NACCHO Events Alert #NAIDOCWeek Always Was, Always Will Be: Two Star-studded virtual concerts to celebrate our mobs culture I. #VicNAIDOC2020Concert Archie Roach plus friends 2. @CAAMA Music Paul Ah Chee

“There’s no doubt this has been a tough year, with bushfires and coronavirus taking their toll on Aboriginal communities.”

“NAIDOC Week may be postponed, but we’re still taking the opportunity to maintain community connections and celebrate Aboriginal culture.”

“The event will be more than just good fun – it’s a chance to highlight the talented performers right across the country and provide a lifeline to the struggling arts industry.”

Victorian Minister for Aboriginal Affairs Gabrielle Williams announced a variety performance event will be live streamed on Saturday – what would have been the penultimate day of the landmark week-long celebration.

“This year’s NAIDOC theme – ‘Always Was, Always Will Be’, is particularly apt and relevant in this unprecedented time and the rescheduling is aimed at protecting our Elders and those in our communities with chronic health issues from the disastrous impacts of COVID-19.

We would like to recognise and acknowledge the work of our affiliates and our 143 Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations (ACCHOs) have put in during this pandemic to protect our communities and ensure our culture will live on.”

(NACCHO) Chair Donnella Mills says postponing NAIDOC Week 2020 from July to November this year was a small price to pay for protecting our people and safeguarding our culture.

Read full press release

Join CAAMA Music July 10 for a very special set from Paul Ah Chee – Live from the CAAMA Studio. See Part 2 Below

Part 1

The Victorian Government is putting together a star-studded virtual concert to celebrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture following the postponement of NAIDOC Week.

The Vic NAIDOC 2020 Concert: Always Was, Always Will Be

Will be held at Hamer Hall and while closed to the public, Victorians can live stream all the action from 6.30pm AEST on the Victoria Together website and other social platforms

Streaming on Saturday 11 July, 6.30pm
Running time: Approximately 2 hours

The concert will be hosted by comedians Shiralee Hood and Dion Williams and feature artists including Uncle Archie Roach, Troy Cassar-Daley, Allara, Lady Lash and Mau Power.

NAIDOC Week was scheduled to be held from 5 to 12 July this year, but for the first time in its 64-year history, has been postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

It is traditionally marked each July to honour and pay tribute to Aboriginal culture, history and achievement, with celebrations held across the country.

It is now expected to be scheduled in November.

The Government is investing $150,000 to hold the virtual concert, with support from the Victorian Aboriginal community and the arts sector, including Arts Centre Melbourne.

Part 2

Join CAAMA Music July 10 for a very special set from Paul Ah Chee – Live from the CAAMA Studio. From this gig you can expect to hear some of his new material from his upcoming solo proejct as well as some stripped back Amunda classics.

Tune in here on FB or listen in at

NACCHO Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health News Alert : NACCHO Chair Donnella Mills says rescheduling of #NAIDOCWeek2020 protects what is most precious

The National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) Chair Donnella Mills says postponing NAIDOC Week 2020 from July to November this year was a small price to pay for protecting our people and safeguarding our culture.

“What is happening in Brazil amongst their Indigenous populations is devastating to see and it could have happened to our people.

Our COVID-19 sector response, ensuring Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are treated as a priority has resulted in remarkably low occurrences of COVID-19,” said Ms Mills.

“This year’s NAIDOC theme – ‘Always Was, Always Will Be’, is particularly apt and relevant in this unprecedented time and the rescheduling is aimed at protecting our Elders and those in our communities with chronic health issues from the disastrous impacts of COVID-19.

“We would like to recognise and acknowledge the work of our affiliates and our 143 Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations (ACCHOs) have put in during this pandemic to protect our communities and ensure our culture will live on.”

NACCHO is insisting that we follow social distancing rules to reduce the chances of a ‘second wave’. “We are concerned about the increased COVID-19 infections numbers in Victoria and implore people to be sensible and follow the government’s health advice guidelines.

“We are not only protecting ourselves but are keeping our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture alive,” said Ms Mills.


NACCHO Aboriginal Health and Cultural Heritage : Australia’s most powerful land councils have joined Indigenous leaders across Australia to try to force a moratorium on mining and other works that place cultural heritage sites at immediate risk

In an historic meeting held on the 17th June 2020, Aboriginal leaders from across Australia representing Aboriginal Land Councils, Native Title Representative Bodies and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community Controlled Organisations expressed their outrage at the destruction of the 46,000 year-old heritage site at Juukan Gorge and vowed to pursue national reforms to prevent this from ever happening again.

