued where Howard had left off in 2007.
ILPS Australia calls on the Australian people to affirm the historic sovereign rights of Australia’s First Nations, and calls on the Morrison government to embrace rather than resist the modest calls in the 2017 Statement from the Heart for Voice, Treaty, Truth. A referendum on the Voice is what the Convention at Uluru called for, and it should be blocked no longer.
And this should only be the first step. The ongoing “intervention” in the Northern Territory has to stop now, along with the humiliation of the BASICS Card and the more recent Cashless Welfare Card. These repressive welfare measures are a blatant return to the paternalism of the “mission” and the “reserve” when people had to get permission to spend their own money, to travel, to marry.
Just as repressive is the Community Development Program work-for-the-dole system in remote communities, which is notorious for penalising participants for very minor “breaches”. Penalties often mean no income for most of the year for most participants. We support the call of the First Nations Workers Association for the abolition of CDP and its replacement with real jobs, paying real wages as part of regional economic development plans.
The Morrison government has recently negotiated a new deal for the Closing The Gap program, which has been a phoney fiasco since the Abbott government dismantled its structures and funds in 2014. This new plan was negotiated with the peak Aboriginal and Torres Strait Services and must be honestly and fully implemented.
So let 2021 be a year that Australia made another turn away from its savage colonial origins and showed genuine respect for First Nations Peoples as part of the diverse, democratic, multicultural society that we must become if we are to endure the pandemic, address climate change and create a peaceful prosperous world which all can share.