The AJDS formally acknowledges that we, as an organisation, have members who live and work on the land of the Wurundjeri and Boonwurrung peoples of the Kulin nation, owners of the Melbourne region. We also have active members in other parts of Australia, all of whom reside on Aboriginal land.
We pay our respects to elders past and present, and acknowledge the history of the lands we stand, work and live on, noting that Indigenous sovereignty has never been ceded, and that colonisation continues. We are committed to stand in solidarity with Aboriginal peoples in the fight for justice and real land rights. In doing so we pay tribute to a history of Aboriginal-led resistance, from struggling against initial colonial invasion, to the Gurindji, Cummeragunja, and other walk offs, the Freedom Rides of the 1960s, the self-determination movement, organisations, and Tent Embassies which began in the 1970s, the fight to retain control of spaces such as Lake Tyers, legal battles to attain land and cultural rights, and the resistance of actively practicing culture and fighting for self-determination and sovereignty in the face colonisation and forced assimilation, and everything else in between.
Since its colonisation, Australia has perpetrated genocide against the Aboriginal peoples, dispossessed them of their lands, split up their families and left a long history of trauma and oppression. Furthermore, this colonialisation continues, informing government policy and benefiting non-Indigenous people. Aboriginal peoples and nations are still being dispossessed and in some cases removed from their lands, and Aboriginal people live in stark socio-economic disadvantage compared with the living standards of the rest of the population. Instead of addressing the gaps in health, education and employment, successive governments have cut funding from Aboriginal services and undermined Aboriginal-run services such as health and legal centres. The AJDS affirms that self-determination at all levels of life is crucial to Aboriginal communities. As one of a series of measures, this requires the negotiation of a treaty.
Aboriginal communities across Australia are extraordinarily diverse, and AJDS seeks to affirm that understanding this – and understanding its implications – is crucial to creating justice for Aboriginal peoples. Differences abound in terms of language, cultural practice, history, identity and politics. Differences also exist in forms of resistance, and in the differentiated ongoing impacts of colonisation. These differences are created by factors including location, gender, sexuality, class, poverty, age, and relationship to Aboriginality, amongst other facets of life.
Jewish communities and Aboriginal communities working together
In a manner in many ways reflective of the broader society, while the Jewish community has not always stood in solidarity with Indigenous peoples, there are some groups and individuals who have histories of mutual solidarity with Aboriginal peoples. These have often drawn on commonalities of persecution. On December 6th 1938, less than one month after Kristallnacht, William Cooper, a Victorian Aboriginal man, led a delegation of Kooris from the Australian Aborigines* League to the German Consulate in Melbourne with a statement condemning the persecution of Jews in Germany. Not only were they first group in Australia to lodge a formal protest against Nazi Germany’s persecution of Jews, but they are acknowledged as the only private protest against the Germans following Kristallnacht.
There has also been much involvement by the Jewish community in Aboriginal civil rights and land rights movements. Indeed, the AJDS was established in 1984 with four major aims, one of which was “to support rights for Aborigines, including land rights.” Over the years the AJDS has been a member and supporter of various Indigenous groups and institutional faculties, including the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies, the Koorie Heritage Trust, Justice for Indigenous Australians and the Monash Indigenous Centre at Monash University, as well as having been involved in numerous grassroots campaigns. The AJDS is currently a subscribing member of the Black Nations Rising publication put out by Warriors of Aboriginal Resistance.
While the Jewish community has been recognised as a supporter of Aboriginal rights and calls for justice, we believe it is important to acknowledge that while we are living in this country, we are living on land stolen from the Aboriginal peoples, and participating in continued dispossession. It is therefore important to continue to be aware of the structures of colonialism and how they impact Aboriginal people in many different ways today.
Some of the ways that the AJDS seeks to do this is through:
- Solidarity with Indigenous led campaigns.
- Supporting Indigenous organisations and media.
- Collaborating with Aboriginal organisations and non-Aboriginal support organisations such as local reconciliation groups.
- Holding events that highlight Indigenous issues and groups.
- Education of local issues and history such as organising a local Indigenous cultural walk
- Encouraging conversations around justice, sovereignty, treaty, and self-determination in order to pursue and help enact concrete change and decolonial practices.
- We co-organise the yearly Renate Kamener Oration which raises funds towards providing bursaries for Indigenous students studying at the University of Melbourne.
Protocols for acknowledging Aboriginal owners can be found on various websites such as Aboriginal tribal councils as well as Australian municipal council and government department websites. We encourage members to always be aware of whose land they are walking on, and to weave an acknowledgement of that into everyday life, and all political activity.
This is an official AJDS statement, issued 2 November 2015.
 National Indigenous Times, “Holocaust museum to honour William Cooper”, 5 August 2010, p. 5. Gary Foley, 1997 ‘Australia and the Holocaust: A Koori Perspective’ from the Koori History Website. http://www.kooriweb.org/foley/essays/essay_8.html
*Please note that the word ‘Aborigines’ is used here to be historically accurate, but this word is now considered by many to be offensive and harmful language. As we do not feel that it is appropriate for AJDS to change or censor the name of an Aboriginal organisation, we have left the words intact in the text. But we affirm that we do not wish to perpetuate the harm, and we encourage all readers, members, and supporters to educate themselves about the histories of different words, and to be aware of what is perpetuated when particular words are used.”