- Stand with us to show your opposition to the threatened closure of remote Aboriginal communities by the WA State Government & Federal Australian Government
- #SOSBLAKAUSTRALIA –
Stop the Forced Closure of Aboriginal Communities
In the early hours of Black Friday, 13 March 2015, growing frustrations in the Aboriginal community had reached a pressure point. After the repeated failure of successive Government’s to honor Australia’s First Nations at the most basic of levels, the perfect storm was brewing. Compounding this, the global lurch to the right under the guise of ‘austerity’, had seemingly become a code-switch of Government to normalize racism, bigotry, oppression and genocide.
Since the appointment of Tony Abbott as Australia’s 28th Prime Minister in 2013, a cauldron of dissent has manifested across Australia generally. Labeled as “One Term Tony”, the incumbent Prime Minister is world renown for an ever growing list of contentious and inappropriate comments; in diplomacy "Look, I'm going to shirtfront Mr Putin ... you bet I am."; war mongering “We are ready to do what we must as a government and as a nation to keep our country safe.”; on Asylum Seekers "If stopping the boats means being criticised because I'm not giving information that would be of use to people smugglers, so be it"; global-warming “I am, as you know, hugely unconvinced by the so-called settled science on climate change” amongst others. Abbott’s homage to the British Monarchy returned the archaic practice of knighthood and resulted in a glorified visit to Australia by the heir apparent. His unashamed concessions for mining alongside corporate interests are rampant all the while concealing and sidestepping the clarification of his citizenship, a question remaining unanswered, which would determine whether he is indeed legal to hold office in the first place.
So it was of no real surprise that the self-appointed Minister for Women’s Interests and the self-declared Prime Minister for Indigenous Affairs would blunder his way into infamy with a denigrating remark toward Aboriginal people living on their traditional lands, which Abbott defined as a “lifestyle choice”. His remark was made on a surprise visit to a mining stronghold in Kalgoorlie, Western Australia, on the traditional lands of the Maduwangka people, now forever scarred by the “Super-pit” a viciously gorged open-cut gold mine approximately 3.6 kilometres (2.2 mi) long, 1.6 kilometres (1.0 mi) wide and 512 metres (1,680 ft) deep, symbolic of colonial prosperity and greed. The ongoing disdain toward Aboriginal people and the flippant nature of disregard toward Aboriginal culture was the kinder needed, it was the trigger needed to polarize a nation.
Abbott’s comment was in support of a position declared by the Western Australian State Premier Colin Barnett, who on 12 November 2014 announced that he would close up to 150 remote Aboriginal communities, saying the state could no longer afford to pay for essential services like power and electricity. The Premier’s comments were in response to the Federal Government’s decision to stop subsidizing these services in the middle of 2015, putting the financial responsibility on individual state governments, a statement Tony Abbott had made at the Garma Festival in 2013, well before he was voted into power.
In direct response to this, the website www.sosblakaustralia.com was set up by Sam Cook on 27 November 2014 as it was felt that this was an indicator for a bigger political strategy at play and backing Barnett’s proclamation of forced closures. It made a soft entry online and was launched via social media, calling for Aboriginal communities to register their needs and individuals to offer skills that could aid the community. This was with the view to be responsive and prepared for what was believed to be an assumption of Government that this was a fait accompli and that Aboriginal people would not fight back.
On the late evening of Thursday 12th March, this was about to change. A conversation thread began on Facebook by Darangah Nagarra Torres with Janine Dureau, Annette Kogolo and Nelson Kurni Bieundurry with the view to having a conversation around a rally or gathering event for Thursday 19th March to coincide with Australia’s Closing the Gap Day, a Government initiative that claimed to deliver sound service and results for Aboriginal participation into the broader Australian social fabric. Over the course of the evening this gained momentum as Ngigjingah Maryanne Skeen, Janella Isaac, Kelly Kitching, Jodie Bell, Kankawa Nagarra Knight, Lyn Shaw, Layangali Bieundurry, Lillian Chestnut, Jamie Davidson Darren Mitchelson, Tjapanangka Paylrntarri, Nawoola Miriwoong, Ebony Hill, Venessa Poelina, Anne Poelina, Johannah Kitching, Danny Teece Johnson and Sam Cook were added. By 2am on Friday 13 March Sam Cook had activated a social media effort as the public Facebook page ‘Stop the Forced Closure of Aboriginal Communities’ and closed organizers group was created. It was hoped that by the morning there may be close to 1,000 likes.
Seven hours later over 2,000 people had liked the page. It spoke loudly to those involved, that people did care and that Australians from all over the country were fed up with our Government. The exponential growth continued, bringing hope communities in the direct line of forced closure while binding the humanity of Australia and the world.
Five days later this action had mobilised every state and territory with 30 known community rallies of up to 30,000 people marching in the Streets. From the most remote Aboriginal Communities, small regional towns, major cities and the capital cities of Australia. Online a virtual protest raged, with international celebrity endorsement coming from Bianca Jagger, Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Talib Kweli, Michael Franti and Spearhead, Ruby Rose, The Veronicas, Zimbabwe Kid amongst others. Our Aboriginal Australian and Australian artists and sportspeople stood solid in their support with major statements made at their various events and public platforms. The artistic response started to take shape with artwork, songs, poems, writings and street art campaigns underpinning a cultural revolution.
Importantly, there has been a reconnection with the Aboriginal Rights movement and key activists in the United States, with Angela Davis, Dr Cornel West and the American Indian Movement, Turtle Island (Canada) and Aotearoa, New Zealand, with a powerful outpouring of support from all levels of Maori Iwi (people), who are strong in their public stance. This is of historical significance as there is over 70 years of deep links forged between our civil rights and black rights movements. In the 21st Century this is now being redefined, re-awakened and garnering further strength.
In 30 days, ‘SOS BLAK AUSTRALIA, Stop the Forced Closures of Aboriginal Communities’ created a social media platform larger in population than that of the 26th largest city in Australia with a reach almost the size of 4th Capital City in Australia, which ironically, is the City of Perth, Western Australia, the capital of the State most under threat. These figures grow in the hundreds daily. Our reach extends beyond 12 million. These figures are already outdated in the time it has taken to write this.
At the back end, the plan goes far beyond calls to action and successive Governments or Prime Ministers, inclusive of the 29th Prime Minister of Australia, Malcolm Turnbull, who has remained silent and not undone any of the activity of Abbott in relation to Aboriginal Communities. What has been sitting at the heart of SOSBLAKAUSTRALIA is a humanitarian effort we are aiming to drive alongside the communities. It is our plan to get rid of the rhetoric around viability by replacing the flailing infrastructure and making all our communities sustainable through alternative power, water, waste solutions as well as repair years of neglected infrastructure. This is in line with our Sovereignty and we have individuals in the community already looking to the potential to take out a class action on behalf of our Aboriginal Nations against the State and Federal Government.
Our communities have issued a vote of no confidence in both State and Federal Governments and we are all aware that this is an epoch of upheaval as the ongoing attack by the incumbent Government has de-funded significant organisations who are the lifeblood for our people. It quite literally is genocide unfolding.
Yet we remain firm in our resolve and strong in our commitment to continue for as long as it takes to shift this supremacy regime off the backs of our people. We will stand against the great land grab for our mineral rich country that sit behind the influence of Government in their attempts to remove Aboriginal people from their traditional homelands. We shall overcome.