Please note this story contains reference to people who have died.
Moral outrage is an interesting thing.
I’ve seen plenty of posts, reposts, stories, and comments on social media about the atrocity that was the George Floyd murder and the continued systemic racism that’s ever-present in the United States.
It has become obvious that many are simply brushing over the problems in our own backyard.
It has become obvious that many have forgotten or simply chosen to ignore the same last words of Dunghutti man, David Dungay Jr, as he was held down and sedated by prison guards: “I can’t breathe.”
It has become obvious Australia likes to assume moral superiority when it comes to race, despite the fact that First Nations outcomes are disgraceful in this country.
Our own Prime Minister chose to ignore the systemic issues I’m sure he knows remain prevalent across the country, saying on live radio on Monday he thought to himself, “how wonderful a country is Australia?” when thinking of the widespread protests across the States right now.
“But when I see things like [what’s happening in the US], I’m just very thankful for the wonderful country we live in,” he said.
How embarrassing that Scott Morrison thought it appropriate to pretend Australia is a utopia of equality.
Such blatant feigning of ignorance is the height of poor leadership.
Australia is wonderful, Australia is ‘the lucky country’—but only for some.
It remains undeniable that Australia has a sinister past of colonial massacre fed by deep roots of white supremacism.
First Nations Peoples are monstrously overrepresented in these areas despite making up approximately three percent of the population.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics tells us that at June 30, 2019, over a quarter (28 percent) of the prison population were First Nations.
The latest youth justice report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) found half the children aged 10-17 under youth supervision were First Nations, despite making up only six percent of that age group nationally.
Since the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody handed down its 339 recommendations in 1991, 432 First Nations people have died in custody.
One third of these recommendations have still not been implemented and no police officer has ever been convicted of a black death in custody.
Yet Scott Morrison is “thankful” for his country.
He’s not thankful for Australia, he’s thankful he’s white.
“The clear fact is that there are and there have been recent Aboriginal deaths in custody, and that’s a serious issue,” said Shadow Minister for Indigenous Australians, Linda Burney, to NIT on Monday.
“Clearly the recent death in America has tapped into something much deeper.”
And she’s right. Australia and the United States share the same racist foundation that built up the countries to what they are today.
It was only weeks ago a Nine News report returned to the paternalistic thinking of the past by producing a story on what Palm Island residents were spending their compensation money on from the 2004 Palm Island riots over the death of Mulrunji Doomadgee.
This was money that was received after a court found the excessive force used by Queensland Police during the riots was racially motivated.
Nine reported the story as if First Nations individuals don’t have the same agency to choose where, what and who they spend their money on as non-First Nations individuals. It’s this kind of racist undercurrent that is present everywhere in Australia and the US.
In the US, it flares up every time a police officer blatantly murders an African American. It flares up every February: Black History Month. And it flares up every time the current President opens his mouth to incite violence—“when the looting starts, the shooting starts”.
I wonder if it’s the distance between Australia and the United States that makes it easier for people to be outraged from afar instead of fighting against something so real and so close to home.
The distance allows us to show our superficial support to Black America’s plight while remaining complacent and complicit to the human rights injustices occurring daily in our own communities.
The further removed you are from a situation, the easier it becomes to insert your opinion without having to remember these are real people and real lives being affected.
So, while Australians get angry about America from a distance, Australia’s First Peoples are still dying too early, still surviving systemic persecution, and still living in a country where easily fixed inequalities are rampant.
Black Lives Matter. Blak Lives Matter.
By Hannah Cross
Hannah Cross is Editor of the National Indigenous Times.