'Expert' Panel: Indigenous Recognition in Constitution

Richard Downs Indigenous Peoples Issues 30th January 2011

I know the majority of the leaders and organizations across our country will be jockeying for position to be heard and to put forward their submissions to the so-called expert panel. This appears now to be the norm, where it’s more self-interest and to see who or which groups and organizations can be acknowledged. This we appear to continually do, divided and not as one people. We appear to be wanting to please the governments and the public, fearful to be seen as making trouble or stirring, and continually fighting over crumbs the governments throw our way. I would put all of us down to being gutless, afraid of the unknown, and afraid of ourselves when we should be standing together to stand and fight. This is when we will see and make changes for the betterment of all our people.

I also want you all to look back over the last 20 years and consider the following.

The path set down before us (Aboriginal people) by elders, movements and marches by our activist leaders and young people, some who are no longer with us, and things we have achieved have now been lost. Things like:

  • Land rights
  • Permit System
  • Native title changes
  • Home lands movement
  • Funding to organizations, home lands, communities
  • Freedom to engage and make choices on our future goals and direction for a community or home lands

The panel members should have been selected by the first Australian people in each state or region - not the government making decisions on who represents the first Australians of this country.

Crumbs for Aboriginal People
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From the rich man's table
Cartoon by John Frith
The Herald, July 1968

I will not support some of the members or red-necks on the expert panel who have had the opportunity over the last 20 years to change the government mindset and change the direction towards working together, establishing better relationships and understanding. These people stood back, and continue to stand back, while the federal governments, Labor and Liberal, impose their racist policies to close all home lands and herd our people into 20 hub towns, and to take our corporations and associations from our people. We are back where we were 50 years ago with nothing.

The incarceration rate of our people is now much higher than South Africa’s during the apartheid days.

Our gaols are full of our young people.

How can we continue to turn a blind eye and pretend everything is fine? Nothing is going to change except when we join together and stand up for our rights.

By being silent we are all agreeing to be further divided and ruled by the governments. I urge you all to think hard, and I know you will all come up with the right decisions for yours and our peoples' future. I believe we should now stand together and put the following points to the governments and the panel before we, the first Australians, agree to anything:

  • Recognition by all governments of prior ownership of all lands by first Aboriginal Indigenous Australians is essential.
  • There must be recognition and acknowledgement by governments and courts of all customary laws of first Aboriginal Indigenous
  • Australians who continue to practice and enforce what they have left.
    Australian governments must stop the tokenism of using certain persons and groups to showcase to how 'wonderfully' the governments are doing when in reality the policies and systems have been a failure over the last 200 years.
  • Australian governments must let Aboriginal Indigenous Australians choose their own representatives for the expert panel to discuss with our people the Pre-amble and Constitution.
  • The Australian government must abolish the racist NT Intervention measures and fully engage, consult and form a partnership on the way forward with first Australians who are affected and income-managed.
  • Australian governments must show respect and dignity to first Australians and owners of this country and start discussions and dialogue on Treaty and Severeignty.

I will not support the selected expert panel's presentation of any proposal without the full involvement and say by all our Aboriginal brothers and sisters across this country, cities, communities and homelands across remote areas. All land councils must play a huge part to ensure the information gets to all aboriginal peoples.

I see the government's proposal as another smoke screen and tokenism which will amount to nothing. The governments know how we will react and the way we think, so the carrot is always dangled. The governments know who are the pawns and yes people who will jump on board and divide us all to make themselves look good.

I also know it’s the governments at state and federal level who created racist policies for our people over the last 200 years and still continue to divide us all.

I see the general public as our friends who are waiting to see when we Aboriginal people will unite to lead them.

Our strength is in unity, one people, one voice, one movement.

Comments

Low level of trust between racial groups

AAP Sydney Morning Herald February 14, 2011

Just nine per cent of the community feels there is a "good" level of trust between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians, according to a recent survey from Reconciliation Australia.

However, 90 per cent of those surveyed agreed that the relationship between the two groups is important.

The study, known as the 2010 Australian Reconciliation Barometer, explored the relationship between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians, nearly a year after the formal apology to the stolen generations.

Based on a formula from post-apartheid South Africa, it canvassed 600 indigenous and 1,000 non-indigenous people on their knowledge and awareness of indigenous people, their attitudes, perceptions and actions towards them.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner Mick Gooda said the apparent low level of trust between the two groups was "concerning", but the study had provided a sense of hope for continued improvements in the relationships between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians.

"While it's concerning that just nine per cent of Australians feel trust between the two groups is good, and the general community's knowledge of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures is fairly low, the findings also indicate that most people believe it's important to know about indigenous history and culture, and indeed are open to learning more," Mr Gooda said in a statement on Monday.

He said that a strong and respectful relationship between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians is fundamental to achieving improvements in indigenous health, employment, housing and education.

The commissioner said that the overall positive news from the "barometer" was that these relationships are improving and that the majority of Australians are optimistic about the future.

"We should be seizing this opportunity to build understanding and respect for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples within our schools, within our workplaces, and in our social lives," he said.

According to the commissioner, it is a critical time for the nation to make a historic move to finally recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the Australian Constitution.

"Building a nation based on respect for the dignity and humanity of the first peoples of this land is something to which all Australians should strive," he said.

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