Professor Bronwyn Fredericks is the Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Indigenous Engagement) at The University of Queensland.

Dr Abraham Bradfield is an early career researcher and a research assistant with the Office of the Pro-Vice Chancellor (Indigenous Engagement) at The University of Queensland.

We don’t want to go back to ‘normal’, when ‘normal’ wasn’t good for everyone

Alongside the disruptions caused by the spread of COVID-19 we have heard discourses reflect the theme of normality. Preventative measures employed to ‘flatten the curve’ and stop the spread of disease are often spoken of as creating a temporary ‘new norm’, while a post-COVID-19 world is seen as marking a return to ‘normality’. Positioned within a context defined by heightened uncertainty, anxiety and an urgency to respond to arising health, economic, and other social crises, in this paper we consider what a pre-COVID-19 normal means for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and whether it is something we aspire to return to. Unpacking topics relating to Black deaths in custody and the Black Lives Matter movement we consider the systemic failure of dominant White systems of governance that continuously prove themselves incapable of addressing and responding to the Indigenous voices they claim to represent. Throughout our paper we encourage a deeper consideration of the need to create to a lasting new norm that protects, is informed by, represents, and directly involves Indigenous peoples and their representative bodies. Exemplified by the Uluru Statement from the Heart, we argue that a new norm — which is not characterised by Indigenous socio-economic disadvantages and disparities between Indigenous and non-Indigenous populations — must be one where an Indigenous voice is enshrined within the parliamentary process. A new norm must build on the foundation created by the countless Indigenous activists, past and present, who have laid the tracks leading towards meaningful reforms that engages Indigenous sovereignty and self-determination. No longer are tokenistic or symbolic gestures of recognition acceptable. The time for a new normal is now.

Keywords: Indigenous; Australia; Coronavirus; Black Lives Matter; Black deaths in custody; injustice; inequity; normal