Caption: A young Aboriginal boy protests for his future, holding up a sign asking, “Who’s next?”
Words and Images by Christine Chen
Hundreds of protestors poured into the streets of Perth’s CBD on WA Day, braving the pandemic in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Living in a state like Western Australia usually makes it exceptionally easy to disassociate from global events. As countries remain in lockdown over COVID-19, Western Australia in the process of opening back up; while the deadly effects of unfettered gun ownership seem a daily preoccupation in America, Western Australia has not had a mass shooting in years.
However, on Monday last week, when a horrific video emerged showing a white police officer killing George Floyd, an African-American man, in the city of Minneapolis, it depicted an event that was all too familiar in Western Australia’s history with Aboriginal Australians. As the most incarcerated demographic in the world, institutionalised racism and police violence against Aboriginal Australians pervades Australia, and Western Australia’s track record has been particularly poor. Despite the Royal Commission making over 300 recommendations in 1991 to mitigate deaths in custody, the numbers continue to climb: Western Australia accounts for the highest incarceration rate and the highest incidence of in-custody deaths in the country today.
In many ways, the Aboriginal community are usually a mere after-thought in Australian society; Rio Tinto’s actions, destroying a sacred Aboriginal site in the Pilbara being just the latest example. Yesterday, however, their ignored voices were given a platform, amplified across the entirety of Forrest Place, and listened to by the crowd in the hundreds. One woman lamented the incarceration and death of her loved ones, wishing for their return. “People are saying they’re scared to leave their houses because of the riots,” another speaker explained, “that’s how black people feel all the time!”
Caption: Against the backdrop of the colonial-era General Post Office building, Aboriginal flags were waved proudly.
Caption: Two protestors, with their faces obscured by a mask and a bandana, demand an end to in-custody deaths.
The shared experiences of anguish and trauma among many of those in attendance never resulted in violence breaking out—raised fists and the rallying cry of “Black Lives Matter” evinced a powerful sense of unity and solidarity among the crowd. And as the sun began to set, songs were sung and dances broke out, a small group of Māori men even performed the Haka.
Caption: An Aboriginal man standing in the crowd speaks out defiantly against racism and injustice.
A subsequent rally is set to be held on the 13th of June, as protestors continue to speak out against the injustices which George Floyd’s death has shone a light upon.
More photos from the protest can be found below.