Aboriginal Australians reject "symbolic constitutional recognition"

Indigenous summit calls for treaty, rejects constitutional recognition

Aboriginal Elders gathered at Uluru

A group of 250 indigenous leaders who met at Uluru decided seek a treaty mechanism as well as a constitutionally-elected Indigenous body in federal parliament. 

by Laura TingleMay 26 2017 - AFR

Indigenous leaders have rejected a push for constitutional recognition and will instead seek a treaty, as well as an elected body in federal parliament.

A three-day meeting at Uluru was supposed to put forward recommendations to the Prime Minister and Opposition Leader on the appropriate form of amendments to enshrine recognition of Indigenous Australians in the constitution.

But instead, the group of 250 indigenous leaders decided to abandon the push and instead seek a treaty mechanism as well as a constitutionally-elected Indigenous body in federal parliament.

The Referendum Council says delegates overwhelmingly rejected a statement of acknowledgement recognising Aboriginal people and will only accept fundamental reform.

"Co-chair of the Referendum Council Pat Anderson said a statement of acknowledgement recognising Aboriginal people in the constitution was "totally rejected". 

"We seek constitutional reforms to empower our people and take a rightful place in our own country", a statement from the group said.
"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."

The co-chair of the government-appointed Referendum Council, Pat Anderson, said an acknowledgement in the constitution was "totally rejected" by all of the meetings and people they spoke to over the six-month period.

Cape York leader Noel Pearson said there was no enthusiasm for a statement of acknowledgment of Indigenous people in the constitution, with delegates agreeing a parliamentary "voice" would be more "substantive".

"It will have a more practical impact on Aboriginal people's place in the democracy," he said.
"That's what they've chosen rather than some sort of nice words of acknowledgement for the next while."

Ms Anderson said Aboriginal Australians must have a say in the government policies, programs and legislation that affect them.

"At the moment we're locked out, we're powerless and voiceless in our own land," she said.

"All the money that's [spent] on us and all the programs, they've all failed."


Uluru talks: Indigenous Australians reject 'symbolic' recognition in favour of treaty

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples say they will also push for constitutionally enshrined voice to parliament

By - 26 May 2017

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders have rejected the idea of constitutional recognition and will instead push for a constitutionally enshrined Indigenous voice in parliament and a commission that will lead to a treaty.

After a meeting of more than 250 community leaders at Uluru, referendum council member Professor Megan Davis delivered a powerful statement from the group asserting that sovereignty had never been ceded or extinguished.

The statement said that the high rates of incarceration, youth detention and child removal showed the need for a significant practical change, not a symbolic reform.

“These dimensions of our crisis tell plainly the structural nature of our problem,” it said. “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.”

It said a makarrata, a Yolgnu word for treaty, was “the culmination of our agenda”.

“In 1967 we were counted,” the statement read. “In 2017 we seek to be heard.”

The outline for reform followed a statement that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples were the sovereign first peoples of Australia.

“This sovereignty is a spiritual notion ... It has never been ceded or extinguished, and co-exists with the sovereignty of the crown,” the statement read. “With substantive constitutional change and structural reform, we believe this ancient sovereignty can shine through as a fuller expression of Australia’s nationhood.”

The statement was the culmination of three days of meetings at Uluru, which followed six months of regional dialogues conducted by the referendum council.

It is a significant departure from the more symbolic forms of constitutional recognition discussed by largely non-Indigenous politicians in the past, to which Malcolm Turnbull and Bill Shorten had given their support. But it is consistent with longstanding political campaigns by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, which have focused around securing a treaty.

The proposed treaty commission would be given the dual task of working towards a treaty and engaging in a public truth-telling process.

“Part of this healing of the nation and coming together and having a mature nation, there has to be proper truth-telling in the same way they have done in other countries in the world,” Davis said.

The meetings at Uluru went late into the night, with a number of delegates, including members of the referendum council, working until 4am on Friday to finalise what has been called the statement from the heart of the nation.

Five hours later the remaining delegates gave it their unanimous approval, responding with thunderous applause, cheers, whistles and a standing ovation.

Not all the delegates were in the room; seven walked out in protest at the process and the way the discussion was heading on Thursday, and not all returned.

Delegates were united in rejecting the proposal put forward with bipartisan political support in 2010 for a statement recognising and acknowledging Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the first peoples of Australia to be inserted into the constitution.

“All of the dialogues, including the one-day information session in Canberra, rejected totally outright having some sort of acknowledgement in the constitution,” Davis said. “That was totally rejected by all of the meetings and everybody we’ve spoken to over this six-month period.”

The statement also rejected the word recognition, instead calling the proposed changes a reform.

That leaves the federally funded Recognise organisation, which has received millions of dollars in funding over the past five years to gather support for the “recognise” movement, in a difficult position.

But that is not a concern for the delegates or the referendum council, who have been focused on outlining their key demands from any potential reform.

The central plank is the proposed parliamentary voice for Indigenous peoples, a suggestion championed by Cape York leader Noel Pearson.

In an article in the Australian Law Journal this month, Pearson and Cape York Institute constitutional reform research fellow Shireen Morris argued that inserting a new section of the constitution establishing an Indigenous voice in parliament was “the only proposal for substantive and practical constitutional recognition which is both legally sound as well as potentially politically viable”.

In contrast, they argued, a constitutional protection against racial discrimination, which had been one of the most popular proposals going into the Uluru convention, could not be described as politically viable.

Les Malezer, a Butchulla and Gubbi Gubbi man and Australian delegate to the UN permanent forum on Indigenous issues, said Indigenous people did need a genuine voice in parliament to be able to direct and inform policy designed specifically to apply to Indigenous peoples, but said enshrining it in the constitution would not necessarily protect it from political interference.

