MEDIA RELEASE SEPTEMBER 25, 2001
A Gungalidda grassroots perspective on refugees
and the recent events in the US
1. Not all Aboriginal people agree with
the views on asylum-seekers expressed by ATSIC bureaucrat Marion
Hansen (C/T, 22/9/01). I wonder if working for the Government has
affected her views. People working for the Government have a job
to do, but maybe she is just saying what the government wants to
hear. Maybe she is talking about the views of those Aboriginal people
who have believed the myths the government has put out about the
2. But we know that what the Government says about Aboriginal Peoples
is wrong, so we are not going to believe similar statements like
"the asylum seekers will take Australian's jobs." These
are just myths to turn the public against refugees in the same way
that public sentiment has been whipped up against Aboriginal people
and their rights.
If we as Aboriginal people are true to our culture and spiritual
beliefs, we should be telling the government that what they are
doing to refugees is wrong! Our Aboriginal cultures do not allow
us to treat people this way.
3. I am a grassroots Gungalidda Elder and I happened to be up in
the Gulf of Carpentaria attending a funeral when it came over the
radio that the Tampa people had arrived at Christmas Island. It
was very disturbing to hear what was happening to those refugees.
All of us old people were so sad about the refugees on the Tampa.
We have our own issues to deal with but the refugees are fleeing
hunger, deprivation, persecution and war. And now they are caught
up in a situation with the Australian Government in which they are
4. The refugees were coming here, to OUR country, which we as Aboriginal
people have a spiritual connection to. Our culture teaches us that
we are all connected, to the land and to everybody else. Our Spirit
Creator and our ancient law and culture would not stand for how
these refugees are being treated. But no-one will listen to us.
(Except the Greens. They realise what's happening to this land.)
5. So it saddens me when I hear any Aboriginal person stand up and
talk about money before human need. Ms Hansen is talking about the
"money side" of the asylum seekers arriving, but my Gungalidda
people were talking about the human side. We should be talking about
human need first and realise we have a roof over our heads, we know
where food's coming from. Those people were out on the water. The
old women where I come from said "Look at this big river, where
we're fishing, look at this big land."
There's room for all of us, if we learn to live simply, within our
country's means. This land is crying out for us to stop being so
materialistic. We should be learning our lesson. Cutting down on
the way we live, saving the land and embracing others in need. Giving
them refuge. This is a spiritual country and we are a spiritual
people, we are ready to embrace other people in their need. We should
only be using the things we need to survive, and not keeping everything
for ourselves, and living well at other people's expense.
6. Before Europeans came here, (illegally), in the Aboriginal world,
we were all different, speaking different languages, but we all
had the same kinship system for all human beings, in a spiritual
way. Our religion and cultural beliefs teaches us that everyone
is a part of us and we should care about them. We can't separate
ourselves from other human beings - it's a duty.
7. The first thing we have to stand by is our belief of caring for
each other. People can come here, if they respect our land, and
treat our land as it should be treated. And if they don't interfere
with us, and if they respect our differences, because we've been
interfered with enough!
8. I am appalled that even as I write this, laws are being made
in theParliament, to keep refugees away from this land. I always
wanted to believe that the majority of people in Australia weren't
racist, but the polls supporting John Howard's actions against the
refugees have showed me that I was sadly mistaken. John Howard's
popularity jumped, but I can see that he is doing to the refugees
the same things that have been done to
Aboriginal Peoples. I can identify with what is happening to the
refugees, especially to the Moslems.
9. As a black woman I recognise the racism and arrogance that is
projected against the refugees - because that same racism and arrogance
has been directed against us for over 200 years. We know what it's
like to suffer religious persecution, because we have not had freedom
since we were invaded.
10. I believe we are all from the human race and we should take
heed of the great evil that happened in New York and Washington
and let it be a global warning to all of us. I see the hungry children
of the Middle East and Africa (and the people dying of preventable
and treatable diseases), on television; they are starving, living
in 3rd and 4th world conditions, sick and dying slowly. There is
little difference between sudden death (even
though I don't condone what happened at the WTC for a minute) and
the slow deaths of the children of Afghanistan, Iraq and other poor
countries. In fact, if anything, a sudden death is a kinder death
than living a life of hell on earth, and wondering when the powerful
of the world will recognise the humanity of those suffering people.
11. Many nations live on this planet, some have enormous might and
others feel powerless in the face of that might. But the wealthy
countries like the US, the UK and Australia, they became rich in
the first place from either taking someone else's country, or from
what they took from the poor countries, and now they have to take
stock. Instead of being just all out for themselves, and causing
so much suffering in the world, they need to be honest and admit
what they are doing to other human beings. Then we can turn this
great evil into something good.
12. I see this as an Elder from the Gungalidda Nation. The wealthy
countries have to start respecting everybody, even if they are different
and start treating everybody as a human being. This journey, from
the cradle to the grave is too short not to embrace other people
in need. We shouldn't be turning people away, on the high seas,
putting their lives in danger and the lives of their children. We
should feel ashamed at what has happened to those refugees. They
came from war-torn countries, and had to flee through no fault of
their own. They are different to us, with different languages, different
religions and different cultures. But they should be accepted as
equally important to us because they are human beings.
13. And Bush, he is a loose cannon. Australia is a little country
mindlessly playing "follow the leader". If we follow the
US we will destroy ourselves as surely as the US is destroying itself.
Bush thinks he can reach to the sky with his missiles but he can't
even see hungry children right in front of his eyes. He is disconnected
to other people's suffering.
14. Remember, Bush is the world "leader" who had the arrogance
to refuse to sign the Kyoto protocol. He said he was going to put
the US economy before the global environment. But his words are
the words of a fool, because if he destroys the planet, where is
he going to get jobs for the people of the US?
15. What will happen to the economy of the US then? And remember,
the US recently walked out of the UN World Conference Against Racism
and refused to listen to any criticism of US foreign policies.
16. In regards to the people who did the bombing in the US, we have
to think about what could have made them so angry and desperate.
Desperate people can be driven to desperate acts when they are not
treated equally and their needs are not taken into consideration
by the wealthy countries of the world.
17. I can understand their feelings because Aboriginal Peoples have
never been accepted in this land, even though it is OUR land. We
have never been treated as equals. I will finish by reminding everyone
that this is not John Howard's country, it has been stolen. It was
taken over by the first fleet of illegal boat people. We need to
remind the world that the Aboriginal people who have stayed true
to themselves, to their land and to their spiritual beliefs do not
have the same views about refugees, about the US or about a war
of retribution that John Howard does.
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