News National ‘You can’t say that!’: We all can be a bit ignorant – but that can change

‘You can’t say that!’: We all can be a bit ignorant – but that can change

Indigenous comedian Andy Saunders has shared some ways to respond to racist comments. Photo: TND
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Australia’s treatment of Aboriginal people has come under the spotlight as #BlackLivesMatter protests continue to rage in the United States.

On social media and at dinner tables around the nation, the alleged murder of African-American George Floyd has forced Australians to look at our own record when it comes to indigenous incarceration.

Since the 1991 Royal Commission, 432 Indigenous Australians have died while in police custody. There have been no convictions.

But navigating the subject of racism can be difficult.

Racist stereotypes surrounding First Nations people still exist today, and even seemingly-innocuous comments can have racial connotations.

Aboriginal comedian Andy Saunders, from Biripi Country in New South Wales, has offered some quick ways you can debunk uninformed comments next time you hear them.

1. Australia doesn’t have the same racial problems as the United States.

“Just because something isn’t visible doesn’t mean it isn’t there,” Mr Saunders told The New Daily. 

“Systemic racism is the worst kind. It has been a constant for us.”

2. The government spends a lot of money on Indigenous people. What more do they want?

“Not much – keep the money,” he said.

“We only want constitutional inclusion, just to be recognised as human beings. That’s all.”

3. Lots of countries were colonised around the world. Shouldn’t we just “get over it”?

“Lots of people who are descendants of colonists address it and move on together with a treaty intact and acknowledge it,” Mr Saunders said.

“Shouldn’t you just do that and stop being scared and entitled?”

4. We all have the same chances in life. It’s up to Indigenous Australians what they do with them.

“The biggest chance is to include, educate and acknowledge the truth, but the majority do not take it,” he said.

5. Non-Indigenous Australians have done a lot to help.

“It’s not about what you do, it’s about how it’s done,” Mr Saunders said.

“Getting rid of racism is a duty and an ongoing struggle, not just when things are bad or a once a year event.

“We are part of this country too and want to be a part of it with everyone else.”

Fast facts:

  • Despite Indigenous adults making up only three per cent of our national population, they constitute nearly 30 per cent of all prisoners.
  • Though only 5 per cent of people aged 10-17 are Aboriginal, they make up almost half of those under youth justice supervision.

  • Australia locks up children as young as 10 – far younger than the rest of the world – and Indigenous children are the worst affected.