Newly returned from his refreshing family holiday, prime minister Scott Morrison has wasted no time in re-confirming he still fails to understand the ongoing racial discrimination and contempt that Indigenous people face in Australia. Despite multi-city protests that swell in numbers each year, increasing calls to change the date and even some corporate sensitivity to the issue of Invasion (Australia) Day, Morrison remains obstinate in his insensitive, harmful and tone-deaf comments.
Speaking to the press this morning, Morrison intoned that the 26th of January 1788 “wasn’t a particularly flash day” for those travelling to Australia on the first fleet. Surely a former marketing manager could come up with something better than a sentiment of: we should be sad for the colonists who wreaked devastating, irreparable and permanent damage on a 60,000-year-old culture because they probably had a bad boat ride.
The comments arrived off the back of Morrison’s displeasure that Cricket Australia was making changes to create a more “safe and inclusive environment for everybody,” during the upcoming Big Bash League games. These include removing references to “Australia Day”, and three BBL clubs wearing Indigenous jerseys. Morrison took issue, saying to radio 4RO, “I think a bit more focus on cricket, and a little less focus on politics would be my message to Cricket Australia.” He continued: “I think that’s pretty ordinary—that’s what they’re putting on their press releases—that would be my view.”
The legitimacy of the majority of Australia’s population is predicated on ignoring the existence of the original Indigenous people of this land, or at least those violent initial colonial interactions. It’s based on the forgetting of history and the ongoing denial of Indigenous Australian’s land rights.
This is the history that Morrison is dismissing as a bit of a bad day. As opposed to, say, two hundred years of colonial violence. It’s based on the forgetting of history and the ongoing denial of Indigenous people’s land rights. Morrison either knows this and continues, over and over again to ignore the facts, or he is genuinely myopic and keen to continue to perpetuate racist rhetoric. Indigenous people in Australia are the most incarcerated in the world despite making up only three percent of Australia’s population, Indigenous suicide rates are twice as high as non-Indigenous people, Indigenous children are aggressively strip searched, abused and denied culturally sensitive treatment by the police, court systems and social services.
It begs the question: what exactly does Morrison mean when he says that January 26 is “all about acknowledging how far we’ve come.” Have we actually come that far? Where is the empowering and funding of Indigenous organisations to run autonomously? Because we certainly didn’t see it in the most recent budget. When will we begin listening to Indigenous elders and sustainability experts about how to manage bushfire dangers? Are we actually examining and actively working to change the systemic racism across Australian media, politics and law?
What we actually have seen is a greater increase in public awareness around the issues Indigenous people face, especially in the wake of the ongoing Black Lives Matter and Indigenous Lives Matter movements. It would be nice if the rhetoric Australia’s leader espoused actually reflected this.