“The government of the day can interpret what those words mean in the constitution,” he told Guardian Australia.

“So if it just says something like ‘There shall be a body representing Aboriginal people’, well it could be like Atsic [the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission, unilaterally abolished by the Howard government in 2005] with 400 elected representatives … or it could be like the Indigenous advisory council led by Warren Mundine.

This is our land - PoMs can go home!

“A ‘body representing Aboriginal people’ is open to all forms of political design.”

Malezer said there was no proof such an amendment would succeed at a referendum. Both sides of politics have been at best lukewarm on the idea.

“We have really no evidence from polling the public to see that a proposal like that will have majority support,” he said.

The proposal has also been criticised by some Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, who say putting a body representing them into the constitution itself abrogates their sovereignty.

That concern was the driving reason behind the walk-out of seven delegates and 40 observers on Thursday.

As a Victorian delegate, Lydia Thorpe, said: “We need to protect and preserve our sovereignty. We demand a sovereign treaty with an independent sovereign treaty commission and appropriate funds allocated.”

The strong words asserting sovereignty in the Uluru statement are unlikely to appease those concerns.

Two delegates from each of the 12 dialogues, and a range of other interest groups and experts, have formed a working group to pursue the changes with parliament and continue consultation with the community.

“It’s this generation’s turn to have a run at it, and we’re going to run at it head-first and butt it down and make it happen this time,” Davis said. “Our very survival in fact depends on it.”


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The Men of Fifth World

- Planet Doc Full Documentaries

•Aug 2, 2014

Planet Doc Full Documentaries

In this documentary we know the culture of Australian Aboriginal peoples.

The Men of the Fifth World is a documentary that shows us the history, culture and traditions of the Australian aborigines, primary peoples who inhabit these lands.

The old Garimala Yakar, tells firsthand how their world is accompanied by the sound of the didgeridoo, the beat of their tradition, which keeps them together and attached to the land.

These indigenous Peoples have had to defend their country from the impositions of the white man when he came to Australia for the first time.

The aboriginal culture has faded over time but they never cease to tell their story to the youngest and keep the hope that someday find their truth. In the Kakadu National Park lies Ubirrok, where the Rainbow Serpent stopped after creating the world and was painted on a rock so that people could see her.

Over time our forefathers left on the rocks a complete collection of images which depict their way of life and their beliefs. On these ancient rocks they also drew figures of the men of that time, warriors and hunters, who used the same spears and harpoons as we do now. We share our land with all types of animals, some of them as dangerous the kangaroo is the most characteristic animal of my country. When we get together to dance around the fire, we sing the dreams of the animals, the stories of how they were created. Those that dance and sing paint their faces and bodies with kaolin, to look like the spirits which, according to our beliefs, are of a grey colour. The dance of the women is slower and more measured. They are normally in a state of trance, possessed by the spirits of the forest which protect them.

The didgeridoo It’s our sacred instrument. The men who know how to play it are very important in our culture. With the didgeridoo they communicate our wishes to the spirits. And they call on them to come to our aid when tragedy befalls us. This sacred instrument brings us closer to the world of our ancestors. It is difficult to play, because you have to blow constantly, using the technique of circular breathing. The didgeridoos are made by the ants. Our land, here in northern Australia, is the kingdom of the ants. Our people were nomads, always moving from one place to another, carrying their few belongings with them. That is why we know the forest so well. In the forest, we know how to get everything we need. The men have always hunted and fished, while our women are expert gatherers. They know where to find edible fruits and roots, and how to get honey.

The women have always worked in the forest, carrying out these tasks. No one knows nature like they do. Their work is very dangerous. They often come across the king brown, one of the most poisonous snakes in the world, its bite is always fatal. Hunting and war have always been men’s work, and they have always made their own weapons. Without a doubt, the boomerang is the best known of these. They are pieces of wood carved with a slight curve, which makes them more accurate when they are thrown. In fact, the spear is our best weapon. We used them in our fight against the white men who invaded our country and drove us off the land that belonged to us. Our spears claim other victims. When the tide goes out, we fish for the dangerous sting rays. These are manta rays that hide in the sand, ready to plunge their enormous stings into anyone who dares disturb them. Our coasts are full of animals, which traditionally provided us with food. When we have speared an animal, we throw a buoy into the water, with a long rope tied to harpoon. Whenever they catch a giant turtle, the fishermen arrange a feast, right there on the beach, to which all their relatives are invited.

“My people have always felt the need to express themselves through painting, now and since the beginning of time. Our art, now called aboriginal art by the white man’s tourist industry, is born from the dreams of each artist and the intense colours we see in our land. Near the city of Darwin, my people call to the spirit of the king of the crocodiles with piercing cries. It is a dance of invocation. It is performed whenever someone has to travel to an area where the powerful sea crocodiles live. They ask for its permission and protection, but the great spirit is always asleep, and so they have to cry out to wake him, so that he knows that people have gathered together to dance in his honour.

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Outback Australia : Aboriginal Culture

Director: Eric Elléna Producers: French Connection Films, Voyage, Boomerang Productions

According to Aboriginal belief, all life as it is today - Human, Animal, Bird and Fish is part of one vast unchanging network of relationships which can be traced to the great spirit ancestors of the Dreamtime.

The Dreamtime continues as the "Dreaming" in the spiritual lives of aboriginal people today. The events of the ancient era of creation are enacted in ceremonies and danced in mime form. Song chant incessantly to the accompaniment of the didgeridoo or clap sticks relates the story of events of those early times and brings to the power of the dreaming to bear of life today.