Saturday, January 17, 2015

Aboriginal activists plan national convergence for freedom

Aboriginal people and their supporters are converging in Canberra from all over Australia for the Invasion Day weekend. The weekend will feature a ``sit-in'' that is expected to release an historic Declaration of Independence reaffirming Aboriginal sovereignty in this country.

Plans for the convergence were made at the Freedom Summit held in Alice Springs in November. The summit reportedly involved 250 people who released a communique and appointed a delegation of twenty Aboriginal leaders from around the country to prepare the January mobilisation.

A program of activities has been organised including the "Last Day of Freedom" on January 25, a national day of mourning for Invasion Day itself. The "First Day of Resistance" on January 27 will begin a the month long sit in.

One special action will take place on February 13 as Grandmothers Against Removals organise a protest against the forced removals of Aboriginal children by child welfare services. The rate of removals of Aboriginal children has increased since the Bringing Them Home report was first published.

In addition to the ongoing stolen generations, the Freedom Summit Communique lists: historic and growing rates of incarceration; a suicide epidemic; and the growing death rate from preventable diseases as reasons that Aboriginal people need to mobilise.

Special focus is made on the shameful decision to close Aboriginal communities in Western Australia and South Australia. "Oombulgurri in WA has already been bulldozed" the Communique reads describing this as "an act of aggression in an open genocidal process, on top of the continuing apartheid and land clearances through the Northern Territory Intervention."

The Communique also highlights the fact that sovereignty has never been ceded by Aboriginal people in this country and identifies "mass action in the streets" as the means to win justice.

"We're not taking shit from the government any more," Gumbaynggirr man Roxley Foley told the National Indigenous Radio Service when explaining the reasons for the Sit In. "We're standing on our own two feet and we're making decisions for ourselves."

"The government better be afraid because we're coming for them."

Similarly, Freedom Movement spokesperson Tauro Sansbury says "We can wait no longer to reclaim the Aboriginal rights struggle, to reclaim the Aboriginal voice. Our old people have waited their whole lives and have had their expectations betrayed... Our people are dying far too young – in unprecedented numbers and rates."

Activists around the country have been mobilising for the summit including preparation activities in Perth, Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide.

The Nyoongar Tent Embassy in Perth has organised an energetic series of fundraisers – including a quiz night, hip hop and other performance nights – to raise funds to send people on buses to Canberra.

The bus from Perth departs January 20.

[This article by Alex Bainbridge and Seamus Doherty was written for Green Left Weekly #1038.]