- The Guardian
- Issue #2071
“Port Adelaide for Yes” meeting, showing Uncle Mickey O’Brien with his long black cord of Australian history.
Unionists and Yes supporters gathered in the historic Waterside Workers Hall in Port Adelaide on Thursday, 7th September to show their solidarity with First Nations Australians in their endeavours to gain recognition in the Australian Constitution and a meaningful say in their affairs through a Voice to Parliament.
Kaurna elder, Michael Kumatpi Marrutya O’Brien, or ‘Uncle Mickey,’ in his welcome to country, called upon the “spirit people” of the “place of sleep,” Port Adelaide, to provide a connection to country whereby giving and sharing, a system of reciprocity, fundamental to First Nations cultures, would bring well-being to all.
The co-chair of the meeting and SA Unions secretary emphasised how the union movement was organised to support the Yes vote because of the unions’ progressive agenda for people to thrive, not simply survive. It was also stressed that South Australia could well be a determining state in the referendum.
The first speaker from the First Nations panel, Kirstie Parker, one of only three Aboriginal people who have been on the National Press Council, made clear that the aspirational Uluru statement was a brief 430 words of hope for “closing the gap” on the prevailing catastrophic outcomes for First Nations people on most of the “closing the gap” indicators. A strategic advisor, Kristie lamented, that, only 10 per cent of Australians have bothered to read the Uluru Statement from the Heart and that the No case, was shrill and shameful, and offered no hope and no heart, merely supporting those already wielding overwhelming political power.
Teacher,scholar and artist, Dr Ali Gumillya Baker of the Unbound Collective, reflected on the violent history of South Australia’s west coast where Nungas were shot if they dared enter any white areas and described how Adelaide alarmingly became the macabre capital of physical anthropology, as a source of Aboriginal body parts.
Still today in Australia, Ali explained that there remains a lack of historical knowledge about Australia’s lingering inhumane colonial system, notorious for its removal and jailing of First Nations children, accompanied by general over-surveillance of First Nations people, as Professor Tom Karma has reported, along with theft of land and unpaid labour, issues that still remain unaddressed.
The next speaker, the tireless Indigenous Yes vote campaigner, Thomas Mayo, marvelled at the heartfelt testimony of the two previous speakers, wondering how a voice could be denied to “the longest continuing culture on earth,” whose people have staunchly defended the uniqueness of their heritage despite genocidal attacks and cultural neglect, bearing in mind that their most recent voice, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission, was so abruptly silenced. Thomas emphasised that that the Voice was not merely about politics but more about justice and moving forward in creating a stronger Australia. Mayo, in expressing his deep gratitude to the mighty union movement for their support, welcomed Amar Singh to the meeting as the founder of “Turbans for Australia.” Amar is touring Australia in a special bus, advocating for a “Yes Vote.”
Michael O’Brien, paid tribute to his father Uncle Lewis Yarlupurka O’Brien as the oldest surviving Kaurna First Nations person, as well as to significant elders from adjoining nations, including Uncle Major ‘Moogy’ Sumner of the Ngarrindjeri nation and Uncle Kevin ‘Dookie’ O’Loughlin of the Narungga nation. In challenging the defunct concept of terra nullius, “Uncle Mickey” demonstrated in a novel but revealing way the formidable longevity of First Nations culture by means of a length of black cord which he invited an assistant to stretch to the rear of the audience. This dramatically represented how far true Australian history extended back in time and how brief the calamitous colonial period has been. Bearing in mind the remarkable achievements of First Nations people, he commented how Aboriginal people had been the first to bake bread, way before the Egyptians even!
Commitment to achieving a successful Yes vote at the forthcoming referendum was the rallying message of the meeting, with Port Adelaide definitely saying YES!