We will not be silenced – Jill Gallagher – IndigenousX

I am concerned about proposed federal government changes to the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) regulations.
These changes would pose a serious threat to strong Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander voices and advocacy. 
Tanya Day. David Dungay. Frank Coleman. These are some of the names of community members who have died at the hands of a system that is broken. 
In 2020 I was one of tens of thousands of people who took to the streets as part of the Black Lives Matter movement to demand an end to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander deaths in custody.  
This year marks 30 years since the Royal Commission into Aboriginal deaths in custody. Sadly, the 1991 report that was heralded as “groundbreaking” has sat on a shelf and delivered very little in the way of results.  If anything, the situation has only worsened.  
Since 1991, at least 475 Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander people have died in custody.  
When will the deaths stop?  
Last month Frank Coleman became the ninth Aboriginal person to die in custody since March.  
It breaks our hearts that we are still seeing our loved ones and community members die in custody on an almost weekly basis.  
We are still seeing our people incarcerated at 12 times the rate of non-Aboriginal people in Victoria.  
Black Lives Matter is not just a hashtag or a “woke” movement. Black Lives Matter is an opportunity for real change.  
Change that must bring an end to the atrocities that have resulted in the deaths of loved ones of our community who did not need to die. 
Black Lives Matter is about addressing racism head-on, to demand that we see improved health and wellbeing outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. 
Disturbingly, new Government reforms pose a major threat to the Black Lives Matter movement and to other movements working to achieve social justice in society.
I am the CEO of the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation.
For twenty-five years VACCHO and our Members organisations have fought tirelessly for the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Health and wellbeing that was crushed by colonisation.  
If VACCHO as an organisation is unable to show support for movements like Black Lives Matter – we are essentially turning our backs on the health and wellbeing of our people. 
If we are silenced, decades of advocacy and grassroots activism of Aboriginal leaders to fight for the self-determination and rights of our people will come to nothing – and we may see the fight for our rights reverse against us. 
Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations have been born out of necessity to support and work towards the self-determination of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. 
We absolutely must show support for the advocacy and strong voices that stand up and fight towards closing the gap, towards ending deaths in custody, towards the protection of sacred sites, and against the overrepresentation of our kids in out of home care, and against the overrepresentation of our people in the justice system. 
If we cannot advocate for movements that work to protect our people and toward the self-determination of our communities – the issues will only get worse.  
The Morrison Government’s proposed changes to the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) regulations pose a serious threat to freedom of speech and the basic human right to protest. 
The proposed regulations will give the Charities Commissioner unprecedented and dangerous powers to target and shut down charities and community organisations that advocate on behalf of their communities.  
Amendments to the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) Regulations tabled by the Morrison Government in the Senate give the Charities Commissioner discretion to deregister a charity for the most minor of offences.  
To put it simply – if one of my staff members were to block a footpath at a Black Lives Matter Rally (intentionally or unintentionally) – our organisation could be de-registered. If one of my staff members sends a tweet the government doesn’t like – our organisation could be deregistered.  
The new laws also give the regulator extraordinary powers to arbitrarily deregister a charity when they are of the belief that something that could be dealt with as a minor offence has occurred, even if no charge has been made, or if he believes it is likely that a minor offence may occur in the future.  
To prove compliance with these unreasonable laws, VACCHO’s time and funding will be tied up in endless red tape and legal fees – depriving the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community of Victoria much needed support.  
VACCHO is dedicated to supporting the health and wellbeing of our community – not waste our precious time and resources on unnecessary government red tape.  
Advocating on behalf of community is a major part of the work VACCHO does. For the last 25 years VACCHO have fought hard to advocate for the improved health and wellbeing of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community.  
The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community in Victoria continues to face severe hardship and challenges.  
Challenges such as an over-representation in the justice system, the mental health system, entrenched poverty, disconnection from country and poor health outcomes.  
For 25 years VACCHO have fought tooth and nail to begin the process of eradicating these significant disadvantages.  
The Morrison Government’s proposed reforms pose a significant risk to the people VACCHO, and our Members organisations serve.  
These reforms will impend on people’s rights to access adequate health care.
These reforms pose a serious risk to health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.  
These reforms will be a monumental step backwards in the fight to close the gap. 
It is crucial that the Senate sends this dangerous and draconian proposal to the scrapheap where it belongs.  
We will not be silenced.  
We will not turn our back on the health and wellbeing of our people.  
We cannot close the gap in life expectancy without strong advocacy and a strong voice. 
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Jill Gallagher AO is a Gunditjmara woman from Western Victoria who has worked within, led and advocated for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community in Victoria for all her life. Jill is a highly respected leader who has dedicated her life to advocating for self-determination outcomes on behalf of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community. Jill is the CEO of the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation where she has spent the past 25 years advancing Aboriginal health and wellbeing. Jill was recognised for her outstanding contribution to community when she was inducted into the Victorian Honour Roll of Women in 2009, awarded the Order of Australia in 2013, and inducted into the Victorian Aboriginal Honour Roll in 2015. Jill was also closely involved in leading the Victorian journey to treaty serving as Victoria’s Treaty Advancement Commissioner from 2017 to 2019.

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