- The Guardian
- Issue #2037
The Communist Party of Australia acknowledges the traditional owners and custodians of the land throughout Australia. We acknowledge that this is Aboriginal land, always was, always will be. We pay our respects to elders past, present and emerging. We acknowledge the ongoing strength of Aboriginal people in sustaining the world’s oldest living culture.
The 26th January marks 235 years since British military forces invaded Gadigal land. Sir Arthur Phillip raised the British flag at Warrane (Sydney Cove) and claimed the land as a British colony. This day marks the beginning of the long and brutal colonisation of the Aboriginal people and their land.
From this day in 1788 onwards, Aboriginal people suffered massacres, land theft, stolen children and widespread oppression and discrimination at the hands of the colonising forces.
The effects of colonisation still exist today, and the legacy of racism plays out in every aspect of Australian society.
Since the beginning of colonisation in 1788, Aboriginal people have resisted in many ways to protect their people, land, and culture.
Pemulwuy, a Bidjigal man led a courageous guerrilla war against the British settlement at Sydney Cove from 1788 through to 1802.
In Tasmania, the ‘Black War’ continued for over a decade and martial law was declared from 1828-1832 (Ryan, 2012).
Guerrilla resistance continued into the 1890s, most notably by the Kalkadoon warriors of north-central Queensland and the Bunuba people, led by Jandamarra’s warriors, in the Kimberley region in north-west Australia
In south-west Victoria, the people were known as the ‘Fighting Gunditjmara’ in the 1800s because of their strong resistance.
Resistance has been expressed through the continued will of Aboriginal people to survive and maintain connections to land and to culture and communities.
Organisations have been formed to fight for human, cultural and land rights for Aboriginal people. They include the Australian Aboriginal Progress Association founded in 1925, Aborigines Progressive Organisation founded in 1937, Aborigines Advancement League founded in 1957 and the Federal Council for the Advancement of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders founded in 1958.
There have been many rallies and protests and these continue today. Some important examples include the rallies during the Bicentenary in 1988 and the more recent Black Lives Matter demonstrations.
On 26th January 1938, on the 150th anniversary of Arthur Phillip’s arrival, Yorta Yorta man William Cooper and other members of the Aboriginal Progressive Association held a Day of Mourning and Protest.
The protest took place in Sydney with over 1,000 Aboriginal people and their supporters forming a silent march through the streets. Since then the size of the protests has grown and in 2020, over 100,000 people demonstrated.
While Aboriginal people have faced violence, loss, discrimination and racism, their long resistance shows their strength, courage and resilience.
The latest data confirms the worsening situation for Aboriginal people’s education, removals from families, incarceration, and suicide rates.
Aboriginal children are 10 times more likely to be removed than other children. Indigenous children are 49 per cent of the population in juvenile detention centres, although they comprise only 5.8 per cent of all young people aged 10–17.
The imprisonment rate for Aboriginal people in the September 2022 quarter was 2,354 persons per 100,000 adults, compared with 202 persons per 100,000 adults for the whole population.
There have been 516 Aboriginal deaths in custody since the 1991 Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody.
Attacks on First Nations’ land and sea rights by mining and other corporate interests are relentless. Multinational mining companies are aggressively fighting First Nations communities to push ahead with mega fossil fuel projects, with the support of Labor and Coalition governments.
The key to the recognition of the rights of the Aboriginal people remains land rights. These are rights which must be restored; they are not gifts to be bestowed by the dominant society.
Land rights mean recognition of prior Indigenous ownership of the entire Australian continent. There must be legislation to return land to its traditional owners on the basis of traditional ownership, cultural association, long occupancy, connections and need. Aboriginal land title must include full rights to minerals and other natural resources as well as to all sacred sites, heritage areas and areas of traditional significance.
The campaign for land rights is more than an issue of civil rights. It contains a significant revolutionary aspect, the demand for the return to collective ownership of part of the basic means of production. Private ownership for private profit would no longer be the only way things are done.
This is an immediate threat to major corporations which are intent on owning or leasing all the resources of this country in order to make the most profit possible.
Corporate greed for profits is also challenged as Aboriginal communities and their allies fight environmentally damaging resource exploitation.
Act in solidarity with the Aboriginal people on 26th January.
See What’s On for details of events.