The idea that Australia was peacefully “settled” is a myth. The foundations of this country were built on racism and on dispossessing the rightful custodians of the land.
The reality is that there were frontline wars and resistance to the violence and sexual exploitation waged by the British against the First Nations people. The racism experienced by our First Nations brothers and sisters is not just a historical hiccup that happened in 1788; it has continued up until today.
Australian Muslims need to appreciate that when we are advocating for equality and Islamophobia, we also need to support the struggle of the First Nations People and not be complicit in the oppression of the traditional owners of the land.
The relationships between the Muslim community and the First Nations community is being encouraged and recognised as being integral to the struggle of both communities.
Uncle Ken Canning, an Elder and strong Anti-racism advocate, recently had a message for the Muslim community: “Do not let them demonise you. Once they demonise you, then it is easier for them to silence you. And then they can do what they like with you. If you want to learn about the struggle against racism, learn from us. We have been fighting for over 227 years and we are still fighting”.
The Lebanese Muslim Association held an evening that allowed people from both communities to engage and listen; with Imam Zaid Shakir meeting several First Nation Elders and advocates when he was here. The support from the First Nations People in rejecting Islamophobia has been overwhelming.
There are many struggles that the First Nations people are fighting-racism was not a historical hiccup. In 2008,
the then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd delivered an apology to the First Nations people and said sorry for the “… laws and policies of successive Parliaments and governments that have inflicted profound grief, suffering and loss on these our fellow Australians…for the removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families, their communities and their country. For the pain, suffering and hurt of these Stolen Generations”.
Grandmothers Against Removals (GMAR), a collective of strong First Nations women, are concerned that the rate of removals of Aboriginal children from their homes by the New South Wales Department of Family and Community Services are creating a new stolen generation.
Australia has the highest rate of child removals in the world and the rate is higher than what it was during the Stolen Generations. GMAR are concerned that the system is creating a new stolen generation. “Our children, they have silent voices,” said Gunnedah grandmother Aunty Hazel. “We as their grandparents, as their families, we need to be their voices for our little babies. We want our babies home, this cannot be continued.”
When you walk on the land, remember that its traditional owners are still experiencing racism, inequality and dispossession. GMAR are calling for a protest at the Tent Embassy in Canberra on 11 February 2016 at 12pm to coincide with the anniversary of the Stolen Generation Apology.