Why land is life for Aboriginal people in Australia

From New Internationalist Easier English Wiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Why land is life for Aboriginal people in Australia

Amy McQuire writes about why land is part of life for Aboriginal people in Australia.


Angry protest in Melbourne in July 2017. A man ran down 14-year-old Elijah Doughty but they found the man was not guilty of manslaughter. (Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

The Super Pit is a goldmine near Kalgoorlie-Boulder, a town in Western Australia. From the air, the large hole makes the town seem very small.For Aboriginal people it is an injury to their land. It is a sign of the wealth and the lives they have lost.

Near Super Pit in 2016, a non-indigenous man killed Aboriginal teenager Elijah Doughty. He received only three years in prison for death by dangerous driving.

Pastor Geoffrey Stokes is a community leader in Kalgoorlie. In 2014, he was driving with his cousin to go hunting. His cousin pointed to a site in the distance and told him there was mining there, Stokes was shocked. The mining company Darlex was preparing to destroy a number of sites sacred to his people. Stokes is Wati, a lawman, and no one told him about the mining plans.

Stokes walked up to the mine workers to complain but they did not listen to him.

‘The miners just walked past me and I shouted and screamed,’ Stokes tells me. ‘Then I thought, “I don’t care about them. We’ve had this for 200 years.” I took my gun.’ Stokes fired shots into the air. ‘I shot to get their attention,’ he says. The miners say they were in fear for their lives.

For Stokes, like other Aboriginal people, life and country are the same. He told me that mining on sacred lands was like destroying a church.

‘We as Aboriginal people did not sell this land – this land is still ours. If you are on this land without permission, it is like breaking into a house,’ he said.

Stokes saw the destruction of his country and sacred sites as a crime. But the law saw him as the criminal when he wanted to protect the land. They made him pay a fine.

I met Stokes when I was in Kalgoorlie to report on the one-year anniversary of Elijah’s death. The short prison sentence was a painful shock for the Aboriginal people in Australia. People saw Elijah as their nephew, their cousin, their son. There were many protests about the court case across Australia.

During the trial, they did not give the name of the man who killed Elijah. The man said that he thought the teenager was riding a motorcycle stolen from his house. In a tree near where Elijah died is the message: ‘You can replace a motorbike but not the life of a 14-year-old.’

For Aboriginal people, land is their life¬ It is connected to their ancestors, who looked after the land for millions of years. Destroying their country means destroying them as a people. If you don’t value their country, you can’t value their life And in Australia, people do not value them because they want profit and protection of property.

Amy McQuire is a Darumbal and South Sea Islander. She is Buzzfeed Australia’s indigenous affairs reporter and worked as a researcher on John Pilger’s film Utopia

NOW READ THE ORIGINAL: https://newint.org/features/2018/03/20/aboriginal-australia

(This article has been simplified so the words, text structure and quotes may have been changed).