The racism sweeping the nation

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The death of 15-year-old Cassius Turvey has highlighted, once again, this nation’s persistent racism

Rallies are taking place across the country tonight for Cassius Turvey, the 15-year-old Noongar-Yamatji boy who was allegedly beaten to death with a metal pole on his way home from school. The importance of rallies, said Channel 10 journalist and Whadjuk-Noongar wife Narelda Jacobs cannot be overstated. “Across the country, we feel this so deeply,” she said, her voice cracking. “We want to end the alleged racism that allegedly murdered Cassius, and we need all of our allies to stand up.” Writing in the Nine Diaries this morning, journalist and wife Gamilaroi Brooke Boney’s pain was palpable. “What am I really supposed to say in this situation?” she wrote, wondering how many more editorials it would take. “I cannot continue to beg other Australians to recognize our humanity and our suffering. It is unworthy. It hurts as much as original sin. Indeed, how many more opinion pieces and how many horrifying stories will it take for Australia to properly address its problem of racism, and more specifically its problem with Indigenous peoples?

A lot, it seems. You don’t have to look far in today’s media to remember how bigoted this country still is. ABC sportscaster Tony Armstrong caught on Twitter last night to denounce a racist screed he received in his work email – in response to his powerful criticism of Gina Rinehart’s failure to distance herself from her father’s comments. “This shit needs to stop,” Armstrong tweeted of the email. “One thing is certain though, it’s not guna stopping us.” Details of the ‘disturbing behaviour’ of NT Constable Zachary Rolfe, who is being investigated in the death of 19-year-old Kumanjayi Walker, continue to emerge. And ‘Amy’ – the former partner of an Aboriginal player at Hawthorn Football Club, who alleged the club forced her partner to leave her and tell her to have an abortion – says she will not take part in the AFL investigation, citing concerns about its lack of independence and respect for First Nations participants. Coaches implicated in the scandal have already returned to their posts, its statement noted, with “the scene…ready to discredit the findings of the Hawthorn cultural safety review and dismiss or minimize testimony from First Nations players.” and their families”.

What to do with all this? There are many facets to our nation’s problem of racism, an issue that writers like Boney are tired of having to expose over and over and over again. But there is a clear measure on the table, as lawyer and First Nations activist Noel Pearson said during the ABC Boyer conference last week. (The 29-minute address, which the Prime Minister implored people to watch today, is available on iview.) ‘Racism will diminish in this country when we succeed with recognition,’ Pearson said, calling on Australians to vote “Yes” for an Indigenous person. voice in parliament. “It will not have the same hold on us: neither on the majority party which has failed it for two centuries, nor on the minority which lives it, fears it and which too often succumbs to fear itself.”

A vote in parliament will not solve all our problems. But it would be a healing step in the right direction, as would a campaign supported by all major party leaders. Unfortunately, the Coalition continues to play politics on that one, with Opposition Leader Peter Dutton still refusing to say where it will land, and instead using the week of Cassius’ death to seek a royal commission into the sexual abuse of indigenous children. (The top First Nations children’s organization, National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care, called him Monday, saying the evidence doesn’t support Dutton’s claims.) “We already know what the answers are,” said Professor Marcia Langton on 7:30 a.m.. “There is no need for the political division and sensationalism that Peter Dutton [is] try to reach here.

Indeed, we know at least some of the answers: First Nations Australians have been raising many of these same points for years and years. It is high time for Australian settlers to start listening, to start respecting the calls for a voice, for justice, for recognition of their humanity, before another child is murdered in broad daylight.

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