‘Australia’ is founded on land and labour that was stolen from Indigenous people. Of course, the wealth that has been generated by that theft is disproportionately distributed. All people who live here today, or who lived here in the past, have not benefited equally from the continuing dispossession of Indigenous people. Indeed, many are deliberately and profoundly marginalised from power and the spoils of colonialism. However, some uncomfortable facts remain:
Every day, people consume food grown on Indigenous land or harvested from Indigenous seas; they drink water that flows across or under Indigenous land. Every day, people who are not Indigenous to this land take shelter in homes built upon it; they socialise, gather, and make family and community here. Every day, business is conducted on this land for the benefit of non-Indigenous people. Every day, land belonging to Indigenous people is traded for profit.
This land was never empty; the sovereignty of First Nations people was never ceded. Despite centuries of attempted genocide that continues to this day, Indigenous people have managed to hold onto and nurture culture and connections with country. At the same time, Indigenous health and wellbeing has been devastated; Aboriginal people are significantly more likely to be incarcerated, to die in custody, to be separated from family, or to suicide. While governments and individuals have said Sorry to the Stolen Generations, they have taken no meaningful action towards making right, nor towards preventing further harm.
Paying the Rent is a step towards acknowledging these facts. It is part of a process of restitution that all non-Indigenous people – individually and collectively – need to enter into, if we are to move towards justice and liberation for First Nations people.