Picture above Rock shelters in Juukan Gorge, in Western Australia’s Pilbara region.

The appalling conduct of Rio Tinto, one of the richest companies on earth, has created headlines and public outrage. It no longer deserves to be considered the leading miner in building positive relationships with Aboriginal peoples in Australia.

However, sadly it is not just Rio Tinto and many similar incidents have been taking place across Australia for decades. Moreover, as immoral as it was, the destruction of Juukan Gorge does not appear to have been illegal and more destruction across Australia is contemplated under the current legislative regimes.

We find ourselves in this situation because governments, of both political persuasions and at all levels, have rarely been prepared to put the protection of Aboriginal heritage ahead of development and in the past 20 years, other than in the rarest of cases.

They have let their legislation, supposedly to protect our heritage, to fall into disuse or to focus on regulating destruction, rather than protecting, enhancing and educating about our living cultures unique to this country.

This is no way to protect the oldest living culture on earth. Politicians mention this regularly but when the crunch comes, they have not been prepared to protect it. Meanwhile, they are slow moving or refuse to change archaic and paternalistic laws.

While the Federal Environment Minister has the power to issue emergency declarations under the the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage Protection Act, this is rarely ever done. It failed again in respect to Juukan Gorge.

Our leaders agree this cannot continue and intend on fighting back. Not only should the lives of our people matter as much as those of non-Indigenous Australians, but our heritage and culture should also be equally important.

We are determined to work together to develop a united national approach to this serious problem and insist all governments at all levels work with us to develop and implement reforms led by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. Governments must partner with us to develop best practice standards and implement broader reforms that support self-determination.

The National Native Title Council (NNTC) also briefed leaders on their important work to achieve reform to date.

In the meantime, all governments are asked not to make any decisions that will damage our heritage sites. This is particularly important for Western Australia which has a disgraceful record of heritage protection and where there are other sites in the Pilbara under immediate threat. Our leaders will work together to support Traditional Owners who are facing threats to their heritage sites and pursue all legal and political avenues should it be necessary.

A network is being put in place to make sure Aboriginal Land Councils, Native Title Representative Bodies and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community Controlled Organisations are communicating across the nation to make sure that they alert one another to any threats and to allow for national action to be taken.

Importantly, our leaders propose to meet with responsible Ministers from the Commonwealth, States and Territories as soon as possible to discuss a process for reviewing heritage protection legislation across Australia, to engage with our communities and Traditional Owners about what they want to see in these laws, and to jointly design with Ministers a new system that will make sure that an incident like what happened at Juukan Gorge never happens again.

Our communities want laws that are based on the principles of empowerment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to make decisions on our own cultural heritage, self- determination, First Nations decision making, greater transparency and free, prior and informed consent

First Nations cultural heritage is 65,000 years of culture and history that must be protected for all future generations, for all Australians. We urge people from all backgrounds and all sections of Australian society to support our call for greater protection of Australia’s cultural heritage

The following organisations and individuals support this communique:

·       NSW Aboriginal Land Council ·       National Native Title Council
·       Walalakoo Aboriginal Corporation ·       South Australian Native Title Services
·       NTSCorp ·       North Queensland Land Council
·       Native Title Services Goldfields ·       Professor Marcia Langton AM
·       Cape York Land Council ·       Dr Val Cooms
·       Central Land Council ·       Northern Land Council
·       Boonwurrung Land and Sea Council ·       Kimberley Land Council
·       First Nations Legal & Research Services ·       Balkanu Cape York Development Corporation
·       National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) ·       Dja Dja Wurrung Clans Aboriginal Corporation
·       The Federation of Victorian Traditional Owner Corporations ·       South West Aboriginal Land and Sea Council


NACCHO Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health #NRW2020 #NationalReconciliationWeek : On June 3 we celebrate #MaboDay , the life of Eddie Koiki Mabo and the role he had with other claimants abolishing the legal fiction of “terra nullius” Online Webinar Here

” Eddie Koiki Mabo, a Meriam man from the island of Mer in the Torres Straits, forever changed Australian law and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander land rights when he won his landmark case in The High Court.

The decision was handed down on this day in 1992, 11 years after the case began.

The momentous Mabo case finally acknowledged the history of Indigenous dispossession in Australia, abolished the legal fiction of “terra nullius”, and altered the foundation of Australian land law.”

