NITV The Point: We feel the death of George Floyd very deeply as First Nations people

04 June 2020



SUBJECT: George Floyd; US protests; Aboriginal deaths in custody

SHARNI WELLINGTON, NITV: Earlier today I spoke with Northern Territory Senator Malarndirri McCarthy and I began by asking about her reaction to the death of George Floyd.

MALARNDIRRI MCCARTHY: I saw it on social media and it was the most horrific bit of footage that you could witness. I think for the families of Mr Floyd, it would have been also absolutely horrific to see that. I think most people who've seen it could not help but be touched by it in some way.

WELLINGTON: We've seen a lot of the Australian public speak out about the horror and the injustice of what they've seen. They've taken to social media, in our daily conversations, to quickly condemn it, but I guess we're kind of seeing a reaction to injustice that we never really saw on our home soil. Why do you think that is?

MCCARTHY: Look, I think we're seeing a reaction that is certainly touching everyone in some way. Some people who support it, some people who don't support it. I do believe that we have seen previous hot issues in Australia. We only have to reflect on what happened on Palm Island and the scenes there of absolute outrage and anger. We've seen the marches in Australia where thousands of people have marched over decades against Aboriginal deaths in custody, so we feel it very deeply as First Nations people. And I think the reason why we think that what we're seeing now is unique is perhaps because we're coming out of a situation in terms of COVID-19, where everyone has been polarised into beating that virus and whilst we're still not through that, I think what we're witnessing in the US is also a combination of the many, many deaths that have occurred in the US and the feelings of people, especially minority groups, they've been pent up not only for months or for years but for generations. We clearly have to look at relationships in our country between black and white Australians and no doubt that's what the US has to do but they need the leadership in that country to be able to do it. I think here in Australia, we've got people who can stand up and speak very strongly and very clearly about the need to look at these issues but handle it in a way where we actually have to work together to handle it. You know, it's very easy to blame one group of people but at the end of the day, we all have to find a way together and that means First Nations communities, it means Elders, it means families, it means the justice system, it means the police system, and in particular and most importantly, it means governments across every state and territory jurisdiction.

WELLINGTON: Coming off that point, the Prime Minister spoke on radio yesterday and did, he mentioned the murder was upsetting and terrible but also went on to call Australia a wonderful place to live. What do you make of those comments when talking about black deaths in custody?

MCCARTHY: Well there is no doubt there is a particular section of the population of Australia who feel that there are no problems but I think for those of us who live with these problems, have to be able to express it in a way that is non-violent but express it in a way that says well hey, you know what, that is not the Australia that we know. And that is not the Australia that we can see if we look at the high incarceration rates of First Nations people right across every state and territory, if we look at the high rates of removal of First Nations children from their families that still continues to this day and if we certainly look at the factors of life expectancy and closing the gap, which we're still unable to achieve, then you cannot say that this is a fantastic country. We're a country that has a lot of work to do and I believe we can do it but we have to be open to the fact that there are serious problems in this country, systemic issues of racism that continue to this day.