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Imagine what our country would be like without racism

Wayne Nannup -

Imagine a life without racism.

We could live at peace in a country that values its First Nations Peoples and recognises us within the Constitution.

We could walk freely through shopping centres or ride on trains without the fear of being followed or harassed.

Racism doesn't discriminate between how little or well-known we are. The colour of our skin continues to be targeted by the ill-informed and bigoted members of society who have no desire to learn about our Culture or rich history spanning more than 60,000 years.

An old filing cabinet at the Aboriginal Legal Service of WA Ltd (ALSWA) contains vile and threatening racist letters from years gone by. Letters methodically hand-written or typed before being posted by mail, a process taking longer, but packing a punch just as heavy as the offensive abuse delivered instantly today, with the strike of a keyboard.

The cowards who hide behind their keyboard, continue to spit out their racist vitriol expressing outrage at any display of our Culture, which doesn't conform to the coloniser consciousness.

This month saw Stan Grant stand down from his role as host of the ABC's Q & A, speaking out about the abusive and hateful messages that have taken a toll on himself and his family.

His actions are not dissimilar to AFL great Adam Goodes, forced into early retirement due to the persistent racial abuse that he suffered.

Then there are the countless others that we don't hear about. Regular folk doing it tough, some on the streets or in over-crowded dwellings or those in the school yard or workplace.

Racism, or discrimination based on race or ethnicity shatters the world that so many of us live in. It generates depression, affects self-esteem and creates a sense of helplessness and loss and also contributes to increasing physical and mental health disparities amongst our people.

As an Aboriginal man, I know that our people have the support of fair-minded West Australians who stand in solidarity with us. We've seen this at countless Black Lives Matter rallies across the country. Many people from all walks of life, really do care about the injustice and hatred that our people face, day in, day out.

But the reality is that racism is more evident now than ever before and starts at such a young age, that it becomes 'the norm'.

As increasing numbers of our First Nations Peoples are being forced into prisons, stripped of their freedom, family, community and culture, there is also a growing number of people who feel a lack of cultural safety within their everyday life.

We know that our kids are over-represented in the court and prison system, much of which can be attributed to being over-policed because of the colour of their skin.

We live in a State where the age of criminal responsibility is just 10 years old and children are locked up in Banksia Hill and Unit 18 of the maximum-security Casuarina Prison.

This is not rehabilitation and our young people will come out damaged and traumatised under the current system, which is clearly not working.

One cannot even begin to comprehend the ongoing trauma which will remain with the young people whose images we saw lying face down at Banksia Hill with guns pointed at them.

57 complaints were tabled in Parliament earlier this month, complaints sent by ALSWA to the Department of Justice dating back to February last year. Unlawful lockdowns of young people, claims of sexually inappropriate behaviour and excessive use of force by custodial officers against young Banksia Hill detainees are just some of the claims.

As a nation, we must stand in solidarity and say enough is enough. We will not be silenced for fear of speaking out.

Our decision makers need to work with us in unity, for that is the only way that we can combat racism in this state and walk together and create a better future for all West Australians.

Imagine a country that recognises racism when they see it.

Imagine what our country would be like without racism.

Now that's what I call a lucky country.

Wayne Nannup is the Chief Executive Officer of the Aboriginal Legal Service of WA

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