CW: Death, abuse and police brutality. Indigenous Australians are advised that this story mentions Aboriginal people who have passed away.
On the 26th of May, 46-year-old African-American man George Floyd was killed by Minneapolis police while under arrest. Officer Derek Chauvin pressed his knee against his neck for more than eight minutes, cutting off Floyd’s oxygen. During these eight minutes, Floyd told the officer “I can’t breathe,” “I’m going to die.” His fellow officers—Thomas Lane, J.A. Keung and Tou Thoa—stood by and watched. He passed out and died later at hospital. Floyd was not resisting arrest.
George Floyd’s death has sparked protests around the U.S. that, at the time of publishing, are on their sixth consecutive day. U.S. President Donald Trump has responded to these peaceful protests by deploying the National Guard, making threats against his own people and hiding in a bunker. People are crying out for justice and for the reforming of injust and prejudiced systems, including legal, judiciary and societal. But, for those of us here in Australia, we can’t pretend that this is an issue isolated to the U.S. In fact, it has further raised awareness of our own country’s history and relationship with systemic racism and police brutality.
Here’s everything you need to know about our country’s disgraceful history towards First Nations people and and what you can do to help.
What you need to know about Australia’s shameful history towards First Nations communities
Systemic racism towards Indigenous people is, shamefully, built into the foundation of our nation’s history. In 1770, Captain Cook invaded and colonised the Gweagal people’s land in Kurnell, New South Wales.
What followed was further violence and horror for First Nations people, as the federal government forcibly removed Indigenous children from their homes and placed them in white Australian families, churches and institutions, all under the guise of the children’s ‘protection’. This was called the Stolen Generation.
In 1969, all states abolished the right to remove Indigenous children from their homes, but the damage to the communities and children taken could not be salvaged, and the ramifications of this period have carried on for generations. It wasn’t until the 26th May, 2008, in what’s called Sorry Day, that the government publicly and formally apologised to the First Nations communities for taking away their children. But, the country’s atonement for the Stolen Generation requires more than just an apology.
Since 1991, over 400 Indigenous Australians have died by police hands. In 2015, David Dungay Jr., who was just three weeks from release and who suffered from schizophrenia, was restrained and sedated by six police officers after he refused to stop eating a packet of biscuits. While being held down, Dungay told the officers he couldn’t breathe. Twelve. Times. If he was white, this would not have happened.
Indigenous people make up only two percent of the population but make up 27 percent of prison population. Indigenous people are 12 times more likely to be incarcerated than non-Indigenous people. They are targeted by the police while the rest of us go untouched. Earlier this week, footage emerged of a NSW police officer kicking and pinning an Aboriginal teen on the ground. In response, NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller said that the officer in question was merely “having a bad day.”
What can you do to help and get justice for Indigenous people?
For the Dungay’s family, the recent footage of Floyd’s death has brought back traumatic Dungay’s death and encouraged us all to support Indigenous Australians and protest against the unfair treatment towards First Nations people.
If hearing about this makes you angry (and it should), know that there are a few things you can do right now to help.
Educate yourself and stay informed
The easiest thing you can do right now is educate yourself on the history of Australia’s treatment of Indigenous Australians, reconciliation and Indigenous culture and history.
Following Indigenous social media accounts and publications, like IndigenousX, BlakBusiness, NITV and ABCIndigenous, as well as community groups like Sisters Inside Inc. and Warriors of the Aboriginal Resistance, is a good place to begin with your own education. Remember to stay informed and educate yourself and listen to Indigenous voices.
If you want some reading, we recommend Kevin Gilbert’s Because A White Man’ll Never Do It, Bruce Pascoe’s Dark Emu, Sarah Maddison’s Black Politics: Inside the Complexity of Aboriginal Political Culture, Ibram X. Kendi’s How To Be An Antiracist and Robin Diangelo’s White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism.
For an understanding of what it means to be Indigenous in Australia and the impact of the government’s atrocious policies have had on the lives, culture and history of Indigenous people, we recommend watching Rabbit-Proof Fence, Sweet Country, In My Blood It Runs and Utopia.
If you can, we encourage you to donate to First Nations organisations and charities.
The Healing Foundation is an Indigenous organisation that works closely with communities to work through ongoing trauma from events like the Stolen Generation and intergenerational trauma. The Australian for Native Title and Recognition (ANTaR), an independent and national network that works with Indigenous communities on reconciliation rights.
From there, you can also donate towards The Human Rights Law Centre, an independent not-for-profit organisation designed to provide strategic legal action and policy solutions and engage with communities to combat inequality and injustice in Australia. They partner with First Nations peoples to promote their rights, as well as promote the rights of people seeking asylum and refugees, women’s reproductive health rights, democratic freedoms and ensure that prisons, youth justice centres and prison cells comply with human rights. See also: the National Justice Project.
You can also help fund a campaign to get justice for David Dungay Jr. (while you’re at it, why not sign this petition helping his family call for justice?), or donate to Black Rainbow, an organisation for LGBTQIA+ Indigenous people.
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Go to the original video on tiktok (link in reply) for more information. This is all the relevant event info for protests that are happening near you. — #aboriginal #torresstraitislander #indigenous #australia #deathsincustody #blacklivesmatter #blackvoicesheard #policebrutality #georgefloyd #icantbreathe #saytheirname #riseup #acab #daviddungay #oppression #racism
If you can’t afford to donate right now, know that that’s okay. Signal boosting Indigenous voices and movements and sharing information is free and helps the movement, too. Just make sure you aren’t co-opting it for your own gain.
There’s also a bunch of “Stream to Donate” YouTube videos, which claim that one hundred percent of all ad revenue goes towards donations for black American organisations, bail funds and support networks. While there’s currently no version of it for Indigenous Australians, it’s a nice initiative that we hope carries over here.
For reference, if you do want to support black Americans from Australia right now and can’t afford to donate, remember to turn adblock off, put the video on mute and let the ads play in full. According to Syrup‘s resident K-pop correspondent, when the video is finished, you’ll want to click on five random videos and “watch” them before replaying, otherwise YouTube doesn’t count your replay as a new view which limits video owner’s ad revenue.
If you can, we also strongly encourage you to join team Syrup and protest. Rioting and protests have a historic role in creating social change. The first MardiGras parade in 1978 was a protest against the criminalisation of homosexuality in Australia. The Indigenous civil rights movement came after 15 years of campaigning and protests.
If you are interested in protesting this weekend, we have a guide on where and when to protest in Australia below.https://www.instagram.com/p/CBCnf3olDWz/
If you are protesting, remember to take caution. FYI, we’re still in an international pandemic right now and should be maintaining appropriate social distancing measures, wearing face masks and washing our hands thoroughly.https://www.instagram.com/p/CA9eTtXHNtK/
It’s strongly discouraged to take photos of other protestors without their permission, at risk of identifying them, and always be cautious of taking up space of First Nations people. As non-Indigenous Australians, it is not our place to talk over them or for them, but we can be there and show support and be respectful doing so.