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Indigenous Australian senator accuses government after neo-Nazi threat

Australian senator Lidia Thorpe talks to reporters outside Melbourne’s Royal Exhibition Building on Thursday, Oct. 5, 2023. (Photo by AAP)

Nine days before a landmark referendum on First Nations peoples' rights, a video has surfaced online of a neo-Nazi threatening an Australian Indigenous senator.

But the senator, independent lawmaker Lidia Thorpe, pledged Thursday not to be cowed and accused Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and the police of failing to protect her.

The video showed a man wearing a balaclava and claiming to be a member of the Warriors for Convict Resistance group as he burned an Aboriginal flag. The man reportedly gave a Nazi salute and made racist comments as well as threatening Thorpe.

"I am not hiding for the next nine days," Thorpe told a news conference. "You are going to hear from me and you are going to see me and I am not scared."

Thorpe said that she has spent four months in exile, unable to be in her home "because people want to kill me out there."

She also accused the Australian police of being racist, saying they "are part of the problem in this country.”

“I can’t rely on Victoria Police after they kill my people,” she added.

Thorpe said only two people have been arrested, despite several threats against her across two years.

Indigenous Australians, living in the country for thousands of years, have been struggling for generations to get recognition.

The population has suffered since European colonization, which had a devastating impact on Aboriginal communities and cultures.

Constituting only 4 percent of the total population, more than 400 Indigenous people have died in the police custody in the past three decades, according to official data.

Australians will vote on October 14 on a constitutional reform that would recognize Indigenous people as the first inhabitants of the continent, and create a body for First Nations peoples to advise the government.

Thorpe opposes the reform, saying it would have little impact, and urged the government to act first to resolve inequalities such as the high number of Indigenous deaths in custody.

Recent surveys indicate support for the referendum has plummeted over the past year.

According to University of Technology Sydney criminology professor Chris Cunneen, Indigenous-related racism reports have spiked since July.

The share of racism complaints related to the referendum has climbed to about 30 percent since July, he said. The rate was eight percent in previous months.

Speaking outside Melbourne’s Royal Exhibition building, Thorpe said that the referendum is “an act of genocide against my people.”

"This building behind us is where it all began in 1901. The racist constitution come out of this building- nothing but pain and misery for my people in this country,” she said. 

"They don't want my voice to be heard over the next nine days. They want to feel good about the referendum; the referendum to assimilate our people into their constitution."

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