From Here 

Wednesday 3rd June 2020 | 12pm

South East Queensland Mabo Day Working invites you to join the Mabo Day 2020 – Online Webinar
Tune into the livestream on the Mabo Day Celebrations 2020 Facebook page.

In 2020 Due to the COVID-19, South East Queensland Mabo Day Celebrations are going virtual. As we pay respect to Eddie Mabo’s Legacy this year, we ask the questions where are we at today and how do we continue to celebrate, acknowledge and action the legacy of Eddie Mabo in the future.

Hosted by Rhianna Patrick with speakers Charles Passi – Visionary Elder from Mer (Murray) Island, Torres Strait, Dr Rose Elu – Elder from Saibai Island and campaigner on climate change, Kevin Smith – Chief Executive Officer of Queensland South Native Title Services and Hannah Duncan – Lawyer and one of the proud granddaughters of Mr Eddie Koike and Dr Bonita Mabo

Terra Nullius

Terra nullius is a Latin term meaning “land belonging to no one”. British colonisation and subsequent Australian land laws were established on the claim that Australia was terra nullius, justifying acquisition by British occupation without treaty or payment. This effectively denied Indigenous people’s prior occupation of and connection to the land.

In the 1971 Gove land rights case, Justice Blackburn ruled that Australia was terra nullius prior European settlement.

This judgement was unsuccessfully challenged by subsequent cases in 1977, 1979 and 1982.

However, on the 20th May 1982, Eddie Koiki Mabo and 4 other Indigenous Meriam people began their legal claim for ownership of their traditional lands on the island of Mer in the Torres Strait.

Mabo and his companions claimed that the Meriam people had:

  • continuously inhabited and exclusively possessed these lands
  • lived in permanent settled communities
  • had their own political and social organisation [1]

On these grounds, the Mabo case sought recognition of the Meriam people’s rights to this land.

Mabo v. Queensland

The case was heard over ten years, progressing from the Queensland Supreme Court to the High Court of Australia.

On the 3rd of June 1992, the High Court ruled by a majority of six to one that the Meriam people were “entitled as against the whole world to possession, occupation, use and enjoyment of (most of) the lands of the Murray Islands”.

Three of the plaintiffs did not live to hear this ruling, including Eddie Mabo, who passed away just months before the decision was handed down.

The High Court’s judgement in the Mabo case resulted in the introduction of the doctrine of native title into Australian law, removing the myth of terra nullius and establishing a legal framework for native title claims by Indigenous Australians. The judgement ruled that the common law as it existed:

  • violated international human rights norms
  • denied the historical reality of Indigenous people’s dispossession [2]

Native title:

  • recognises that Indigenous Australians have a prior claim to land taken by the British Crown since 1770
  • replaces the “legal fiction” of terra nullius, which formed the foundation of British claims to land ownership in Australia [3]

“It is imperative in today’s world that the common law should neither be nor be seen to be frozen in an age of racial discrimination.” The High Court’s judgement on the Mabo Case, 1992.

Download Here 2015-Mabo-Oration-V 2

Eddie Koiki Mabo Early life


Eddie Mabo. Image courtesy of the Mabo family.

Eddie Koiki Mabo was born on 29 June, 1936, on the island of Mer (Murray Island) in the Torres Strait. His mother died giving birth and he was adopted by his uncle, Benny Mabo. His surname was changed from Sambo to Mabo and from an early age, Koiki was taught about his family’s land.

In 1959, he moved to Townsville in Queensland and held a variety of jobs including working on pearling boats, cutting cane and as a railway fettler.  He married Bonita Neehow, an Australian-born South Sea Islander, and they had ten children.

He was an activist in the 1967 Referendum campaign and helped found the Townsville Aboriginal and Islander Health Service. The issue of land rights became a focus for his energy in 1974, while working on campus as a gardener at James Cook University and meeting university historians Noel Loos and Henry Reynolds, who recalled:

…we were having lunch one day when Koiki was just speaking about his land back on Mer, or Murray Island. Henry and I realised that in his mind he thought he owned that land, so we sort of glanced at each other, and then had the difficult responsibility of telling him that he didn’t own that land, and that it was Crown land. Koiki was surprised, shocked… he said and I remember him saying ‘No way, it’s not theirs, it’s ours.’

The turning point

Today, one of Koiki and Bonita’s daughters, Gail is a cultural advisor in schools, an artist and dancer, and is the spokesperson for the Mabo family.

