27 January 2021

SUBJECTS: Australia Day Marches and rallies calling for change on First Nations issues. 


KARL STEFANOVIC, HOST: It's the date that divides the nation. January 26. Filling some people with pride. Others with pain. This year, tens of thousands rallied across the country calling to change the date and change attitudes towards First Nations people. For more, we're joined Northern Territory Senator, Malarndirri McCarthy, in Darwin. Senator, thanks for your time this morning, always appreciate it. How was your Australia Day?

MALRNDIRRI MCCARTHY: Look, I felt like I went around the world on Australia Day. I started with the swearing in of new Australians at the Convention Centre here in Darwin. And then went to the Survival Day/Invasion Day rally to listen to what people had to say there and obviously certainly the younger generation. Then went to the World Refugee Cup Soccer Day to see what was going on there. So I kind of felt like - it was wonderful actually, Karl. And I feel very proud to be a part of a democracy that enables all these peaceful opportunities for people to express their views.

STEFANOVIC: I love talking to you. Your comments on the TODAY show on Monday really resonated. Went viral in fact. Practically though, how do we move forward?

MCCARTHY: Well we keep moving forward when we keep talking respectfully. And we keep moving forward when the Governments of the day, whether it's the Federal Government, whether its state and territory governments, actually do something. Now, I've always spoken about the concerns of the high rates of incarceration for First Nations people but also the high rates of removal of First Nations children from their families. And I do believe that as a country we can change that.

STEFANOVIC: How do we appease those who find it so painful with also a majority of people who want to celebrate this country because, I think you'd acknowledge, we have so much worth celebrating.

MCCARTHY: Look, absolutely we do, but we also need to listen. I am a Yanyuwa Garrwa woman from Borroloola in the Gulf of Carpentaria, Karl, and we are known as Li-Anthawirriyarra, which means our spiritual origin comes from the Sea Country. And we ask people to listen to our stories. You know we just had the Senior Australian of the Year,  Dr Miriam Rose Ungunmerr Baumann receive an incredible award of recognition across the country as our senior elder. And she's saying the same thing. So I think these stories of hurt and pain, they’re not going to go away, but what they do need is people to actually listen and act. And I'd certainly like to see that when i go back to parliament next week. 

STEFANOVIC: We had Dr Miriam on yesterday. I thought she was an incredible woman, and what she does and the work she does.

MCCARTHY: Very inspiring.

STEFANOVIC: She's also incredibly cheeky, which we love as well. Do you think many marching yesterday to abolish Australia day, to change it, would ever be ok with celebrating Australia, with finding a day of celebration for Australia?

MCCARTHY: Look, I just want to remind all Australians, we create change by walking the streets, by showing that we don't believe in a particular kind of system. And I don't think Australians shoudl be afraid of that. So what you saw yesterday and what many Australians saw yesterday was thousands of other Australians saying look things are not right in our country.


MCCARTHY: What concerns me Karl, is that our leaders, our Prime Minister, Cabinet here in Australia, are really not listening to that. In fact, if anything,  prior to Australia Day, we saw lots of racist commentary by members of the Government. And I think that's really unhelpful because if we are a democracy, we must enable people to speak but we must do it respectfully.

STEFANOVIC: Is unity achievable and how long is it going to take?

MCCARTHY: Hey look, I stand before you always in the hope that unity is always achievable. It's something that I firmly believe in, it's something that I live for and strive for and yes I do believe it is possible.

STEFANOVIC: Good on you Senator. Always lovely to talk to you. Thank you for your time.

MCCARTHY: Thank you.