Indigenous Voices for Refugees

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have never ceded sovereignty over Country. As such, they maintain that it is their right, in the first instance, to determine who may come to Australia and on what terms. In the context of the Australian government’s brutal border and immigration policies, and their devastating impact on refugees and asylum seekers, a number of Indigenous spokespersons have condemned and defied these policies and have, precisely as an exercise in unceded Indigenous sovereignty, welcomed and offered hospitality to refugees and asylum seekers in their traditional lands. Uncle Ray Jackson’s stirring words succinctly encapsulate this Indigenous welcome to refugees and asylum seekers:

I will state most strongly in their defence that these refugees did not invade us, they did not steal our lands, they did not suppress our culture and language, they did not commit genocide, they did not steal our children, they did not steal our wages, they did not steal our human rights as a first people to exist and to grow. The parliament of the invaders have done that and more.

Again, I say to the asylum seekers, you are welcome to our lands.


Aboriginal Flag

We list below essays, statements and videos that exemplify the power of Indigenous voices in offering welcome and hospitality to Australia’s refugees and asylum seekers.

Birch T 2000 ‘The Last Refuge of the “Un-Australian,”’ Subaltern, Multicultural and Indigenous Histories’ UTS Review 7/1: 17-22. Available at:

Uncle Ray Jackson, President of the Indigenous Social Justice Association, ‘Indigenous Leader to Asylum Seekers: “You are Welcome Here”’ Green Left Weekly. Available at:

Indigenous Social Justice Association 2012 ‘Over 200 Migrants to Receive Aboriginal Passports’ 1 September Media Release. Passport Ceremony Description. Media Release-Passports.

Hodson M 2003 ‘Government Lies Again – Tiwi Islanders: “We’re All Non-Australians”’ Green Left Weekly. Available at:

Thomas Wales and the Refugee Artworks from the Sherge Detention Centre. Thomas Wales, a traditional landowner and spokesperson for the Thanakwith people in far north Queensland. Available at:

Wadjularbinna Nullyarimma 2001 ‘A Gungalidda grassroots perspective on Refugees and the recent events in the US’ Media Release 25/9/2001. Reprinted with permission in Borderlands 1.1. Available at: