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Token Act of Recognition Michael Ghillar Anderson, Convenor of the Sovereign Union of First Nations Peoples in Australia

T

he current proposals for an Act of Recognition by the Commonwealth parliament is nothing more than a token gesture, but has some very serious implications. When we look at the wording of this Bill we see that former PM Julia Gillard’s efforts are nothing more than a shameful scam to suggest that she and her Labor government are serious about the Aboriginal issues that they are confronted with. This Act of Recognition Bill does not provide for any referendum amongst First Nations and Peoples through out Australia to register whether they accept this imposed process or reject it; whether we want another process to create the fundamental foundation of the right of self-determination as Peoples, and thereby provide for individual Aboriginal nations to negotiate amicable outcomes through a treaty process that reflects the true ambitions, inherent rights and aspirations of each individual Aboriginal Nation. During the term of the Fraser Liberal National Coalition government it was concluded by the National Aboriginal Conference (NAC), who were elected by popular vote within the Aboriginal community around Australia, that a one-size-fits-all is not the correct approach for our diverse Aboriginal Nations and Peoples. It was the NAC’s conclusion that the basic human rights associated with the right of self-determination under international law must prevail, e.g. the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR); the International

Fred Hooper, Murrawarri Republic Chairman, Cheryl Buchanan, Kooma Traditional Owner, with Erol Neal, Yarrabah Mayor in background, at the Tent Embassy fire during the Inside Out Forum where Michael spoke on Recognition. Image Rhonda Hagan

Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (IESCR); and the International Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD). It was generally agreed by the elected NAC representatives that Aboriginal rights as the First Nations of this continent must not be taken to a lesser standard of rights than those which are guaranteed by these covenants under international law. The Sovereign Union of First Nations and Peoples in Australia does not accept, nor do we

encourage, the Aboriginal Nations and Peoples of this country to accept or sing the praises of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as a model from which to work on our sovereign position. The Declaration was only agreed to by the UN nation states on the condition that First Nations Peoples of the world recognise, and do not challenge, the territorial integrity of the dominant state. But, as First Nations Peoples here in Australia, we do not accept, nor recognise, the territorial integrity of the Australian Page 1


state, simply because neither the British nor the Australians can provide any documentary evidence of our Peoples ceding our sovereignty, or acquiescing to the invaders. It is from this position that we, as First Nations and Peoples, must make a stand against the tyranny of dictatorship by this Australian state. As a Euahlayi Murri, I appeal to my fellow brothers and sisters of other Aboriginal Nations not to be fooled into believing that this current Act of Recognition, nor a Constitutional reform referendum, will make any difference to our current position and treatment. A case in point is, if the Australian government is serious about Constitutional reform, then let the Labor government’s last action while in power be the repealing of the Northern Territory Intervention legislations, the Emergency Response Acts and Stronger Futures legislation. In addition let this government amend the Native Title Act to take away John Howard’s suspension of the Racial Discrimination Act, which guaranteed to the Australian Federal, State and Territory governments that excluding certain lands from being claimed would must not attract the appropriate financial compensation that is guaranteed in the existing Australian Constitution. If they cannot, and will not, make these changes then where is any basis of trust for the future? The Expert Panel’s advice on Constitutional reform is totally flawed, treasonous and last but not least, conspiratorial. I say this because the Expert Panel’s advice in its preambular statement in its report states that to deal with the continuing sovereignty of Aboriginal people will only serve to frighten white Australia and the recent immigrant Australians. This is despite the fact recognition of Aboriginal sovereignty was a key issue in their consultations.

Michael Anderson at the All Stars game in Brisbane this year. Image Rhonda Hagan

This is probably because what we have in this country is a multiplicity of sovereign Aboriginal entities, each having their own customs, laws and religions, just as we have in multicultural Australia, where we have Hindu temples and schools; Islamic mosques and schools; Jewish synagogues and schools; Catholic churches and schools; Russian and Greek Orthodox Churches and schools and the list goes on. The integrity of these people, their customs, religions and languages are recognised within the Australian society, but as for Aboriginal Australia this is not the case. What is even more contemptible for us as First Nations and Peoples is the Australian government argues that it recognises these aspects of Aboriginal society in their flawed proposed Act of Recognition. In reality Australian governments fail to recognise our rights to practice all of those aspects that recent immigrants have the pleasure of doing. The recent immigrant population must realise that if the governments are failing them, then how can they get it right for Aboriginal Peoples who don’t belong to them. The problem with the current Australian society is that it is too

busy looking at its own security and will vote for any government that offers that. When we talk about conspiracy theories, the general Australian communities believe they are giving away their personal liberties and freedoms for what has now become a police state, except those of us who continue to fight for our freedoms. As First Nations Peoples we don’t need to be caught up in the dominant Australian society’s fears and wants for personal securities that no-one can give, because the western society of Australia is dictated to and influenced by external world affairs. The reality is that our fight for freedom and right of self-determination are basic fundamental human rights that already exist in international law. Our right to freedoms will not impact on the general Australian family who seek securities from a world that is currently in turmoil. We just want the Australian public to understand that we cannot accept being dictated to. The protests organised for Canberra today and tomorrow testify to our continuing Aboriginal resistance to an imposed foreign law and colonial power. A just society will benefit everyone.

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Token act of recognition