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Yes, Shaq's Voice support came from nowhere, but his star power thrusts our platform into the global civil rights arena

Guest Author -

We can all agree on one thing: Shaq O'Neill as a Voice ambassador was a leftfield announcement from Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Minister for Indigenous Affairs Linda Burney.

Not following basketball, I have only an inkling of his star power, and Shaq I've come to learn is no mere celebrity - his basketball history is practically unparalleled.

This man is also loved by a great many Aboriginal youth for whom basketball has long been embraced.

Understanding the difficulties of a successful referendum result, Constitutional law expert George Williams has warned that optimism isn't enough to change the constitution and careful planning and investment is required.

Australians are wary of change and need to understand what they are voting for. While demands for details of the Voice are unnecessary at this stage, and only serve to distract, the importance of dialogue and strategy is very clear.

Ambassadors for Voice are sensible. Of course, those Ambassadors should largely be Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people from this country, but to rule out international figures is parochial and short sighted.

Australia lags the world in terms of recognition of Indigenous rights and treatment of Indigenous peoples and racism is a global issue that Black Lives Matter so powerful highlighted.

The outrage of senators Jacinta Price and Lidia Thorpe, and others, to the Shaq endorsement reflects their own opposition to the Voice and constitutional recognition of Indigenous rights.

They will make complaint and generate opposition about anything the government does to progress the historic constitutional referendum, which is a great shame because their fight is not only ideological and misplaced, but also very damaging to Indigenous people's rights to political voice and self-determination.

That Aboriginal women from the opposite side of politics have become a driving force against progressive rights-based reform is especially saddening.

Our people have always taken the fight for Aboriginal recognition and rights to the world - Aboriginal people protested at Olympic games held in Australia, lone figures such as Burnun Burnun protested in England in 80's, and Indigenous people have gathered annually in New York at UN headquarter to raise lack of respect for Indigenous human rights by government.

Our people know the world is watching and international concern is important.

Why should we be in any way offended by any African American people supporting our cause?

Their history includes slavery, not unlike ours where people were indentured and forced to work on pastoral stations and in the homes of whites even as child servants.

Taken from their homeland of Africa and to this day denied reparations, they continue to fight for justice and racial quality.

Aboriginal people were also very much influenced by the Black Power movement, shown in the documentary Black Panther Woman told by Marlene Cummings which included her brave disclosure of sexual assault.

Noticeably the Greens senators have adopted symbolism from the Panthers with their hand fists and chest salutes in senate seemingly for impact.

And of course we also have a proud history of solidarity with Indigenous Native Americans and Aboriginal people from Canada whose treaty rights were violated, and whose children were stolen in a similar history to our own genocidal past.

Having long endured a whitewashed version on history in Australia, many are unaware of our own civil rights movement where Aboriginal people suffering under the weight of 'protection' policies voiced fearing even 'extermination' as a peoples.

In Boorloo, Perth, 1928, William Harris led a deputation knows as the Native Union decrying the Aborigines Act 1905 requesting to meet with the Premier.

Dr Hannah McGlade. Photo Supplied Facebook.

Harris and the Native Union wanted it known that Aboriginal people should not be subject to different laws, should be allowed entry to Perth, that Moore River Settlement should be abolished, that children should not be taken from their parents and the practice of forced relocation should end.

The 1928 deputation to the Premier led by William Harris was a defining moment in Noongar political history.

According to George Ganitis, the Native Union was the first organised Indigenous political group engaging with formal politics, who 'sent ripples through Australian society, and their influence can be seen clearly in later civil rights agitation, from the Day of Mourning in 1938 and beyond.

Of course, they could not change the Premier or his counterpart the Native Protector AO Neville, 'Yet these men lived that reality, and resignation was not an option for them.

They did everything they possibly could to fight for their rights from within the dominant system .. '.

Perhaps we could all take a moment to think about our past and the leaders of times past who knew that our Voices had to be heard, that our people's very lives, were depending on it.

Hannah McGlade is an Indigenous international human rights lawyer and member of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Peoples.

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