Justice? No – we get tokenism.

7 Mar 2020

It is not new to us that huge corporations and government agencies are very happy to parade their ‘good Aborigines’ or include us in photo ops.

Lowanna Gibson

Every International Women’s Day, huge corporations and government agencies love getting out their ‘good Aborigines’ to ensure they tick all the boxes, like the intersectionality box (even if they have no idea what that word means). Or they go the other way and completely forget about Indigenous women. For instance, all the police agencies who are prepared to sing praises for women on this day, however, forget the fact they incarcerate us at exponential rates and don’t listen to our pleas for help. And let’s not forget about all the hospitals who host IWD breakfasts even though there have been umpteen cases where medical professionals have neglected their duty of care and failed to act, causing our death, all because of their own ‘unconscious bias’ (“cough” racism).

All of this makes me think about the word ‘Justice,’ and how this is not applicable to our communities. It is a word uncommon to us despite our pursuit of it. We do not often experience it despite being disproportionately impacted by violence – both in the community and as a consequence of interaction with the so called justice system. As you probably will read today, we have a justice system that sets us up for failure as it is inherently, a colonial system and colonialism’s aim is to destroy us.  I want to explain how justice is impeded by blatant racism and disingenuity, and how this is detrimental to Indigenous women.

Last week, Jacinta Price and Josephine Cashman took a dozen Indigenous women from rural Australia to Canberra in order to seek assistance and tell their story. Like clock-work, Joe ‘pander to whoever will pay me’ Hildebrand had something ridiculous to say. This time he took issue with the story not being reported. He eventually directed this fake outrage at ‘NITV’ (who gave good reason not to report on the story) even though ‘The Australian’ also did not report.

Further, when Indigenous people took aim at his insinuation that these women sought out an actual racist to help them, he directed his fake outrage at fellow Indigenous leaders such as Celeste Liddle and Briggs, people who actually help and bring awareness to the Indigenous community. Hildebrand, mostly ‘straw manned’ Liddle and other Indigenous people who spoke on the issue, claiming that we did not care about the Wilcannia women, even though a number of his dissenters actually dedicate their life to improving Indigenous women’s lives. From this whole fiasco (and others), I gathered that Hildebrand was pretty disingenuous about his care of Indigenous women’s issues.

First, he attempted to glorify one of the most well-known and disliked racists and secondly, he set his followers on actual people who care about Indigenous women. The situation all becomes very rich when Hildebrand, in light of IWD, praised his Indigenous colleague, Narelda Jacobs, after falsely accusing other Indigenous progressives who do very good work. Ultimately, if Hildebrand did have genuine concern about Indigenous women, he would have seen the validity in Liddle’s argument.

Hildebrand’s disingenuity harms Indigenous women as his ‘concern’ was relayed to a large audience – Unfortunately, is a very popular news source.

Hildebrand also praised Price and Cashman, as he has a number of times.

I will not delve into how genuine they are about the Wilcannia women however, both, especially Price have continuously spoken about how culture, Indigenous people and Indigenous organisations are the antagonists in relation to violence within Indigenous communities.

They continuously fail to mention the police’s role in such situations. For instance, Indigenous woman, Kwementyeye McCormak, had requested the assistance of police for 32 different occasions relative to domestic violence over a period of 12 years.

Ultimately, the police failed to conduct an appropriate investigation into her stabbing death. Occurrences of gross injustice like this are not outlandish to us despite the fact that they continue to occur being shocking.

As a first year law student in 2018, I recall readings during the ‘Indigenous Week’, that exposed police negligence. I remeber reading that a fear existed for Indigenous women, that if they called for assistance in relation to an issue (possibly domestic violence, possibly something else) that they feared other consequences, such as their children being taken away. Further into my law degree, I have realised that this is not just a situation constricted to the Indigenous women of Australia but also to those of Canada. For instance, prior to police convicting serial killer Robert Pickton, it was found, ‘at least two incidents of Aboriginal women walking into the police station…and reporting’ their escape from Pickton, had fallen on deaf ears. In my opinion, this is a cross-cultural trend, where police place the characterisation of ‘liar’ on women who are Indigenous. Meanwhile, police organisations are happy to use smiling Indigenous women in their advertisements and IWD campaigns, full well knowing how much of a detriment they are to Indigenous women seeking justice.

It is not new to us that huge corporations and government agencies are very happy to parade their ‘good Aborigines’ or include us in photo ops. They do this every NAIDOC day; they do this every IWD and for other awareness days also. However, they fail to empower us or even protect us and this ultimately leads me to believe that their disingenuity and their blatant racism is a massive hindrance. If they ever want the dire situation of Indigenous women to improve, they would listen to all the Indigenous writers, or the thousands of Indigenous community workers who have Indigenous women’s best interests at heart and want justice, over anything, for their people.

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