"> On Michael McCormack's Comments — Marcus Stewart Op-ed - First Peoples' Assembly of Victoria

On Michael McCormack’s Comments — Marcus Stewart Op-ed

It was shocking and downright frightening to hear comments from Acting Prime Minister Michael McCormack on the events that unfolded in the United States when President Trump’s supporters stormed Capitol Hill, after weeks of refusing to accept the outcome of the recent US election.

McCormack likened the despicable acts that unfolded in the US last Wednesday with the Black Lives Matter protests last year.

Protests which he diminished by labelling them as, “race riots”.

If that wasn’t enough, he doubled down this morning and stood by comments.

Let’s not forget that it was McCormack who blamed Victoria’s second coronavirus wave on the Black Lives Matter protest in Melbourne.

Words matter. Especially from our political leaders.

This is not the sort of leadership we need or deserve in Australia.

Especially now when we’re all struggling to make sense of the world in the midst of a global pandemic.

Our leaders should inspire us, not divide us. Their words should not elevate one race over another.

The words of McCormack mobilise and activate the slippery underbelly of racism in this country.

His words were a deliberate decision to evoke fear and dismiss racial equality.

We know where this sort of rhetoric leads us – have a look at the presidency of Donald Trump and the events that have transpired in the US.

Words matter. The truth matters. Unity matters. That’s why here in Victoria we’re working towards Treaty.

The First Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria is the first of its kind in Australia.

We’re the first and only democratically elected voice for Aboriginal people to lead the journey towards Treaty in Victoria.

Last year we successfully called on the Victorian Government to commit to a Truth-telling process.

Truth-telling is a process of openly sharing historical truths after periods of conflict.

Truth-telling acknowledges past wrongs, ensures an accurate historical record and sets a common understanding of our shared history.

For too long, mistruths and racist rhetoric disempowered our people and were used to justify the massacres of Aboriginal communities, the atrocities of the Stolen Generations and attempts to wipe our language and culture from the history books.

Without this truth coming to light, there can be no Treaty.

Why is truth-telling or Treaty necessary you may ask? The answers to that question are the same reasons why we saw thousands of Australians march at the Black Lives Matters protests last year.

It’s because Aboriginal people are overrepresented in the criminal justice system.

It’s police brutality.

It’s because Aboriginal Victorians continue to die ten years younger than their fellow Victorians.

It’s because Aboriginal children have poorer educational outcomes.

It’s because the history of this country is still punishing its First Nations People.

Treaty will go a long way in healing the wounds of the past. It will ensure our children and our children’s children get a better shot.

Treaty will prove that the people in the highest offices of this land truly believe Black Lives Matter.