We, the members of Port Phillip Citizens for Reconciliation, acknowledge the Yalukit Wilam Clan of the Boon Wurrung as the custodians of the land on which we currently live and work. We pay our respects to their elders both past and present. We recognise the the tens of thousands of years of history, culture and wisdom which preceded the arrival of the white settlers to our region.
We are mindful that when European settlers arrived in our locality they did not seek permission to enter or occupy the land. There was no legitimate treaty. The right to settle and lay claim to the ownership of the land was presumed. That this land was already fully occupied and managed was certainly not acknowledged by our white ancestors and even today is either ignored or conceded with reluctance.
The courageous resistence waged by Aboriginal nations across Australia for over a hundred years remains largely invisible in the stories of our past as popularly recalled. At a time when we are regularly reminded of the 60,000 Australian lives lost away from home during the first world war, little mention is made of the heroism and sacrifice represented by the 30,000 Aboriginal lives lost at home during the extended period of white settlement.
PPCfR is committed first to the task of remembering and acknowledging our ‘inconvenient history’. The local precincts where Aboriginal clans once gathered now lie under shops, houses and car-parks. Special places and sacred sites have been desecrated. Families and extended families have been decimated, fragmented and scattered by the policies of our forbears.
We are committed to restitution and reconcilition. We see value in treaty making. We support an Aboriginal-led process towards the Constitutional Recognition of Indigenous Australians. We accept responsibility first to listen to the Aborinal community and then work together in genuine partnership. We lament the unacceptable gap in living standards - whether in health, education, employment, housing or life expectancy - between Australia’s Indigenous and non-Indigenous populations. The reunification of Aboriginal families is far from complete and sadly will only ever be partial. We are committed to working alongide the Aboriginal community doing whatever we can towards closing this gap.
The City of Port Phillip has etablished our city’s Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) which we applaud and support. We encourage other organisations whether schools, community service organisations, faith communities or businesses, to develop their own RAPs.
Note: PPCfR is an active local community group that has been operating since 1997.
Dismantling the Land Rights Act (NT) 1976
I express my deep concern at the actions of the Abbott Government as evidenced by the behaviour of the Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Senator Scullion, in hastily procuring MOUs on township leases for 99 years in Gunbalanya and Yirrkala in recent weeks. He is quoted as saying that this was part of a blitz to encourage other communities around the country to sign similar deals.
There is no evidence of general consultation with the communities concerned and the haste associated with the process would suggest that there has been no time for reflection or the obtaining of legal and other advice as to the advisability of what the Government proposes. The process therefore places unfair pressure on the communities concerned.
What these leases involve is the handing over of hard fought entitlements to lands to the Government for at least four generations for what would appear to be short term gains. A 99 year lease is regarded by most people as an effective surrender of title. It is a decision that requires careful and mature consideration and not one taken in response to a fly in fly out Government ‘blitz’.
Our Madayin-Law is upheld by the Ngurringgitj-Tradition in the land. A lease that takes control of the land means we are giving away our Law and our identity. We will have nothing to live for. We will become fringe dwellers. Our land can never simply be exchanged for monetary gain.
Government behaviour thus far is consistent with that of its many predecessors in trampling over the rights of Aboriginal people and treating them as second class citizens. It also flies in the face of consultation recommendations of the Australian Human Rights Commission aimed at consensus decision- making, which two Parliamentary Committees have endorsed, including one of which Senator Scullion was a member. It is also inconsistent with the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples to which Australia has endorsed.
I call on other Aboriginal Communities to reject the Government’s overtures involving any changes unless and until they abide by culturally appropriate protocols and undertake to give the communities access to independent advice, including legal advice at the Government’s expense.
Rev. Dr Djiniyini Gondarra OAM, 6th November 2013.
For further information, visit www.concernedaustralians.com