Below is the speech I made today at the March Australia rally in Bathurst – so great to see people of all ages enjoying the sun and each other’s company as we marched strong and loud today.
Thank you to Alyson, Melanie and Sophie for showing great leadership in making this opportunity for us all to have a voice happen. And thank you Aunty Shirley for your welcome to country. My name is Michelle Evans, I’m a Koori woman from the Hunter Valley, and now I call Bathurst my home. I moved back here with my wife and three dogs, after twenty years away. It’s great to be home.
May I begin by acknowledging the land we are meeting on today, the land of the Wiradjuri people. I pay my respects to their elders past and present, to the Aboriginal people who are here with us today.
I am standing here today to make my voice heard. The current government is not speaking for me, they don’t speak for my family, they don’t speak for my values nor my hopes and dreams for our country.
It is disgraceful that the budget put forward by the self declared Prime Minister for Aboriginal Affairs cuts more than half a billion dollars from funding to Indigenous affairs.
The biggest cut is to Indigenous health programs.
These funding cuts are further exacerbated by the proposed revision to raise the retirement age to 70 years old and the GP co-payment. These two actions will further discriminate against First Australians and all Australians.
This is shameful when the life expectancy for Aboriginal men in Australia is 69 years, meaning that many of our old people are not living to reach the proposed retirement age. And the efforts many Australians have made to Close the Gap around the health outcomes for Indigenous Australians will be further set back if economic barriers are imposed on access to GPs.
Another strategic cut made by the Abbott government is to Indigenous democracy.
The National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples has been defunded altogether.
And cuts to the National Aboriginal legal services, including the defunding of the National Family Violence and Protection Legal Services Forum. These cuts impact the daily lives of our most vulnerable Australians.
Good intentions are not good enough.
We require more than words to effect impactful and sustainable change in Indigenous affairs. Cutting funding has sent your message loud and clear – these services, programs and people do not matter. We need to ask ourselves who is this government representing?
We are gathered here today to speak up and speak out.
Government efforts to silence grassroots organized representative voices like our community controlled services, our representative bodies, our not for profit organisations are not going to be tolerated by me/by us.
So what are we going to do?
This today is step one, we must speak out, we must march, we must write to our members of parliament, we must speak to the media, and we most importantly must speak to each other about our dreams for Australia.
My dream is to see Australia free of the shackles to England, to see our land, our home become a Republic that recognizes in law the First Australians. That is why I am marching today for a better and fairer Australia.