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Speech: Black Lives Matter Protests

I proudly attended the Black Lives Matter rally in Sydney on unceded Gadigal land on Saturday 6 June. I attended the rally to show solidarity with the families of David Dungay Jr, George Floyd, and every black or Indigenous person who has died in custody. In wake of the huge rallies in the United States following the killing of George Floyd, Indigenous people in Australia asked us for support from across the community to call for justice for First Nations people and no more Aboriginal deaths in custody.

Some people in this chamber, and in the other place, have said that the protesters were selfish and reckless. My response to them is this: there's no doubt that COVID-19 is dangerous, but so is systemic racism. We are potentially at a real historical turning point, a global historical turning point, where this could change. We simply can't waste it. What you should really be asking is: 'What has pushed people to the point that tens of thousands of people across the country came out to protest in a pandemic?'

They are sick and tired of the injustices, the violence and the deaths in custody of Aboriginal people—the fact that it still goes on more than 200 years after invasion and after report after report on how to stop it, and yet action hasn't been taken.

Well, enough is enough! Racism is killing people and I won't stand by. At least 437 Aboriginal people have died in custody since the 1991 royal commission and not a single person has been found criminally responsible. Now is the moment to stop this. State violence against Indigenous people didn't end with the apology and it didn't end with the royal commission. To this day, the royal commission recommendations haven't been anywhere near fully implemented. Those over there stand there and try to shame the protesters. Well, shame on you! Where is the rage against the system that excludes, punishes and kills Indigenous people? This country is home to one of the most incarcerated minorities in the world. Indigenous life expectancy alone should make you hang your heads in shame! As we marched for justice, a 40-year-old Indigenous man died in custody in WA. Where is your rage when it matters? Black lives matter; Indigenous lives matter.

I wore a mask throughout the rally and I kept my distance from others. I participated in the safest way possible, as did most people. During this sitting fortnight, I will of course continue to practice the rigorous social distancing which is expected of all us. And, like anyone else, if I experience any symptoms of COVID-19 I will follow the health advice given by the Deputy CMO to get tested and self isolate.

I have to say that I'm really angry at the way members of the government have sought to shame my and Senator Rice's attendance. They have done nothing to stop institutional systemic violence, disadvantage and racism, and now they want us to explain why we want to do something about it? Stop trying to divert attention from the real issue of Aboriginal deaths in custody! Implement the recommendations of the royal commission and commit to antiracism. As Meyne Wyatt said so simply yet so powerfully on Q+A earlier this week, 'Silence is violence. Complacency is complicity.' And black deaths in custody? That shit needs to stop. It does need to stop, and the time is now!


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