In true chaotic 2020 fashion, this year has seen some near unbelievable outcomes, or lack thereof, in terms of the Morrison Government’s choices — particularly on issues affecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
While most would expect their Federal Government to lead by example in times of crisis and during debates of national importance, Australia has instead seen their State and Territory governments pick up the slack.
The most recent being the Tasmanian Government voting to permanently fly the Aboriginal flag in the State Parliament after the Federal Senate voted against flying the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags during NAIDOC Week.
Tasmanian Greens leader Cassy O’Connor, who put forward the motion, said it had “instant and enthusiastic support . . . which was a real contrast of what happened in the Federal centres”.
When the Council of Attorneys-General met in July to discuss raising the criminal age of responsibility from 10 to 14-years-old, the outcome disappointed many who had supported a national campaign backing the move.
According to Raise the Age, in just one year nearly 600 children aged 10-13 were put in detention — with 65 per cent of that number being Indigenous kids.
The Council postponed the decision until at least 2021. It cited a need for “further work” in terms of “adequate processes and services” for offending children.
Weeks later, the ACT’s Legislative Assembly became the first Australian jurisdiction to agree to raise the age.
“The ACT will be leading the nation in this important reform, and we now call on other States and Territories to follow suit, to support children across the country,” ACT Greens leader Shane Rattenbury said at the time.
Western Australia, the Northern Territory and Queensland have all also made bold moves in 2020 to further Reconciliation, whether on issues exclusively related to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples or issues that disproportionately affect the country’s First Peoples.
In June, the WA Government announced the Wadjemup Project, an initiative aiming to reconcile Rottnest Island’s colonial history as a forced labour camp and commemorate the many lives lost on the island.
This is in stark contrast to the insensitive and false comments made in the same month by Prime Minister Scott Morrison about the existence of slavery in Australia.
The Northern Territory’s August election saw the Territory’s first Indigenous Attorney-General in Selena Uibo and the first Indigenous female Speaker in Ngaree Ah Kit, and September saw the Queensland Government pass a Bill recognising traditional Torres Strait Islander child-rearing practices.
Led by Torres Strait Islander woman and Queensland’s Member for Cook Cynthia Lui, the Bill recognises cultural relationships in law, allowing Torres Strait Islander people’s cultural identities to align with their legal identities.
“Until now, these family relationships have never been fully recognised in law. This Act means children and adults who’ve grown up with traditional adoptive parents will finally have their legal identity match their cultural identity,” Lui said at the time.
As Australia sees leadership from governments led by the NT’s Michael Gunner, Tasmania’s Peter Gutwein, the ACT’s Andrew Barr, Queensland’s Annastacia Palaszczuk and WA’s Mark McGowan, it’s clear the PM has some growing to do.
Responsibility for the editorial comment is taken by NIT Editor Hannah Cross