“Built Upon Our Genocide”: An Interview With Wreck the Endeavour’s Lorna Munro

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Genocide of Australia

Right now, there’s a replica of Captain Cook’s ship the Endeavour docked at the Australian National Maritime Museum in Sydney, which is set to conduct a circumnavigation of the continent beginning on 28 April – in a re-enactment of a journey that never took place.

The original Endeavour did arrive in Kamay-Botany Bay in 1770. And to mark this event, prime minister Scott Morrison – the federal member for the seat of Cook – is splashing at least $6.7 million on the replica’s voyage.

And to protest this expensive commemoration of the beginning of the invasion of the First Nations of this land, a group of Wreck the Endeavour activists staged a peaceful Stop the Boat sit-in at the Maritime Museum on 23 February.

Stop the racist replica

Wreck the Endeavour is a collective of people mobilising against the voyage of the fake Endeavour, which it makes clear is a celebration of the dispossession of Indigenous peoples. And the campaign is part of the broader #Resist250 movement.

“First Nations people are being forced to relive the genocidal memories of colonisation”, reads a campaign statement. “Through their colonial democratic process, the Australian public bears witness and celebrates the genocide, dispossession and ongoing oppression of First Nations communities”.

Lorna Munro explains that Wreck the Endeavour is raising awareness about the Gweagal-Bidjigal 250 Years of Resistance demonstration that’s set to begin on 26 April. And the Wiradjuri activist from Redfern also hosts the Survival Guide program on Radio Skid Row.

Sydney Criminal Lawyers spoke to Wreck the Endeavour spokesperson Lorna Munro about why the replica ship should be opposed, the ongoing Return the Gweagal Shield campaign, and how she asserts the funds allocated to the circumnavigation could be better spent.

Firstly, there’s a replica of the Endeavour docked at Sydney’s Maritime Museum. Beginning in late April, it’s set to circumnavigate the continent, which is a re-enactment of a voyage that never happened.

Ms Munro, the Wreck the Endeavour campaign has described it as a “tour of trauma”. Why is that?

The original boat heralded the beginning of the end of an Aboriginal worldview that existed for thousands and thousands of years.

It was the coming of genocide, climate change and ecocide – all of these things that everybody is now coming to understand the complexities around today.

But, people are only really worried about them when these things start affecting white people. And this is the point we’ve been trying to make here on this land for a very long time.

We thrived without colonisation. The coming of colonisation changed that. The coming of Cook. The coming of the ghosts on the floating cloud, as the story has been passed down from the original resisters – the Sydney mob here.

On 23 February, a group of Wreck the Endeavour activists staged a sit-in at the Australian National Maritime Museum opposing the re-enactment voyage. How did that go?

The sit-in was a peaceful action. The manager refused to come down and talk to us. They looked at us through the glass door after they had ordered the police to push everyone out.

No one was arrested. It was a pretty successful action, because people saw it. And it meant that other people were asking questions.

From 26 April through to 6 May, the Gweagal-Bidjigal Sovereign Tribal Elders Council is hosting the 250 Years of Resistance demonstration on country at Kamay-Botany Bay. What’s that going to involve?

I don’t claim to talk on behalf of that mob. But, what we’re trying to do is draw attention to the fact that they’re calling for visibility.

They don’t want the Endeavour in Kamay. They don’t want the Endeavour in Botany Bay. And people should respect that.

The National Maritime Museum claims that they’re engaging with Aboriginal people, but they’re ignoring a large portion of us, right now.

And there’s going to be a fundraiser for it at the Red Rattler on 18th of this month.

Yes. There will be a screening of ’88.

You’re also supporting the Return the Gweagal Shield campaign. Can you tell us a bit about what that involves?

Rodney Kelly, a Gweagal descendent, has been very vocal about that. He’s someone that has identified himself and been building up a relationship with the British Museum. He’s been in there. He was doing free Stolen Goods tours in the local area.

And he actually made them listen to the point that he was invited back to touch the Gweagal shield and the spears. He talks about how hard it was then to walk away from them.

I know about this because I have a radio show the Survival Guide on Radio Skid Row 88.9 FM. And I’ve interviewed Rodney about this.

I’ve seen the shield myself and felt the power that it has. And I’ve walked away from the British Museum crying about how it’s just a trophy of war.

It’s a trophy of an undeclared war that they still want to deny ever happened. The Gweagal shield becomes forensic evidence to prove the illegal occupation. And that Captain Cook, when he came out here, ignored their own policies.

Australia has never adhered to any of the occupation policies.

One of the first things that they were told to do was to “conciliate the affections of the natives”. And I believe coming out here and shooting at two Aboriginal men, who contested the landing, is not conciliating their affections.

And lastly, Ms Munro, the Morrison government is investing at least $6.7 million of taxpayers’ money into the replica Endeavour voyage. There’s also been talk of a big splurge on a new Captain Cook statue. How would you say this money could be better allocated?

I’d be interested to see the current stats on the Aboriginal population to see how these sums could be divided up between our people, and actually deposited directly into our accounts as some form of reparations, as well as that trust funds be set up for our children in their names.

It would be a symbolic gesture in trying to initiate some reconciliation. We can’t have reconciliation without truth-telling. And we can’t have truth-telling without reparations, compensation and paying ongoing rent.

Our people are being pushed off country, which has manifested itself in all of these stats. The fact that we are overrepresented in the gaols. The fact that our children are killing themselves at a rate that’s never been seen before in any country on Earth. This needs to be seriously looked at.

And one of the things that’s creating this is poverty. Another is racism, along with the fact that this country is built upon our genocide. And that this is celebrated every year is another reason.

People really need to understand that, because if the shoe was on the other foot this would not be happening.

This is only allowed to happen, because we are the Indigenous peoples of this country, and we are the one thing in the way of the fantasy this country wants to present to the world.

The Gweagal-Bidjigal 250 Years of Resistance demonstration will be taking place between 26 April until the 6 May

The Gweagal-Bidjigal #Resist250 fundraiser, film screening and live music event will be held at Marrickville’s Red Rattler Theatre on 18 March

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Paul Gregoire

Paul Gregoire is a Sydney-based journalist and writer. He's the winner of the 2021 NSW Council for Civil Liberties Award For Excellence In Civil Liberties Journalism. Prior to Sydney Criminal Lawyers®, Paul wrote for VICE and was the news editor at Sydney’s City Hub.

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