In the remote town of Binjari, Indigenous residents facing poverty and overcrowded homes are skeptical that the upcoming referendum will bring improvement.
“Young and old share small houses,” says Peggy Slater, a local resident. “Kids roam all night while parents go to town to drink or gamble.”
Australia will hold a key vote on October 14. The aim is to give Indigenous people a say in Parliament.
Across the nation, people march to support this change. Advocates think it could fix age-old inequalities.
But in Binjari, hope is limited. “We exist and most of us will vote yes,” declares Slater.
Surveys show few Australians support this measure. Critics say it lacks input from remote communities.
“We don’t know what it’s for,” notes longtime resident Leonie Raymond.
Raymond wants future generations to find local work. She runs a local aid group for the community.
Another resident, Evonne Booth doubts the measure will help remote areas.
In nearby Katherine, Manuel Pamkal shares this doubt. “I need to know what this means before I vote,” says the local artist.
Richard Fejo, from Darwin, thinks the vote is a start. His mom, Nanna Fejo, was part of the ‘Stolen Generation.’
She was taken from her family as a child. “Past methods failed,” Fejo says.
Fejo’s late mom was mentioned in a 2008 apology speech by a former Prime Minister. She was four when taken and never saw her family again.
“This vote is a beginning,” Fejo concludes.
The struggle for Indigenous rights in Australia dates back centuries. After British colonization in 1788, Indigenous people faced oppression.
They were stripped of land, culture, and even children. This dark chapter is known as the ‘Stolen Generations.’
Later, various laws aimed to segregate and control Indigenous communities. Some laws restricted movement and voting rights.
Social services were often inadequate, leading to poorer health and education.
In 1967, a pivotal referendum granted them full citizenship. But many issues still remained. Land rights became a key focus.
Landmark cases like the Mabo decision in 1992 recognized Indigenous land ownership.
In 2008, Australia formally apologized to the ‘Stolen Generations.’ But many feel words are not enough.
Protests, campaigns, and now a new referendum seek to bring change.
Yet, the road to equality is long and winding. This upcoming vote could be a significant step, or another disappointment.
Remote communities like Binjari, the hope is cautious but real.
With information from AFP