REMOTE WA INDIGENOUS COMMUNITY CLOSURE RALLY
MELBOURNE, 2015. In March, 2015, over 1000 people gathered at the Victorian Parliament House to protest plans by the West Australian Premier, Colin Barnett, to shut down around 150 remote Indigenous communities in Western Australia. Prime Minister Tony Abbott expressed support for the closures and said "it's not the job of the taxpayer to subsidise lifestyle choices". His comments have been widely considered insensitive and belie the very deep connection between the Indigenous peoples of Australia and Country.
Addendum, September 2018: Now back-bencher, Tony Abbott accepted the position of Special Envoy for Indigenous Affairs, suggested by the Liberal Party's current leader and Australia's current Prime Minister, Scott Morrison.
Addendum, May 2019: Tony Abbott lost his seat in the recent federal election and is no longer in government.
After photographing this rally, I realised that I didn’t have a real, visceral sense of just how much “country” means to the First People, just how much a part of who they are it is. It was disappointing to see mainstream media not go out and try to related as best as possible what it was that Abbott was trying to stop funding.
As a non-Aboriginal person, I won’t ever truly have that relationship with country of course…realistically, I’d be better off going to Hungary or Germany to find it, as that’s where my Dad and Mum come from, respectively. But this protest and these thoughts committed me to telling stories about the First People and, as of May, 2019, I’ve finally found the first story. I’ve also committed to telling only stories about the First People for at least a couple of years, if not indefinitely. Stories that the First People find useful.
This protest, in it’s own way, was life changing.