Senate debates

Tuesday, 10 November 2020


Infrastructure: Indigenous Culture, Racism

8:09 pm

Photo of Lidia ThorpeLidia Thorpe (Victoria, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

I note for the chamber's information that this is not my first speech. I rise today to speak about an incredibly important matter in my home state. Just over two weeks ago the Andrews Labor government in Victoria picked up their chainsaws and tore down hundreds of years of cultural heritage belonging to the Djab Wurrung people. This was for a highway. I am a Djab Wurrung woman. That chainsaw didn't just rip through our ancestor tree; it also ripped through the heart of Djab Wurrung people and the community around Djab Wurrung country.

This was done at the very same time Daniel Andrews was announcing the easing of COVID restrictions. He sent in armed police and private security to forcefully and brutally remove peaceful protesters. It has been reported that $250,000 in fines were handed out and one young man's shoulder was dislocated during his arrest. Another young man, Gabe, was stuck in a tree and was refused food and water by police and guards for days. My people and our allies should have been celebrating the relaxation of lockdown restrictions with the rest of the state, but once again we were violated and left in mourning.

Cultural genocide is occurring all over this country and has been since colonisation over 240 years ago. This tree was older than so-called Australia. But this isn't just about a tree. Cultural heritage acts are supposed to ensure protection of our sacred sites. Instead, they are used as a tool of oppression by dividing Aboriginal people and manufacturing consent to destroy and commit cultural genocide.

Djab Wurrung people watched with disbelief as the federal Minister for the Environment, Sussan Ley, used her position to place cultural heritage protection on a satellite dish the very same week she denied protection of a sacred women's site. This gives a clear indication of where this federal government's support lies. Our federal heritage laws are broken, just like the state laws in Victoria. Destroying our country against our will is continued settler colonial violence against our people.

Just a few months ago, with the refresh of the Closing the Gap agreement, Scott Morrison stood beside the CEO of the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation, Pat Turner, and said that he was listening—LOL. Well actions speak louder than words. If this government were listening to us, they would immediately stop destroying our lands. Aboriginal people have been custodians of this land for tens of thousands of years. We have cared for every element of it—the land, the waterways and the animals. To take that away from us is to kill us. The health of country is in direct proportion to our health and wellbeing. We cannot close the gap if we are continually being dispossessed from our land.

As you all should know, this week is NAIDOC Week. It is meant to be a week of celebration of culture, community and country. It's also the day in 1938 when we called for a day of mourning for the loss of our people and lands. How can we celebrate and move forward when this is still happening to our people? It's our job in this place to ensure that we're obtaining free, prior and informed consent.

I want to quickly bring attention to a letter I received recently from Jim Penman, CEO of Jim's Mowing. He signed a letter written on his letterhead, which said:

Get off your black arse and, instead of wasting time on Djab Wurrung country, do some work. Taxpayers' money was not meant for fat arsed women. Devote your time going to the gym to exhaust your hormonal frustration and lose some weight.

I've been in this job, in public office, for only a matter of weeks and the misogyny, sexism and racism is already coming in thick and fast. People need to be called out. (Time expired)