Proclamation Day legacy questioned

ABC News December 29th, 2011

A South Australian Aboriginal spokesman says there needs to be greater recognition of the meaning of Proclamation Day to Indigenous people.

Aaron Stuart chairs the Arrubanna Native Title Claim Group and is a member of the Aboriginal Advisory Council.

Today is the 175th anniversary of the arrival of the original colonisers of South Australia from England.

Mr Stuart says the day represents the disempowerment and dispossession of Aboriginal people.

"A lot of Aboriginal people, especially those in the urban areas and probably in the city, anything to do with the Crown, whether it's Proclamation Day or Australia Day, I think it's a sad day for us," he said.

"Our country, which we all love and we're all Australian, but it just treats us so bad.

"To me, the pompous stuff, Australia Day or South Australia being the Proclamation Day... to me that just doesn't sit right."

Critical vision

The State's Governor, Rear Admiral Kevin Scarce, has also used his Proclamation Day address to criticise the state's performance on Indigenous affairs.

Speaking to about 600 people at the Old Gum Tree site at Glenelg, Rear Admiral Scarce called for changes to how governments devise policies affecting Aboriginal people.

"I do know that the drive we need to bridge the gap can only be achieved by constructive dialogue with all parties fully engaged. And that dialogue must encompass policy approaches that span more than one electoral cycle," he said.

The Governor says greater protections for Aboriginal people envisaged in 1836 were never delivered.

"Not all the colonists' aspirations were realised. The first South Australians did not receive the support and protection that Governor Hindmarsh envisaged. And 175 years later, that goal still seems to elude us."

But Mr Stuart disputes the claim that the colonists were well-intentioned towards Indigenous people.

"No-one has the right to make a defence for a bad act if it was done intentionally," he said.

"You can't keep saying everything bad was done with good intentions."

He says the day should instead be used as an opportunity for healing.

"Sure we've got to move on and sure we've got to live together, but I think even now we as a nation have got to think what [was] done to the first people and learn to live and even, not like an apology, but more or less bless the past and give a day for recognising what it was," he said.

"I really think it should be celebrated for what it was and to turn it into a good thing."