Queers for Reconciliation represents an important coming together of two groups that have always been repressed within mainstream society. There's the queer community which has suffered to a great degree by discrimination by the wider community, and then there's the Indigenous community.
Our float recognises the need to bring together these two groups, and reconciliation, which is a very important political force at the moment, is an ideal catch-all to bring them together.
It's a sign of maturity in the queer community that we recognise that Indigenous people also suffer to a huge degree within Australian society, and other Indigenous people around the world suffer similarly. We're showing that, Hey, there are really serious issues out there and but we're dealing with them. We're starting off by showing you that it's fun to be together and to share that power and be one community together.
Don't forget that there are queer Indigenous people, like myself, and we have to deal with two areas all the time. There's the discrimination of being an Indigenous person. Because I'm not very dark skinned my identity as an Indigenous person gets challenged a lot. Then there's the discrimination that faces a gay person as well. And, although it only happens every now and then, sometimes there's discrimination of a racist kind from within the queer community as well.
There's a huge number of Indigenous queer people and we are try to work with the rest of the community, to help them realise, Hey, we're here and we've got the same issues as you. We've got other issues that come about because of our indigenousness, but we want to share in all the good things that happen in the queer community, just like everyone else.
One of the extra significances of Mardi Gras for Indigenous people is the route that it takes. Oxford Street forms part of a trading route that was used by people before White settlement. It started as a trading route, it's ended up as a trading route, I wouldn't want to talk about some of the trade that goes on there (laughter), but it's there. There have been Black footprints up and down that trading route for thousands of years, so walking up that street on Mardi Gras night is about those Black footprints from the past. They are still there. There are a number of tribes that converge in this area and our float will have the names of the tribes displayed on our truck.
Reconciliation is important because it represents an attempt across many sectors of Australian society, not just the queer community, to try to come to grips with Australia's long indigenous history, and to put modern Australia in that context, and, also, to recognise the injustices of the past. We are trying to move as a mature nation together forward into a new era where understanding and greater community cohesion can come about.
Reconciliation is a name for a lot of processes. We have the Native Title issues. The government is doing everything they can to try to wind back Native Title, and particularly the Wik, issues at the moment. We have issues of Aboriginal health, which has not been good since invasion, and has reached crisis proportions. Then there's the justice system - the deaths in custody, the huge disproportionate imprisonment of Indigenous people. Social justice, overall, represents another dimension to the tasks which fall under the heading of Reconciliation.
It's time for this issue [the union of
queer and Indigenous communities]. Australian society is moving towards
considering whether to become a republic. If we are going to be a fully
mature and adult republic then we've got to be a fully mature and adult
society. That means we've got to recognise the rights of gays, lesbians,
bi-sexual and transgender people. We've got to recognise the rights of
Indigenous people. We've got to recognise the rights of all people in Australian
society. Mardi Gras and all the other organisations which have picked up
the theme this year are making a very big step towards that.