Saturday, November 5, 2011

"Statement by Northern Territory Elders and Community Representatives - No More! Enough is Enough!"

 If you are interested in learning more about the NT Intervention I have included the most recent statement directly below, and also links to a number of other relevant releases, statements, videos and sites below that. Have a look.


Statement by Northern Territory Elders and Community Representatives - No More! Enough is Enough!


"United First People’s Law men and women who are born leaders representing people of Prescribed Areas in the Northern Territory make this statement. Once again, they have gathered to openly discuss the future of our generation who have been subjugated by the lies and innuendo of the Federal Government, set out in the Stronger Futures document (October 2011).

The Stronger Futures report has created a lot of anger and frustration due to the lack of process and the ignorant way in which the views of the people have been reported. We therefore reject this report.

We will not support an extension of the Intervention legislation. We did not ask for it. In fact we call for a genuine Apology from the Federal Government for the hurt, embarrassment, shame and stigma, and for the illegal removal of the Racial Discrimination Act. It is our intention to officially call upon Government for reparation.

The recent consultations report shows that Government has failed to take seriously our concerns and feelings. This report is simply a reflection of pre-determined policy decisions. This is shown clearly by the absence of any commitment to bilingual learning programmes as well as the proposal to introduce welfare cuts and fines to parent of non-attending school children. Once again a punitive policy that is neither in the best interests of the child or the family.

Blanket measures have been central to the Northern Territory Intervention and have been the source of much distress. Where there are problems, they must be addressed on a case by case basis and preferably with the assistance through the appropriate community channels.

Since August 2007 till 2011, more than 45,000 First Nations Peoples living in the Prescribed Areas were traumatised when a Bill was passed through both Houses of Parliament (The House of Representatives and the Senate).

This legislation suspended the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 to put in place the Northern Territory Emergency Response. The Australian Greens were the only party to oppose the legislation.

These actions have placed Australia in breach of its international treaty obligations to the First Nations Peoples. Respectful discussion and negotiation with community elders did not take place before the introduction of the Intervention.
Discussions on a diplomatic basis are essential. There are elders in every Aboriginal Nation invested by the authority of the majority. These are the people with whom Minister Macklin should be negotiating, rather than with the chosen few, as has been her habit.

There has NEVER been acquiescence in the taking of our lands by stealth. Aboriginal people are sovereign people of this Nation. The process that will lead to legal recognition of customary law should be immediately commenced.

We believe that there should be an honest and comprehensive treaty negotiation with the Australian Government and facilitated by the United Nations.

We have a right under international law to self determination and after almost five years of the oppression of the Intervention, we demand that Government hand back to us control over our communities and provide adequate Government, long-term funding to ensure the future of Homelands.

Communty Councils have suffered from years of underfunding. The same is happening today with the Shires that have been imposed on us. There is a lack of funding for our Core Service.There is no capacity for Aboriginal communities to engage in long-term services planning without the certainty of long-term funding.

We have had enough! We need our independence to live our lives and plan our futures without the constant oppression and threats which have become central to the relationship between Government and Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory. We will not support policies that have not been negotiates with all elders of Prescribed communities and we will not support an extension of the Intervention, or an Interventionunder other names.

Since the Apology and since reconciliation, the level of incarceration of Aboriginal men has increased three-fold; our families are being punished for failure to attend a foreign school design; our capacity to govern our own lives has been totally disempowered; Aboriginal youth suicide rates in the Northern Territory are higher than anywhere else in Australia; and our people have been demonized, labelled and branded. This is not what an apology is and it is not reconciliation. These outcomes are the very opposite to their intent.

Australia is in breach of its international treaty obligations to the first nation’s people through it membership to the United Nations in the elimination of racial discrimination.

We as leaders of the Northern Territory acknowledge other peoples’ views. We acknowledge that some may agree and some may disagree with parts or all of the ‘intervention’; whatever the name the Government chooses to call it. The only right we now have left is to remain silent.

We as Aboriginal people call on the international community to hold Australia to account for its continuing crimes against humanity for its treatments of its first nation’s people. Again, we say to our visits by the Minister’s department; this is not consultation. Proper consultation is about listening and inviting and including the views of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Consultation is about outcomes that are progressive and agreeable to all parties.

The future is based on our children having a quality education, but to date this continues to be a systemic failure. A quality education for our people needs to include:
• Bilingualism in schools to be returned and strengthened to ensure our children learn their traditional languages, dialects and cultural knowledges.
• Attendances need to be rewarded, rather than children and families being punished for non-attendance.
• Aboriginal teachers in classrooms and school educational leadership roles are essential to building quality, localized schooling programs. This means also equal pay and entitlements, rewards and opportunities consistent with their important roles.
• Curriculum needs to change and reflect traditional knowledges not just for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, but importantly for the broader Australian population who know very little about their own first peoples.
• Aboriginal teachers need to be treated fairly and equally to their non-Aboriginal counterparts in delivering quality education to our children. This includes the opportunity to tell oral stories of Kinship, Creation Stories, and about important cultural knowledge and skills.

Failure to accept these views and work seriously toward their inclusion will simply mean more of the same."

