This year’s theme for NAIDOC Week is an especially important one, not just for First Nations people, but for every Australian.
Now more than ever we need to Heal Country.
In the last few years alone, we have experienced the worst ever bushfires during the 2019-20 Black Summer, extreme rainfall and flooding in NSW, severe drought and dry rivers that have never before run dry, and just a few weeks ago the destructive storm that hit the Dandenongs in Victoria, with many communities still without power.
Like all Australians, First Nations people watch on in horror at what is happening to Country.
But for First Nations people, we have an extra layer of sadness and anger at what is happening to Country. Our Ancestors walked on and cared for Country for over 60,000 years.
Our Songlines run through every drop of water, every grain of sand, every plant and animal on this great continent. These Songlines connect us to each other, our culture, land, water and sky.
Our relationship with Country is inseparable from our understanding of what it means to be a First Nations person.
We are a part of Country.
Our Ancestors didn’t treat Country like something to own, exploit or commodify.
But since colonisation, Country has become very sick. The colonial project has enabled destructive mining, land clearing and logging, poisoning our waterways, overfishing of oceans.
But ask yourself, who is making Country and our planet sick? It’s not average people trying hard to put food on the table, keep the lights on, raise families and live a good life.
It’s the billionaires and big corporations that make a killing while they’re killing our country, our climate, and our children’s and grandchildren’s future.
Meanwhile, our supposed leaders and governments for the most part stand by and allow this to happen because the vested interests are more powerful than people, the climate and the environment.
An example of how it works in this country is that coal and gas billionaires and corporations donate millions of dollars to the Labor and Liberal/National parties. In turn, when in government, both Labor and Liberal/National give taxpayer money and billions of dollars in in annual fossil fuels subsidies to climate-cooking coal and gas projects.
These billionaires and corporations pay almost no tax, not only robbing us of a safe climate and clean environment, but also schools, hospitals and critical infrastructure.
Just last week, Labor and Liberal/National voted to open up huge parts of the Beetaloo Basin, Northern Territory to fracking which will spew out more carbon pollution than the Adani coal mine.
The Traditional Owners of the Beetaloo Basin said ‘no’ but Labor and Liberal didn’t listen to them, they only listened to their donors.
The Greens want to see coal, gas and oil phased out by 2030, a just transition for all workers and communities that rely on these industries and government investment in the jobs and industries of the future.
There is no other country in the world that has the opportunity to run on 100 per cent renewable electricity and become a renewable energy superpower, creating and exporting it to the rest of the world through renewable hydrogen, solar electricity and other technologies.
But while other countries are taking to reducing carbon pollution and to protecting the wild places we have left, Australia risks being left behind the rest of the world because fossil fuel interests control the Labor and Liberal/National parties.
The world is starting to wake up to the fact that if we don’t look after Country, Country cannot look after us.
So this NAIDOC Week, we invite all Australians to stand together and demand that our elected leaders do more to heal and protect Country, come up with real solutions that will ensure a safe climate, protected ecosystems, sustainable jobs, and to start making decisions for all Australians, not just billionaires and corporations.
By Senator Lidia Thorpe and Dorinda Cox
Senator Lidia Thorpe is a Greens Senator for Victoria and a Gunnai Gunditjmara woman. Dorinda Cox is the Greens WA lead Senate candidate and a Noongar Yamatji woman.