A giant boomerang painted in designs with the red and yellow of the Aboriginal flag and the blue and green of the Torres Strait Islander flag will be featured in the NAIDOC march today.
It was made and will be carried by Munganbana Norman Miller, an Aboriginal artist, pastor and social justice advocate. He said, “I am hoping for a lot of community participation in the NAIDOC march today as we celebrate National Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders Week, Indigenous and non-Indigenous together.”
“NAIDOC’s theme this year of Voice, Treaty and Truth came out of the Uluru Statement from the Heart at meetings in Uluru in Reconciliation Week May 2017 and I have made a giant boomerang with the words Voice, Treaty and Truth to advance the cause.”
“I am pleased that Prime Minister Scott Morrison said this week that constitutional recognition of Indigenous people is high on his government’s agenda. I presented to government a giant boomerang with 360 signatures on it and a petition to recognize Indigenous people in the constitution and remove racism from it. It had over 5,000 signatures to the federal parliament in two stages – December 2013 and February 2016. The Hon Warren Entsch presented this to Parliament.
“It was based on the recommendations of the Expert Panel, of which the new Minister for Indigenous Australians, Mr Ken Wyatt, was a member. The debate has moved on but it concerns me that the Uluru Statement made no mention of removal of racism from the constitution as found in s25 which says the States can ban people from voting based on their race and s51(xxvi) which can be used to pass laws that discriminate against people based on their race,” said Miller.
“I agree with the thrust of the Uluru Statement however that we need an Indigenous voice enshrined in the constitution so national Indigenous organisations can’t be removed by governments, as was ATSIC. Also, there are many regional Indigenous Land Use Agreements which could help form the basis of a national treaty. Acknowledging the truth of our history can bring healing and reconciliation.”
“This is not the only giant boomerang I will be carrying in the NAIDOC march. I have another one with the words Religious Freedom Speech also painted with Aboriginal designs and colours. We cannot afford to lose freedom of religion, speech and conscience in Australia.”
He said he hoped to present this boomerang to the Prime Minister on his visit to Cairns for COAG in August this year.
“I honour William Cooper, a Christian Aboriginal, as the Father of NAIDOC as he instituted Aboriginal Sunday in the churches on the Sunday nearest Australia Day in 1941 and it became a yearly celebration until it eventually became Aboriginal week and then Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Week celebrated by the community each year in July,” said Miller.
“I have also made a number of placards saying Stop Youth Suicide, No Youth in Adult Jails and No Racism in the Constitution which I will display at the NAIDOC commemorations at Fogarty Fountain. Rates of youth suicide, and even higher rates of Indigenous youth suicide are at crisis level and are alarming and we need urgent attention to this issue,” said Miller. “And of grave concern is that Indigenous youth are in custody at 17 times the rate of non-Indigenous youth despite being a small percentage of the population. What happened to the Aboriginal Deaths in Custody report my wife Barbara worked on, as our people are still dying in custody?”
“Also, in Queensland, overcrowding in youth detention centres has meant that 17-year-olds have been incarcerated in adult jails and children as young as 10 in watch houses. Four Corners recently revealed two children were held for 33 days or more in a watch house, including a mentally-impaired 14-year-old boy, and 75 children were held for 10 days or more. A 12-year-old girl who spent nine days at Brisbane city watch house was made to wear a “suicide smock” and a girl was placed in a pod – a grouping of cells with a common area – with two alleged male sex offenders. Self-harm and suicide attempts were made by some of the children who already come from traumatised backgrounds. This is appalling.”
“An Indigenous boy with an intellectual impairment and considered a suicide risk was recently forcibly stripped by 3 or 4 staff inside Brisbane’s adult watch house. He resisted wearing a suicide smock saying it was a dress. He was stressed to be kept completely naked for 4 days with only a blanket and on reassessment was found to be able to wear his clothes. Stripping of children is humiliating and cruel and must stop. We are supposed to be a humane society,” said Miller.
The march will start at 9am at Munro Martin Parklands and continue to Fogarty Fountain where at 10am there will be a flag-raising ceremony, speeches, songs, traditional dances, stalls and fun activities for children. Mr Miller will open in prayer.