USA I stand with you during these tragic and historical times.

Only two weeks ago I posted an article on LinkedIn about poverty-stricken Indigenous people in the Pilbara. It really affected me due to the level of racism it generated from mainstream Australian’s comments on Facebook. Working in the Indigenous space as an advocate for advancement and employment for so long, made me feel like I had dedicated so much of my life, so much effort and so much personal risk into an area that a lot of Australian’s clearly wanted to outright reject. The wave of comments made me feel like I was on the path of a losing battle, especially as the only voice who tried to defend my people, whilst trying to educate the commentators at the same time. We are now in a historical moment in time, that has again flared up the racist sentiments of a tsunami of free speaking Australian’s, which has again struck at my core. I take every one of those comments personally and even though I should press the home button, put down my phone and pretend like I didn’t see it, my spirit won’t allow me to do that.

This beautiful photo represents my rich heritage as a proud Aboriginal Australian. Photographer @jimmy.nelson.official

These were my responses to a woman who said the Perth #BLM protest two nights ago was only a typical bandwagon movement, due to what is happening in America and there are more white people who are in prison and die in prison than Aboriginal people as if we had no right to raise the issue here and were only whinging again. There were 100’s of similar racist comments from Perth people. It strikes at my heart to think so many people have those kinds of feelings.

I’m really not liking social media these days. It’s so depressing and draining to have these kinds of debates. Especially, as a proud Australian who happens to be Aboriginal. We’re the lucky ones, we won the lotto twice. I’ve kept these comments in the original form of writing, as we know, we can’t really go too deep or too eloquent when rebutting comments on Facebook:

1. Martin Bryant wasn’t roughed up or killed after massacring 35 innocent people. He’s still breathing, living a lovely life sentence on taxpayers money.

Aboriginal people die in custody just for outstanding fines (Ms Dhu) or having mental health issues (Ms Clarke) or a dispute over crackers (Mr Dungay).

Any person who calls themselves Australian should learn more about their own Indigenous Australians and the facts about the inequalities that really exist. We don’t need a bandwagon. We’ve been trying to raise awareness for years but you don’t even want to take the time to listen and learn.

2. Indigenous Australians make up only 3% of the National population yet make up 30% of the total prison population. Sadly, there are 50% Indigenous kids making up the juvenile prison numbers. There are 26 million Australians of which, 780,000 are Indigenous people. Can you see why there are more white people in prison? Can you also see how disproportionately Indigenous people are represented in prison?

It’s also proven that if you have two men, one is white and one is Indigenous, both have similar backgrounds and exactly the same charges…guess who’s more likely to go to jail?

432 Indigenous people have died in custody since ‘91. Not one person has faced justice yet some of those cases are murder or manslaughter, the rest are failures in duty of care. They’re in the custody of the Government who have a duty to ensure they serve their sentence, not be put to death.

This is the issue of inequality that isn’t a bandwagon issue..it’s a long-standing, real issue. It clearly shows there is systemic racism throughout the justice system. Whilst its a Government issue to fix, it won’t happen with Indigenous people trying to fight it alone. We need the mainstream population to understand what is happening and help us to show Govt that it can’t be and won’t be tolerated in our country.

Indigenous people are clearly marginalised in the general community yet when it comes to the Olympic Games or AFL then everyone claims them. Tourism Australia stated 80% of International tourists leave Australia disappointed because they didn’t get to have an Indigenous experience. Indigenous artworks hang in The Louvre Museum in Paris, valued at 100’s thousands of dollars but the artists are still living in poverty in outback communities.

If mainstream Australians could see what YOU have. You have 60,000 yrs of culture and history as an Australian. Why wouldn’t you want to embrace that? Without Aboriginal people and culture, Australia is just like every other Western country. YOU are different as an Australian and you should be really proud of that. Not hate it.

I’m hoping this snapshot of information will somehow soften their hearts and open their minds to want to learn more, be more empathetic and more understanding to their fellow citizens who have been treated as second class citizens for the last 230 years.

Most people who have followed my page for the last few years know I have shared information about all kinds of Indigenous issues, with the intent to share knowledge about the most complex issues, so that my audience who may have never met an Indigenous person before, can at least have some understanding of the issues. The amount of private messages I receive from those wanting more information, or thanking me for sharing and to keep sharing because they learn so much is always appreciated.

A couple of years ago, a guy I was introduced to at an event said that every time I published an article (back when I used to write articles), his company would have a stop-work meeting to discuss what I had said and how could they apply that to their workplace, that really shocked me. Then I had the head of the Aboriginal Affairs Dept (who was a white man), who would email me to prompt my next article because he looked forward to them so much and learnt a lot. I thought this was ironic, given his position and given mine (a nobody). The point I am trying to make is I didn’t need a tragic event to happen in America for me to jump on the bandwagon that Black Lives Matter. They’ve always mattered to me. My whole life is built on trying to improve the lives of my people. I have taken 10 years off my lifespan putting myself through so much emotional turmoil and frustration to have a business is probably the most critical, yet most corrupt, most lip service applied to, most-lied about, most funded, most failed, most misleading, most self praised, most photo moments, most hyped up, most over-promised and under-delivered and most infuriating area to be in…Indigenous employment.

On the other hand, I do see many people on my Linkedin newsfeed who are jumping on the bandwagon. I’m happy about that. Finally, it took a horrific video from another country to spark something inside of those people to at least take notice. The challenge will now be for all Australian’s to not make it a bandwagon moment.

When the riots and protests are over, how can we work together on a continued mission? Take this moment to create real change. How do we change the justice system to value the lives of Indigenous people or rather how can we keep Indigenous people away from that system as an option with a far more positive impact? That’s a broad statement I know, what does that even mean in real terms you might be asking? An article on LI isn’t the place to pull it all apart but I’m more than happy to keep sharing my information, my life experiences and stories, my opinions and points of view and successful case studies if that is something that is needed. I’ll leave it to you to tell me how you want me to share that information. Let me know in the comments or email me at joanne@ochrepeople.com.au

#blacklivesmatter #indigenous #aboriginal #noplaceforracism