Important messages for International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples

7 AUGUST 2020

Important messages for International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples

Two leading Charles Sturt University Indigenous academics offer important messages for International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples on Sunday 9 August.

Charles Sturt University Pro Vice-Chancellor of Indigenous Engagement, Professor Juanita Sherwood, says  ‘Black Lives Matter’ is a vital message, and Associate Professor Faye McMillan, Director of the University’s Djirruwang program, reminds us resilience is not something new to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Professor Sherwood said it is vitally important to acknowledge the movement ‘Black Lives Matter’ when celebrating International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples 2020 on Sunday 9 August.

“The Black Lives Matter movement has internationally raised awareness of the plight of Black Americans’ war with white American supremacy, and institutional racism,” she said.

“It was and is the unchecked racism in western law and justice systems that caused the dehumanising death of Mr George Floyd, and protests around the world have acknowledged the death of Mr Floyd, and many others, as an ongoing travesty.

“In Australia, we also acknowledge the death of George Floyd, along with some 450 deaths of First Nations Australians in the hands of the western law authorities.

“This alarming murder recorded on a phone, brought back post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) whiplash memories for many Indigenous Australians.

“We watched George Floyd being killed by a white police officer in 8 minutes and 46 seconds and we immediately were there.

“This same story is happening here in Australia; just in the last five months we have lost five of our people in the western justice system.

“We remembered, David Dungay killed by five corrections officers, TJ Hickey killed by police, and so, so many others.

“What do we want to celebrate on this special day? We need our voices heard. We need equitable justice.

“Our protests are important, more so than a football match that is able to proceed without legal ambushing, unlike the Black Lives Matter protests.

“Black Lives Matter is a vital message to celebrate on this day.”

Professor McMillan noted that Sunday 9 August marks a significant day that commemorates the 1982 meeting of the UN Working Group on Indigenous Populations, with this year’s theme being  ‘COVID-19 and indigenous peoples’ resilience’.

“Resilience is not something new to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples,” Professor McMillan said

“Resilience is much more than a state of mind. I It is the actions and intentionality of our deeds that demonstrates continuity of culture and our enduring sovereignty.

“Looking inwardly within Australia since the last International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples in 2019, many of our Nations have experienced drought, bush fires, COVID-19 and continued racism within our communities.

“While recognition of Indigenous Peoples globally is essential to the ongoing fight against injustices, it is not enough that this is but one day each year.”

Professor McMillan said the significant contribution of Indigenous knowledge should not be underestimated.

“As the world finds itself in unprecedented times, the knowledge of Indigenous Leaders is being harnessed to re-think the ways of the future,” she said.

“Like our ancestors before us, we will continue to call out injustices, racism, and lead with kindness, dignity and generosity to ensure that the world we leave for future generations is one that honours the spirit of ‘yindyamarra winhanganha’ - ‘The wisdom of respectfully knowing how to live well in a world worth living in’,” she said.

“However, as was once said, “Don’t mistake my silence for ignorance, don’t mistake my calmness for acceptance, and don’t mistake my kindness for weakness” (unknown); we are the oldest surviving culture in the world!”

Media Note:

To arrange interviews with Professor Juanita Sherwood and Associate Professor Faye McMillan contact Bruce Andrews at Charles Sturt Media on mobile 0418 669 362 or news@csu.edu.au

Photo: Wiradyuri Elders at Charles Sturt University in Bathurst: Mallyan, Yanhadarrambal, Wirribee, and  Dinawan Dyirribang

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