Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers are advised that the following story may contain images, voices, and video of people who have died.

Tony Armstrong has slammed Australia as a country that can’t accept it’s deep-seated racism, in a powerful moment on The Project on Thursday night.

The proud Barranbinya man held space to talk about the issue of the treatment of Indigenous people in Australia and the systemic injustice of First Nations peoples on their own land, spurred by a discussion about the new documentary, Incarceration Nation.

Tony said that we should be looking into the reasons why young Indigenous people are “stealing a bottle of water”, instead of simply putting them in a juvenile cell.

“We talk about incarceration rates, you’re not seeing white kids getting jailed for stealing a bottle of water,” he said.

“You’re trying to find a way to rehabilitate them, you’re asking what are the reasons why they ended up stealing that bottle of water?

“You’re not just throwing the long arm of the law at them.”

Tony went on to give the hard truth that he believes Australia as a whole hasn’t accepted the fact that the country is built off the slavery, dispossession and abuse of Indigenous people. And without accepting that fact of our country’s foundations, we’re unable to move forward and make serious changes.

“This country still can’t accept it’s a racist country,” he said.

“You still can’t accept it’s built off the back of slavery. It’s built off the back of dispossession. It’s built off the back of rape and pillage of Indigenous people. It’s just– it’s really hard to watch and really hard to reconcile with.”

The documentary, which looks at the alarming stats of Indigenous people incarcerated across the country, is told by First Nations people in their own words, bringing the injustices of the justice system to the spotlight.

In the 2016 National Census, it was recorded that Indigenous peoples made up 3% of the Australian population, yet in prison, Indigenous people make up 27% of the population – a number which is still rising. Children as young as 10 are still being put in prisons across the country too, with two-thirds of those kids being Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander.

At the time of writing, over 470 Indigenous people have died in custody in Australia since the 1991 Royal Commission into the issue.

Incarceration Nation airs on NITV on Sunday, August 29 at 8.30pm.


If you’re feeling affected by this content, help is available. There’s no shame in talking about it.

If you’re in distress, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or chat online.

You can also get in touch with Headspace Yarn Safe online.

Or you can speak with your NACCHO community health service – find your local member online.

Image: Instagram / @theprojecttv