Gooreng Gooreng elder Richard Johnson
Gooreng Gooreng elder Richard Johnson

‘Own up’: Gooreng Gooreng elder speaks about BLM movement

“It’s easy to blame the colour, but I think it’s something deeper than that.”

Those were the words of Gooreng Gooreng elder Richard Johnson as he reflected on what the Black Lives Matter movement means for Gladstone.

Tomorrow people around Central Queensland are expected to rally in Rockhampton as part of the BLM movement to show support for black lives that have been lost in police custody in Australia and around the world.

Mr Johnson said it was hard to compress everything he’d experienced in light of the events that preceded the BLM movement and what has happened since.

“How do you separate from racism, fear, a bit of both?” he said.

“The First Nations people have this understanding their lives were forever impacted from the day that Cook sailed up the east coast.”

He said change needed to start with education, noting that in his own family only one of his eight grandchildren have been able to find employment despite the numerous local opportunities.

“I’ve see a lot of other kids, black and white, get those opportunities,” he said.

“So something else is going on, it’s not entirely about racial bias and prejudice.”

He said the lack of work led to boredom, causing some to turn to drugs and alcohol.

“They caught that disease from non-indigenous Australians – alcohol and drugs,” he said.

“Foul language wasn’t part of our vocabulary, we didn’t have words like that. We got it from somewhere.

“These are the sorts of things as a nation we’ve got to address.”

He said although he didn’t know the exact number of indigenous people going through court, he guessed they would be high.

“There’s a subsection of our community that people look over the top of and can’t see – the only time anyone acknowledges it is when they get into trouble,” he said.

“There’s some good stories about the kids who have done well and succeeded in Gladstone – there’s a bigger story about the ones who haven’t.”

Mr Johnson said oppression also occurred within First Nations groups.

“It could be said people in the know who have cottoned on to how the system works quicker than the others then grab what they can, they grab the gold, they grab the treasure then they use that opportunity to oppress their own people,” he said.

“Places like Gladstone, it’s apparent to me (if) you know the ‘secret English’ and you can talk (it), you’re going to get by.”

Mr Johnson has one request for people in Gladstone – “honesty”.

“Own up to what has gone wrong, what’s still going wrong,” he said.

“At the end of the day there’s got to be a whole change in our nation right across the board.”

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