Villawood 1c - Sanctuary, Sovereignty and Solidarity


Sanctuary, Sovereignty and Solidarity

There is an unbroken continuity in the assertion of Aboriginal sovereignty over these colonised lands. One of the ways in which this sovereignty is expressed is through the welcome of people seeking asylum by Indigenous leaders.

The  passport ceremonies of the early 2000s are such exercises  of sovereignty. They demonstrate an acute awareness of the inextricable link between the assertion of unextinguished Aboriginal sovereignty on the one hand and the illegal occupation of the continent and settler-colonial Australia’s repressive immigration policies on the other.

In 2010, Robbie Thorpe and other Aboriginal leaders issued Original Nation passports to 200 Tamil refugees stuck between Indonesia and Australia. In May 2012, Uncle Ray Jackson and Robbie Thorpe attempted to issue Aboriginal passports to two Tamil men detained at Villawood IDC who had been denied permanent visas due to a security assessment by the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO). In September 2012, an Aboriginal passport ceremony was held in Redfern. with 200 migrants, including newly arrived asylum seekers, receiving a passport. A second ceremony was held in September 2014.  Among the recipients were the family of Hamid Kehazaei, an asylum seeker killed by medical negligence whilst held on Manus Island.


An artwork which juxtaposes a certificate of exemption from the NSW 'Aborigines Protection Act' and Original Nation Passport. The words 'not your place' are written across them.[imagecaption] ‘Not Y/our Place’, Anthea Fitzgerald and Robbie Thorpe, from the ‘We Don’t Cross Borders, Borders Cross Us’ poster series. Cross Border Collective[/imagecaption]

‘Locking people up doesn’t solve any problems, it only causes harm. We have seen that time and time again with Indigenous people, and now the  government is making the same mistake with asylum seekers. This has to stop. The Australian Government must stop imprisoning Indigenous people, and they must stop imprisoning asylum seekers. I am proud to welcome people in need into our community.’

Uncle Ray Jackson (Wiradjuri Elder and Activist)



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Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are respectfully advised that this website contains images of and references to deceased persons.

All viewers are respectfully advised that the site contains images of and references to the deaths in custody of Indigenous peoples, Black people and refugees that may cause distress.