Butchulla elder Glen Miller.
Butchulla elder Glen Miller.

Butchulla elder fighting to make movement matter

EVEN as a small child, Glen Miller knew he would be treated differently because of the colour of his skin.

The Butchulla man remembers his mother, renowned author and illustrator Olga Miller, impressing upon her children the need for them to be more well behaved than other children.

"Because we were different, people noticed us more than white kids," Glen said.

"She always impressed upon us that our behaviour had to be better than anyone else.

"When you were Aboriginal, people were always looking for faults in your persona.

"We needed to be polite, have good manners, do the right thing.

"She understood society at that time.

"Being Aboriginal was not a ticket to an easy life."

The Black Lives Matter movement, the subject of fierce protests both in the United States and in Australia after the death of African-American man George Floyd in Minnesota, is a topic Glen is passionate about.

During his lifetime, having served on committees to address issues such as Aboriginal deaths in custody, he has seen how difficult it is to address such issues, often due to stereotypes and institutionalised racism.

After a Royal Commission into Aboriginal deaths in custody, there was actually more deaths after the commission than before, he said.

Glen speaks of an indigenous man with epilepsy who was placed in a cell under the assumption he was drunk.

If his grandson hadn't demanded he received medical treatment and explained the man's health issue, that would have been another preventable indigenous death in custody, Glen said.

He despairs over people hijacking the Black Lives Matter movement for their own reasons.

Looters and rioters in America did not care about the death of Mr Floyd, Glen said.

"The whole thing then loses credibility."