Big Issues

Lidia Thorpe Doesn’t Owe You Shit

Lidia Thorpe press conference calling out Neo-Nazi abuse

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On Thursday, Independent senator and DjabWurrung Gunnai Gunditjmara woman Lidia Thorpe said the Australian Federal Police and Prime Minister Anthony Albanese have failed to protect her from being a target of far-right extremist abuse. 

In a press conference in Melbourne, Lidia passionately called out Neo-Nazi’s that have targeted her in a video burning the Aboriginal flag while doing a Nazi salute among other racist acts. During her speech, Lidia started swearing as she recounted how her life has been affected by far-right extremism. It’s all too unsurprising, though, that the general public seems to have taken more issue with what Lidia said and how she said it, instead of the far-right abuse. 

What Did Lidia Thorpe Say About Anthony Albanese And The AFP? 

Lidia Thorpe stood in front of the Royal Exhibition Building — a building she said is where the “racist constitution” came out of — and said that the Voice to Parliament referendum is an “act of genocide against my people”. She said that the AFP, Victorian Police, and Albanese haven’t done enough to protect her. 

“The Prime Minister knows exactly what he is doing. He wants the fucking fascists to come out and get me,” she said. “… his violent force that he has sent to protect me can’t even protect me, refuse to protect a Blak sovereign woman because the police are part of the problem in this country. And I can’t ring 000. I can’t rely on Victoria Police after they kill my people. So where is my support?” 


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A post shared by Senator Lidia Thorpe (@senatorthorpe)

Although we don’t know the details of the AFP investigation into the video or the level of protection offered to Lidia, as an Indigenous person it’s not hard to imagine that little is being done to protect her. Indigenous women in Australia are murdered up to 12 times the national average and in some areas, their deaths make up some of the highest homicide rates in the world. Since the Royal Commission in 1991, there have been 555 Indigenous deaths in custody. So forgive me for questioning whether the police are protecting Lidia. Let’s not forget when they tackled her to the ground

“You want to paint me as an angry Blak woman, well you are about to see an angry Blak woman,” Lidia said. “[For] four months, I wasn’t allowed to be in my own home, because people want to kill me out there.” The ABC also found that there has been a “sustained and targeted campaign” by Neo Nazis against Lidia. I think I’d be swearing too. 

The Prime Minister hasn’t responded directly to Lidia’s comments, but when asked about the video in question, he said that people need to be “respectful” during the referendum debate. Yeah, sorry mate but that’s not enough. It’s not enough to call for respect when Indigenous people have never been afforded that. He also said “Nazi rhetoric … has no place in discourse in Australian life.” Oh but it does. Remember when the Neo-Nazis rocked up at the trans rally and no one did anything

So Now We Are Defending Neo Nazis? 

Instead of condemning the Neo-Nazi threats and racist abuse directed at Lidia, I saw far more commentary online criticising Lidia’s choice of words and tone. Yep, we’ve reached the point where people are more comfortable with calling out an Indigenous woman for swearing than with calling out literal Neo-Nazis. It’s completely disgusting to me that people are yet again pushing the ‘angry Blak woman’ trope. In Australia, it’s easier to help drag down an Indigenous woman than it is to call out the systemic hatred that runs deep in the veins of the nation. 

Comments under this post highlight the exact issue Lidia is expressing. “We shouldn’t waste anything on her, she should be treated the way Trump should be, ignored,” one commenter said. Another commenter pointed to racist tropes of Indigenous people having drug and alcohol issues. “The gum chewing sunglasses thing isn’t working in her favour. Is substance abuse a contributing factor here?” Gross. 

It’s not just social media comments that are perpetuating these tropes, it’s the media too. Using the term “rages” or “rant” or “outburst” serves to further portray Lidia as an ‘angry Blak woman’ whose emotions are not justified or are too aggressive. 

To be frank, I’m sick and tired of people being upset at how Indigenous people choose to express their emotions in a nation that has tried its best to eradicate us. I’m fed up with non-Indigenous people policing First Nations folk, women especially, for their tone and language especially when it’s the same one that our people were colonised with and forced to use. You do not get a say on how we respond to threats against our lives.

Indigenous People Don’t Have To Make You Comfortable

I did a bit of digging, and ironically, many of the social media users calling Lidia out for her tone are advocating for the ‘Yes’ vote. I’m not advocating for either side of the Voice, but I have seen a lot of racist ideology come from both sides of the debate. Being a ‘Yes’ voter does not negate you of racist opinions. 

If you’re a ‘Yes’ voter who’s also happy to undermine Lidia’s perspective, I wonder: what Indigenous voices are you willing to actually listen to? Will you only listen to voices that make you feel comfortable? I hate to break it to you, but that’s not what an Indigenous Voice to Parliament is about. 

And what would the public response be if a white Senator had the same threats made against them as Lidia has? Would people question their tone, or their language? 

It’s funny that people take issue with Lidia’s tone and language, as if they would listen to her if she spoke how they wanted her to. This isn’t new. Lidia Thorpe has been calling out abuse she’s faced for a while nowNothing happened. Indigenous women have been resisting against the colony since invasion. It always falls on deaf ears. If Lidia didn’t use a tone and language that seemingly appalled non-Indigneous people then we wouldn’t even be talking about the rise of Neo-Nazis in Australia, the abuse Indigenous women face, and the double standards of the Voice to Parliament debate. 

Indigenous people aren’t here to placate your guilt. We will not be told how to act or how to speak. That’s happened for far too long already. 

Ky is a proud Kamilaroi and Dharug person and writer at Junkee. Follow them on Instagram or on X.

Image: AAP Images / Joel Carrett