As Australia’s devastating bushfire crisis continues, a string of Australian musicians will front a charity concert on Saturday to raise money for a fire relief fund supporting First Nations communities.
Local acts Horrorshow, Thundamentals, Hermitude, Nooky and supporting act Bindi Bosses are amongst those performing at Sydney’s Enmore Theatre, with all proceeds going to a fundraising account set up by Yorta Yorta, First Nations man, Neil Morris.
The GoFundMe account has exceeded its initial $500,000 target since its launch five days ago, and Morris said the money will help Indigenous communities that have lost their homes or been affected otherwise by the bushfires.
Why There’s A Specific Fund For First Nations Communities
The trauma experienced by First Nations people as a consequence of these fires is different to what other Australians may feel, said Morris, as he traced their pain back to colonisation and connection with the land.
“I don’t want to reduce anyone’s experience,” he told HuffPost Australia. “What I do want to express is the fact that all Indigenous communities are living in trauma on a day-to-day basis at the hands of living in a colonised society.
“Our people are already in a deep state of trauma. In many communities, we are in a state of recovery and that’s a big process obviously with the severe disadvantage that our people have been at.”
He said it’s “harrowing and concerning” to contemplate the social outcomes that could unfold due to the bushfires.
“Are we going to have a rise in Indigenous suicides across parts of country? Are we going to have an epidemic of homeless Indigenous people? So many different things that ring alarm bells as the worst-case scenario,” he said.
It’s for this reason he launched the GoFundMe account, because “if the services are not there to support First Nations people specifically, these are going to be outcomes”.
The money raised will be spent covering critical costs for Indigenous communities including temporary relocation costs (hotel expenses, fuel, rent, medical needs), refurbishment of damaged property, resettling expenses, rental support and replacement of vital items such as clothing and toiletries.
How The Bushfire Crisis Is Affecting Indigenous Australians Differently
As bushfires continue to ravage across NSW, Queensland, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia in particular, Morris said he’s spoken to Indigenous families who have evacuated as a result.
“When I found out that an Indigenous family had lost their home which had been their home for multiple generations, for me that really hit home, because it wasn’t just someone who bought a house in a nice, pretty part of the world,” he said. “It’s custodians living on their country for a very long period of time, going back to however long people had been on that part of country.”
Many communities have turned to refuge centres after fleeing their homes, and Morris said he learned of Indigenous people being treated differently.
“I’m already getting stories at the moment of inequalities in terms of the treatment First Nations people have been receiving in some of the centres where they’ve gone for support, and that’s not the biggest issue here but it’s become a big issue as well,” said Morris.
“There have been Indigenous people turned away on the basis of some clearly disrespectful statements have been made to some people. In some other instances there’s been reports of the clear non-prioritisation of Indigenous people behind wealthy holidaying families and overseas tourists.
“For example, there are some Indigenous people without food and water at the end of the line where Indigenous people are being sent. The complexity of it is a disaster for our people and it’s a disaster for everybody.
“The words I’ve received is that it’s effectively been like a war zone and they’ve been made to be refugees on their own country which is just harrowing and devastating.”
Connection With The Land
Morris said the displacement of communities during a bushfire crisis like this creates a spiritual hole in their lifestyle, and means “you cannot carry out your obligations as First Nations peoples”.
“We are a very spiritual people and that’s something that’s important to the conversation,” he said.
“When you consider the fact that our custodianship is a real key element... and taking that from us is very painful.”
Australians recently noticed shades of red, black and yellow across the sky over Victor Harbour in South Australia, a display resembling the Aboriginal flag.
“I think there are a lot of spiritual omens at the moment and they are always around as they always have been,” said Morris. “And there’s no coincidences at the moment for us as First Nationals peoples.
“When you see things such as this, deep down one get a sinking feeling.... may all things happening now be a sign to listen into the future. Listen closely.”
Saturday’s charity concert titled City Love Country will feature South Asian dance troupe, Bindi Bosses.
The group’s founder Shyamla Eswaran, said it was important for Bindi Bosses to be part of the event and pay homage to Indigenous people’s connection to the land during a time like this.
“In both South Asian and First Nations cultures dance is a form of storytelling - a way to express the connection between the land and its people and animals through movement, keeping sacred knowledge and traditions alive from generation to generation. It is also used to bring people together and to heal,” she told HuffPost Australia.
“Now, more than ever, we need to acknowledge that separating First Nations peoples from being the primary custodians of their lands has had dire consequences for us all.
“We look forward to lending our South Asian fusion to a fundraising effort led by a Yorta Yorta man that will provide culturally sensitive and specific direct support to communities that are being further displaced, overlooked and who need it most.”
Tickets for City Love Country can be purchased here.