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Lidia Thorpe calls for referendum to be abandoned during National Press Club address

Jess Whaler -

On Wednesday, Independent Senator Lidia Thorpe delivered a compelling speech at the National Press Club in Canberra, inviting all Australians to look through the lens of First Nations Peoples.

Senator Thorpe, who is strongly opposed to the Voice to Parliament, proposed the referendum be called off, expressing that it simply does not go far enough.

During her speech she took listeners through the history of the Frontier Wars, saying ”It was a sport to shoot blacks, a sport to shoot blacks, my people.”

She further expressed the Frontier Wars have never ended.

“Same war, different weapons, the same domination of First Peoples for access to our land and resources," Ms Thorpe said.

”Our people are still rounded up and locked into cages at the highest rates in the entire world.”

Senator Thorpe is a loud, proud advocate for sovereignty and treaty, who comes from a strong line of Aboriginal female activists and ancestors who she mentioned during her speech.

During her speech, Senator Thorpe made her position on the Voice to Parliament clear.

She called for Treaty, for legislation that is in line with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP), and for the referendum to be called off entirely.

“Adhering to the UNDRIP would do vastly more for our people than any voice” she said.

“We're talking about almost 250 years of invasion, disease, murder, theft, destruction, poisoning water holes, poisoning trees, 250 years almost.

"(It's) 2023 and all they have to offer is a powerless little advisory body with parliamentary supremacy over it at all times."

Senator Thorpe stated that First Nations people deserve much more than what is being offered, which she referred to as “false hope”.

That's another insult to our intelligence. That's an insult to our ancestors. And all of our people who passed in every prison, in every institution," Ms Thorpe said.

"It's an insult, because it's not good enough, after 200 years, that we just get offered a powerless advisory. It's not good enough” she said disgusted."

Senator Thorpe invited the Australian people to stand with First Nations people, to stand up for what really matters and demand actual change, not tokenistic gestures.

“I want to see federal leadership on the conversation. I think that the King has to be at the table," Ms Thorpe said.

Speaking with compassion, Senator Thorpe shared how First Nations people connect to country and the significance in caring for the land.  

We are the oldest continuing living culture on the planet. Surely that's something to be proud of," she said.

"We have lived through ice ages, countless fires, droughts and floods. We know how to care for country, but we are not allowed to do so.”

Senator Lidia Thorpe following her address at the National Press Club. (Image: Jess Whaler/National Indigenous Times)

During her National Press Club address, Senator Thorpe also spoke of the desecration of sacred Indigenous sites whilst unwrapping the bark and fire remnants of a sacred birthing tree that was recently destroyed.

The only way I can try to make the rest of the country understand the depth of pain you feel when sacred sites have been attacked, it is by likening it to the death of our mother," she said.

"Grief, loss, despair. First Peoples don't just have inherent rights. We have an inherent responsibility.”

“These are ancestor trees, they hold knowledge to keep this earth this country together. The destruction is a reality linked by First Nations people fighting to protect country across this land and across the world.

"Indigenous peoples across the world protect 90% of the planet's remaining biodiversity.”

Ms Thorpe said Indigenous Australians are deserving of their own self-determination.

Our sovereignty is our right to self-governance and to be the architects of our own future," she said.

"It is the right to make and enforce our own laws, the right to economic independence, and the right to self-determine our own destiny. Our sovereignty is real.”

Senator Thorpe urged the Federal Government to prioritise the implementation of advice that has been available for decades and stated that she would not be opposed to crossing the line if the Federal Government could agree to five key elements of change that include;

  • Establishment of a Truth and Justice Commission
  • Enshrining the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous people
  • Implementing the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal deaths in custody
  • Implementing the recommendations of the ‘Bringing Them Home Report’
  • Treaty

 “We don't want to be at war anymore and we don't want to be the sickest poorest people in our country," Ms Thorpe said.

"We want to share some of what you have in your privilege from your what you inherit, you know, think about your inheritance that has come from our blood, our blood and our misery.”

Senator Thorpe mentioned the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, where 339 recommendations were presented to the Government in 1991 and stressed that decades later, hanging points are still in prisons.  

“Just remove the hanging points, so our people and your people can’t hang themselves, just do that, can we just have one that saves lives?," she said.

Following the address, National Indigenous Times caught spoke to proud Wakka Wakka Wulli Wulli woman, Dr Tjanara Goreng Goreng.

“I’ve been in the sovereign movement since it’s beginning in the seventies," Dr Goreng Goreng said.

Dr Goreng Goreng spoke critically of the Voice.

“It’s not giving First Nations People what it is they’ve been really asking for since the white people came to our shores," she said.

"Which is a treaty between the two nations that ends the war and begins the role of living and working on being together on our country in a way that gives us sovereignty, gives us determination to make decisions for ourselves.

“This voice won’t do this, it’s a powerless advisory body we have already had a few of those we’ve had four voices."

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