Peter Khalil: Generations of Indigenous Australians have been subjected to the immense pain of dispossession and discrimination, of destruction of culture and denial of existence. It is on us to reflect on the insidious effect of racism in Australia, acknowledge this pain and act. I have experienced racism, growing up in this country, and spent decades thinking about it; most people from migrant backgrounds do. My experience—deeply personal, hurtful—is still difficult to talk about. However, it cannot compare to the pain of dispossession from land and country, of being forcibly removed from family. Racism permeates like a poison from our nation’s original stain of terra nullius. That was only recently overturned, yet Indigenous dispossession endures.
There are no easy answers, no more easy words, no more speeches made in this place that can right the wrongs of our history and of our present, yet now we share a rare moment. More Australians are opening their eyes, seeing the tragedy of Indigenous deaths in custody, seeing the persistent gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous in Australian life. We cannot allow this to be just another passing moment. We must seize it and give it momentum. We must grapple with our history long after the headlines fade. We must ask why and how, almost 30 years since of the royal commission, 437 Indigenous people have died in custody. We must do the hard work necessary for change. We must all act.