By Situation Theatre 16/4/2019
Like an even more racist Mel Gibson, Scott Morrison will tell you What Aboriginal People Want.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander social justice commissioner, June Oscar, has said:
“Since the arrival of the British on our shores in 1788, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have consistently called for greater control over our destinies, for the ability to live freely and equally, and for greater recognition of our rights as the First Peoples of this land. This has remained an unresolved source of pain for our people. Today, nearly 230 years later, too many of our peoples are still not able to feel at home in the place we call our own … So long as we fail to address this question as a nation, so long as we suppress the desires of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people for a greater say – the policies, the programs directed at us will flounder.”
Professor of Politics and author Sarah Maddison has written this in her new book, called The Colonial Fantasy:
International evidence confirms that Indigenous communities begin their revival at the point where they acquire the sort of territorial autonomy that enables them to control their own affairs in areas such as health, education and economic development. Evidence gathered over decades by the Native Nations Institute at the University of Arizona and the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development is now incontrovertible. While the process of rebuilding Native Nations in the US has been slow and uneven, where these nations have regained genuine control over the systems that matter most in their lives – particularly health, education, and law and justice – a steady turnaround in both economic development and community wellbeing is evident.
Stephen Cornell from the Native Nations Institute argues that in the United States, self-determination has been the only overarching policy that has shown “sustained evidence of actually improving the condition of Native peoples”, precisely because self-determination has put “substantive decision-making power in Aboriginal hands”.
Drawing on decades of research on the resurgence and success of Native Nations, he argues that three important things happen when Indigenous peoples gain power over their own affairs. “First, bureaucratic priorities are replaced by Indigenous priorities, thereby gaining Indigenous support for initiatives and programs. Second, decisions begin to reflect local knowledge and concerns. One of the great fantasies of colonialism, still alive in the Indigenous affairs bureaucracies of the world, is the idea that ‘we know what’s best for you’. But we don’t. And the third thing that happens is that decisions get linked to consequences. When Indigenous peoples themselves are in charge, they pay the price for bad decisions and reap the rewards of good ones. Jurisdiction, in other words, creates accountability.”
In 2017, 250 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island delegates from around the country gathered in Uluru to clearly state what First Nations people want.
We, gathered at the 2017 National Constitutional Convention, coming from all points of the southern sky, make this statement from the heart:
Our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander tribes were the first sovereign Nations of the Australian continent and its adjacent islands, and possessed it under our own laws and customs. This our ancestors did, according to the reckoning of our culture, from the Creation, according to the common law from ‘time immemorial’, and according to science more than 60,000 years ago.
This sovereignty is a spiritual notion: the ancestral tie between the land, or ‘mother nature’, and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples who were born therefrom, remain attached thereto, and must one day return thither to be united with our ancestors. This link is the basis of the ownership of the soil, or better, of sovereignty. It has never been ceded or extinguished, and co-exists with the sovereignty of the Crown.
How could it be otherwise? That peoples possessed a land for sixty millennia and this sacred link disappears from world history in merely the last two hundred years?
With substantive constitutional change and structural reform, we believe this ancient sovereignty can shine through as a fuller expression of Australia’s nationhood.
Proportionally, we are the most incarcerated people on the planet. We are not an innately criminal people. Our children are aliened from their families at unprecedented rates. This cannot be because we have no love for them. And our youth languish in detention in obscene numbers. They should be our hope for the future.
These dimensions of our crisis tell plainly the structural nature of our problem. This is the torment of our powerlessness.
We seek constitutional reforms to empower our people and take a rightful place in our own country. When we have power over our destiny our children will flourish. They will walk in two worlds and their culture will be a gift to their country.
We call for the establishment of a First Nations Voice enshrined in the Constitution.
Makarrata is the culmination of our agenda: the coming together after a struggle. It captures our aspirations for a fair and truthful relationship with the people of Australia and a better future for our children based on justice and self-determination.
We seek a Makarrata Commission to supervise a process of agreement-making between governments and First Nations and truth-telling about our history.
In 1967 we were counted, in 2017 we seek to be heard. We leave base camp and start our trek across this vast country. We invite you to walk with us in a movement of the Australian people for a better future.
In 2019, the findings of an inquest into 13 suicides among young Aboriginal people in the Kimberley, handed down in February, found that crushing intergenerational trauma and poverty, including from the harmful effect of colonisation and loss of culture, were to blame.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said “So we’re gonna go ahead and ignore all that stuff, but here’s 19.6 million bucks, good luck, and remember to be grateful”.