The son of legendary civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr has said Australia should be embarrassed about the way it treats Indigenous Australians.
Speaking during a visit to Alice Springs, Martin Luther King III said Australia’s Indigenous people were worse off than when he first visited the country two decades ago.
“For some reason, there’s been this desire to re-oppress people who are already oppressed,” he said.
“Here I am 20 years later, and I don’t see much has changed. In fact, I’m greatly disappointed in what I’ve seen in how the First Nations people are treated.”
Mr King was in Alice Springs as part of Reconciliation Week.
The civil rights activist visited the Whitegate town camp, which had its water supply turned off in 2014.
“There’s no logical, legitimate reason why water at a minimum should not get to Whitegate. That has gotta change,” he said.
“It’s inhumane, it’s unacceptable, it’s insensitive.
“And I just want to ask how do you justify mistreating human beings who really were here first?
“We have got to find a way to challenge your nation to be better and to do better.
“You are a great country, but you can only become truly great when you treat your fellow human beings with dignity, respect and love. My dad tried to show us that model in the United States.
“In the United States we would rise up in a constructive way and say, ‘This is unacceptable’.
“In a real sense, your nation should be embarrassed about how it treats First Nations people.”
Mr King also gave a speech to a crowd of a few hundred people at a Reconciliation Week event at the Alice Springs Telegraph Station, in which he showed the oratory prowess of his namesake.
Indigenous people face racism every day: traditional owner
Mr King was brought to Australia by Indigenous children’s charity Children’s Ground, as well as the Igniting Change organisation.
Children’s Ground chairperson William Tilmouth said the Whitegate water supply was one example of the way Australia treated Indigenous people.
“It’s a sad indictment on Australia when you think about it,” he said.
“People have to live in these conditions right in the middle of a very affluent town that really has no space for them, has no consideration of their lives and the way they live.”
Alice Springs traditional owner Felicity Hayes said racism was a constant reality of life for Indigenous people.
“Every day of our life we see a lot of struggle and there’s a lot of racism going on, in the shops and everywhere we go,” she said.
Mr Tilmouth said it seemed like few people were listening to the plight of Indigenous people.
“I do know that there’s a lot of people in power, politicians, that sprout this stuff and yet don’t act it,” he said.
“There’s a lot of people who speak, but their voices are veneer thin.”