Ballarat silent protest in solidarity for Black Lives Matter

SPEAKING UP: Wadawurrung woman Macaylah Johnson calls for greater respect and understanding in the ripple effects from the Black Lives Matter movement. Picture: Lachlan Bence
SPEAKING UP: Wadawurrung woman Macaylah Johnson calls for greater respect and understanding in the ripple effects from the Black Lives Matter movement. Picture: Lachlan Bence

Wadawurrung woman Macaylah Johnson calls for unity and respect for all races as Ballarat grapples with the ripple effects of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Ms Johnson will be part of a silent stand against Aboriginal deaths in custody in Camp Street on Saturday, joining with representatives from the city's African community and Ballaarat Allies (non-Indigenous supporters). The demonstration is made in solidarity with calls for equality in justice after the death of African American man George Floyd in custody.

Silence speaks more than shouting or blame. This is not about whites versus blacks, this is about everyone against racism and discrimination.

Macaylah Johnson

For Ms Johnson, equality and harmony is about working together to first achieve equity.

She was surprised in responses on social media to the Black Lives Matter campaigns, black screens and protests worldwide with Ballarat people overtly claiming they could not relate, that Australia was not a racist place.

Ms Johnson said she was a firm believer all lives matter but she could not comfortably follow the emerging all lives trend while there were statistical gaps and disadvantage due to skin colour and race. This includes casual racism.

I think a lot of the time racism has a lot of excuses...It gets swept under the carpet with the language and jokes we say but really it can be hurtful for a lot of people.

Macaylah Johnson

"I want to help educate what is happening here and happening close to home for our indigenous and refugee communities - indigenous communities aren't the only ones discriminated against," Ms Johnson said.

"When I've looked at statistics, Australia has one of the highest rates of casual racism across the world...I think a lot of the time racism has a lot of excuses like it's just Aussie humour or Aussie culture. It gets swept under the carpet with the language and jokes we say but really it can be hurtful for a lot of people."

Ms Johnson's call is echoed by a cross-section of community cultural leaders across Ballarat. This includes Indian-Australian man Ronnie Singh, who has been hurt by verbal abuse as a black man and called for greater respect and understanding between cultures.

STAND: Indian-Australian man Ronnie Singh who has spoken out about racism in Ballarat, calling for people to truly understand the Black Lives Matter movement. Picture: Lachlan Bence

STAND: Indian-Australian man Ronnie Singh who has spoken out about racism in Ballarat, calling for people to truly understand the Black Lives Matter movement. Picture: Lachlan Bence

Respect and reflection is why the Camp Street demonstration, organised by Ballarat Allies, will be silent.

The protest will highlight there have been more than 400 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander deaths in custody since a 1991 royal commission into the issue. This includes Tanya Day, who was arrested for public drunkenness when asleep on a train and died after hitting her head in a Castlemaine police cell in 2017.

For Ms Johnson, the silence was also a way for Aboriginal people and refugees to take a stand and feel seen and supported.

"Silence speaks more than shouting or blame," Ms Johnson said. "This is not about whites versus blacks, this is about everyone against racism and discrimination."

The silent protest will be in Camp Street from 2-3pm. Supporters are asked to wear warm black, unbranded clothes and to observe social distancing and hygiene.

This story Ballarat silent protest in solidarity for Black Lives Matter first appeared on The Courier.