Gail Mabo, wrote:

In 1972 my family had planned to visit Mer. My father had hoped to visit his father, Benny Mabo, who was suffering from tuberculosis. Tuberculosis was a major killer of Torres Strait Islanders at the time. Our family travelled to Thursday Island but we were refused permission to travel to Mer.

My mother, Bonita, remembers;

“In those days you had to get permission to go across to Mer, but the Queensland authorities wouldn’t let us. They said Eddie was a non-Islander, because he hadn’t lived there for so long. They thought he was too political and would stir up trouble.” 

Our family returned to Townsville. Six weeks later my father received a telegram saying that his father had died. My father cried. We never had the chance to meet our grandfather.

My father never forgave the government authorities for this injustice. It fuelled his determination for recognition and equality in society. This began his ten-year battle for justice and political status.

Black community school

In 1973, Koiki became co-founder and director of the Townsville ‘black community school’ – one of the first in Australia. The school commenced with ten students, in an old Catholic school building in the heart of inner city Townsville. Disenchanted with the approach to Indigenous education within the Queensland State Education system, Eddie volunteered to work for half pay to help establish the school.

The School was regarded with open hostility within the general Townsville community including the Queensland education department, local newspaper and some local politicians. The then State Minister for Education denounced the motives of the student’s parents declaring their attitudes as racist and the school as ‘apartheid in reverse.’

At its peak in the late 1970s forty five students were enrolled at the school. In 1975, Koiki was asked to join the National Aboriginal Education Committee (NAEC), an advisory body to the Commonwealth Education Department and he served on the committee for three years.

And the rest the say is history

This discovery inspired Eddie to challenge land ownership laws in Australia.

At a Land Rights Conference in 1981, a lawyer suggested there should be a test case to claim land rights through the court system. Five Meriam men, Eddie Koiki Mabo, Sam Passi, Father Dave Passi, James Rice and Celuia Mapo Salee, decided to challenge for land rights in the High Court. [4]

In May 1982, led by Eddie Mabo, they began their legal claim for ownership of their lands.

Awards and recognition

Eddie Koiki Mabo has been rightfully recognised for his landmark work. Unfortunately this recognition only occurred after his death with a number of awards including:

  • 1992: the Australian Human Rights Medal as part of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission Awards, along with his fellow plaintiffs ‘in recognition of their long and determined battle to gain justice for their people’.
  • 1993: The Australian newspaper voted Eddie Mabo as their 1992 Australian of the Year (not to be confused with the Australian Government’s Australian of the Year Awards).
  • 2008: The James Cook University named its library the Eddie Koiki Mabo Library.
  • 2012: the Australian Broadcasting Corporation aired a documentary drama based on his life.
  • Mabo day: named after Eddie, is celebrated on 3 June each year.
  • AIATSIS holds the Mabo lecture as part of the annual National Native Title Conference.

Further reading and sources 


NACCHO Aboriginal Health and #NRW2020 27 May to 3 June : This #ReconciliationWeek use a new interactive #Gambay website to learn the name of the Indigenous language of the land on which you live. Search by town or post code

 “Australia is situated in one of the world’s linguistic hot spots, however, many Australians are not aware of the incredible linguistic diversity of Indigenous Australia.

Aboriginal languages and Torres Strait Islander languages have struggled to survive since the time of colonisation.

According to First Languages Australia “in the late 18th century, there were between 350 and 750 distinct Australian social groupings, and a similar number of languages”.

These languages determine whose country we are on and who we must acknowledge and pay respect to when we are on their land.

But the good news is many language groups are working hard to preserve their native tongue. And languages are persistently being restored.

First Languages Australia has developed an interactive map that displays and promotes the diversity of Aboriginal languages and Torres Strait Islander languages. “

Search by town or post code HERE

A map of Australia appears in front of a background of faces

The interactive map showcases over 780 Indigenous languages.(First Languages Australia)


The map is called Gambay, which means “together” in the Butchulla language of the Hervey Bay region in Queensland.

It showcases more than 780 languages.

The map gives Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities control over the way their languages are publicly represented through spelling and videos clips of ‘language legends’ who share their knowledge.

Some videos have been provided by the ABC in collaboration with First Languages Australia.

Originally published HERE

First Languages Australia works closely with language centres and speakers around the country to develop the map to reflect the names and groups favoured by community.

First Languages Australia manages the map, community contributions and its ongoing development in consultation with language centres and speakers.