Rev. Dr. Djiniyini Gondarra OAM
Rosalie Kunoth-Monks OAM
Japata Ryan
Harry Nelson
Djapirri Murunggirritj
Barbara Shaw
Yananymul Mununggurr

Greens Senator Rachel Siewert: "The Government's Stronger Futures Consultation Report wasn't surprising, but it was deeply disappointing."


Other relevant Statements.
 
Aboriginal Elders statement: 7th Feb 2011

PUBLIC STATEMENT NORTHERN TERRITORY INTERVENTION 


REBUILDING FROM THE GROUND UP – AN ALTERNATIVE TO THE NORTHERN TERRITORY INTERVENTION

Basic Rights not BasicsCard - Address to the Say No to Income Management Rally, Bankstown, 6th October 2011 Dr John Falzon - or watch the Video


Rev. Dr. Djiniyini Gondarra full response to Minister Jenny Macklin

Joint letter by Alastair Nicholson QC and others full response to Minister Jenny Macklin

Rt Hon. Malcolm Fraser full response to Minister Jenny Macklin


 Also check out:





 


Friday, November 4, 2011

Part-white or part-Aboriginal?


"Ignorant men raise questions that wise men answered a thousand years ago."

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe



There are some calling for a national debate on Aboriginal identity... or in more accurate terms they are calling for a general free for all to slam Aboriginal people who don't 'look Aboriginal'.

Rather than a national 'debate', I am calling for a series of national lessons...


Today's lesson is about what happens when you combine two racist stereotypes:

1. The idea that Aboriginality is something that is 'bred-out' of people over time. That once a person's physical appearance and/or 'blood-quotient' reaches a certain point, then that person can be considered to be not Aboriginal and; 

2. The idea that Aboriginal people are a 'privileged group' in this country. 

The result? 
"the part-whites who are making a racket out of being so-called Aborigines at enormous cost to the taxpayers".

That is the heart of some recent and on-going tension in the media, but that isn't a recent quote. 

It was said in 1988, by Bruce Ruxton... but it sounds like something that could have been said much more recently.

This recent debate is actually quite old, and it is reliant on the fact that people don't know it is an old debate. Aboriginal identity has long been problematised by beauracracy, and by the assumption that all Aboriginal programs are available to Aboriginal people, which obvious to anyone who investigates that claim, is nonsense. ABSTUDY is means tested. Scholarships are competitive, as are 'identified positions' (which are often filled by non-Indigenous people despite being 'identified positions').

Any serious journalist with even a passing interest in Aboriginal identity, and an interest in serious reporting, would quickly find something like this research note, available from the Parliamentary Library, titled "Definition of Aboriginality". 

 It used to come up when you do a google search for 'Definition of Aboriginality'... 

 It mentioned:  

 "In his analysis of over 700 pieces of legislation, the legal historian John McCorquodale found no less than 67 different definitions of Aboriginal people

Though colonial legislation initially grouped Aboriginal people by reference to their place of habitation (e.g. aboriginal natives of New South Wales and New Holland), 'blood' quantum classifications entered the legislation of New South Wales in 1839, South Australia in 1844, Victoria in 1864, Queensland in 1865, Western Australia in 1874 and Tasmania in 1912. Thereafter till the late 1950s States regularly legislated all forms of inclusion and exclusion (to and from benefits, rights, places etc.) by reference to degrees of Aboriginal blood. Such legislation produced capricious and inconsistent results based, in practice, on nothing more than an observation of skin colour." 

Sounding familiar yet? "based, in practice, on nothing more than an observation of skin colour"!

What a long way we have come...

but wait, there's more:

"When policy entered a more progressive period in the late 1960s and 1970s the blood-quantum definitions, which had never been accepted as meaningful by Aboriginal communities themselves, were relatively easy to abandon." 
 
"In the 1980s a new definition was proposed in the Constitutional Section of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs' Report on a review of the administration of the working definition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders (Canberra, 1981). The section offered the following definition:

An Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander is a person of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent who identifies as an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander and is accepted as such by the community in which he (she) lives.

This three-part definition (descent, self-identification and community recognition) was soon adopted by Federal Government departments as their 'working definition' for determining eligibility to some services and benefits." 

"The advantages of this three part definition were not, however, apparent to all. In 1988 the Victorian State president of the RSL, Mr Bruce Ruxton, called on the Federal Government: 

to amend the definition of Aborigine to eliminate the part-whites who are making a racket out of being so-called Aborigines at enormous cost to the taxpayers'.
 
" the three part definition has generally been found to help protect individuals from the tendency among 'mainstream Australians' to consider 'real' indigenous people as people living somewhere else and others as manipulating the system."

 "It also sits well with the definition used by the UN Working Group on Indigenous Populations in 1986:

Indigenous communities, peoples and nations are those which, having a historical continuity with pre-invasion and pre-colonial societies ..., consider themselves distinct from other sectors of the societies now prevailing in those territories ... They form at present non-dominant sectors of society and are determined to preserve, develop and transmit to future generations their ancestral territories, and their ethnic identity, as the basis of their continued existence as peoples, in accordance with their own cultural patterns, social institutions and legal systems."


And here endeth the lesson...




... and to answer the question that is the title of this article:

I am not 'part' anything. I am entirely who I am.