All the talk of getting rid of 18C in the Racial Discrimination Act is centred around this idea that it shouldn’t be illegal to offend or insult someone. The conversation usually tries to clear of mentioning that it has to be specifically because of their race, colour, or ethnic origin, and it definitely never goes so far as to examine, or in any way acknowledge, the myriad of exclusions for 18C presented by 18D.
The Redfern statement, compiled by a collective of at least 55 Indigenous and Non-Indigenous organisations and peak-bodies has issued a bold challenge to whichever party is elected as Australia’s government come 2 July 2016, “It is time Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander voices are heard and respected, it is time for action”.
Dear Cr Brandenburg
I do hope that this letter finds you well.
I was just 11 years old when the cousin that I loved and adored spent what would be his last night in Tenterfield at our home, laughing and telling jokes and stories, just being everything you could ever want to be when you got older.
I was 11 years old when I walked up that road behind Evelyn’s family and her father, who carried her tiny little white coffin in his arms to her final resting place.
The Treaty vs Recognition debate is an interesting one, although it probably still hasn’t received the attention and scrutiny that it deserves.
The push for Treaty is older than any of us, but it has risen to prominence again largely from the frustration felt by many with how the Recognise campaign has been rolled out. People feel that it is a top down campaign blindly promoting a ‘Yes’ vote in a referendum that still doesn’t have a question for us to say yes or no to. In this sense, it comes across like government asking us to sign our names to a blank piece of paper that they will fill in later. Such a request is entirely reliant on a goodwill between government and Indigenous peoples that doesn’t really exist.
Yow, NT elections are on this year in August 2016. Yolŋu from Arnhem Land have electorate areas: Arafura, Arnhem and Nhulunbuy. Since the first NT legislative council in 1947, we Yolŋu have been voting for ALP and CLP politicians to speak on our behalf, but their policy is governed according to the Monarch of the Commonwealth of England, created by a King 800 years ago, or more. That’s why our voices through politicians, (both Yolŋu and Balanda) have never been listened to, because that law is not ours. It operates according to the (foreign) Westminster system of law. Sadly, some Indigenous candidates will stand for ALP and CLP parties this year, but they will be controlled by a foreign sovereignty. I have been endorsed by the Yolŋu Nations Assembly to stand as an Independent candidate for the seat of Nhulunbuy, and I will represent my people according to the Yolŋuw maḏayin system of governance created by a mimay’ (unseen creator), created ever since time began, and handed through Djaŋ’kawu and Barama/Lany’tjun. I am proud to be a Yolŋu leader/elder. I have knowledge systems passed on to me by fathers. I will represent my people with the Djirrikay (proclamation) according to the Yolŋu Ŋärra (parliament) of this land.
The reason that I want to do this is the voices of my people, of Arnhem Land and Australia wide, our voices have never really got through to the parliament house in the way it was meant to be. Our voices and our cause have been misinterpreted and twisted around and the politicians we have voted in before have always thought of how Yolngu people should live. It’s always been said “I think this is what is good for you”, rather, I want to go in there and say “this is what we know we need for our children, this is what we know we need for our community.”
Page 2 of the October 1952 edition of Dawn, a ‘Magazine for the Aboriginal People of NSW’ published by the Aboriginal Welfare Board. Through the 40s and 50s many Aboriginal girls were forcibly removed from their family’s and interned as wards of the state at the Cootamundra Aboriginal Girls Training Home
Incredibly, the forced removal of Aboriginal children from their families continues to this day.
The sweeping election victory of the Country Liberal Party (CLP) in 2012, was due in no small part to the massive swing against Labor in the typically safe Labor “bush seats”, electorates made up of largely Indigenous people and Indigenous owned land. A neglectful and fatigued Labor party failed on numerous fronts to respond to the requests of their bush electorates and machinations of federal level politics also didn’t bode well for electoral victory. The subsequent CLP victory was a shock to many, but a long time coming.
Strangely, during the first weeks of the CLP’s governance, it very vocally and crudely tried to distance itself from the Labor party’s alcohol management policies. The most notable of which, was the “Banned Drinker’s Register” (BDR), dismantled within the first two weeks of winning government. The reasons for getting rid of this policy have varied and changed over a period of time, but a steady chorus of “look at the stats, it didn’t work” has been the fundamental basis of all their arguments (at least post-election) . A middle-schooler studying statistics and logic could quite quickly and easily highlight the fallaciousness of this argument, as trying to measure the success or failure rate of a public-health intervention only one year into operation is, frankly speaking, laughable. Laughable still, or perhaps perplexing to those who haven’t kept up with NT politics, is the somewhat recent CLP attempts at alcohol management policies, such as the placing of police officers at takeaway alcohol premises around the electorates in proximity to the bush seats, fulfilling a function almost identical to the BDR and at twice the cost. Health stats indicate there has actually been an increase in alcohol related injuries post-BDR. However, I won’t be making that argument here, just a remark intended as a friendly elbow jab and a wink.
Underpinning all discussions and arguments about the best approach to policies and programs affecting indigenous people is the fundamental question of ‘Why?’.
Why are Aboriginal peoples around the country plagued by the well known and often flouted statistics: more likely to die from suicide, to go to jail, to have children removed, to die younger… the list goes on and on.