The ABC does not warrant and is not responsible for the accuracy, currency, completeness or reliability of the information contained in the map.

This map is also a permanent feature on the ABC Indigenous website.

How the map can teach you language:

  • Find your location on the map and the language group of that area will appear
  • After clicking on the language group you will find educational videos of ‘language legends’ talking about their culture
  • You will also find audio segments which teach you how to pronounce the language
  • There are also videos on the map where you can learn the original place names in your area through the ABC This Place series. This is another way of learning the local language and using it everyday.

How the map came to be

Warrgamay women, Melinda Holden and Bridget Priman are sisters and are the driving force behind the Gambay map.

After completing a course on Indigenous languages at TAFE in Cairns, both women fell in love with learning how to read and write in language.

Ms Priman went on to graduate with a Bachelor of the Arts in Language and Linguistics and Ms Holden obtained a Diploma in Linguistics and Planning.

Together they have been passionate activists for grassroots language communities.

Melinda Holden – Warrgamay

Ms Holden said that as they were learning, they realised there wasn’t somewhere people could to readily access this type of information.

“There was always this nagging question of where do we go to get all of this stuff?” Ms Holden said.

So, about seven years ago, they began researching Aboriginal languages and Torres Strait Islander languages within Queensland.

“We wanted an overview of what languages were out there,” Ms Holden said.

“We just started putting together a spreadsheet.”

The pair found approximately 320 languages and dialects in Queensland alone.

“We thought maybe this is too big for us,” Ms Holden said.

As members of the Queensland Indigenous Languages Advisory Committee, Ms Holden and her sister presented to the group — and then to First Languages Australia — the idea of an interactive map.

The Gambay map was later launched in 2015.

The map has gone through various iterations and is updated with data and information that regional language centres and community groups want to share.

First Languages Australia includes information as people provide it — things such as spelling, and the areas language groups cover.

“We consult communities on who to speak to and who would have the final say,” Ms Holden said.

A great tool’

Now retired, Ms Holden says what the map is today is more than she could have ever imagined.

“We wanted to see elders talk about their language and their country,” she said.

“We wanted people to know the language of the land they live on, as the language of that region describes the land and animals of that area.”

Now covering the entire country, the Gambay map has become a resource all Australians can use to learn about their local Aboriginal languages and Torres Strait Islander languages.

“It also helps people find their country,” Ms Holden said.

She says the map can also be used in classrooms.

“It’s far easier for students to learn language now,” she said.

“It’s all there … it’s a great tool.”

Gambay also provides contacts for people who speak their traditional language and are willing to share their knowledge.

If you are a language custodian and would like to add a pronunciation file to your language listing on Gambay, you can email: or get in contact via the Gambay website.


NACCHO Aboriginal Health and #ReconciliationWeek : @RecAustralia #NRW2020 Virtual events this week speakers include : @NACCHOChair Donnella Mills CEO Pat Turner @KenWyattMP @LindaBurneyMP @mdavisqlder @SummerMayFinlay Pat Anderson Karen Mundine Dean Parkin Fiona McLeod Larissa Behrendt

1. National Sorry Day Tuesday 26 May

2. Photos from the Uluru Convention: Special Online Event! 26 May .

3. Reconciliation SA presents Patricia Turner AM, CEO NACCHO to provide a keynote session : May 27

4.National Reconciliation Week 2020 #NRW2020 ” Conversations from The Heart ” #UluruStatement May 27

5. NRW launch: National Acknowledgement of Country 12pm* 27 May 

6. 20 years on: Crossing Bridges for Reconciliation : 12pm – 1pm* Thursday 28 May 

7.For resources CLICK on this banner 

1.National Sorry Day Tuesday 26 May

Today is National Sorry Day and it marks 23 years since the tabling of the Bringing Them Home report.

Listen to the voices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families and children and find resources and toolkits from HERE 

2.”Photos from the Uluru Convention” Special Online Event! 26 May .

“Photos from the Uluru Convention” Special Online Event! 26 May 2020 5:30-6:30 pm.

Wayne Bergmann in conversation with Pat Anderson AO, @mdavisqlder, @Gabrielle_J_A, @SallyScales & Jimmy Widders Hunt. #UluruStatement #auslaw #IndigenousX

Register at:

3. Reconciliation SA is excited to have Patricia Turner AM, CEO NACCHO to provide a keynote session : May 27 Tickets close today May 26 at midday 

Uncle Bunna Lawrie to provide some musical inspiration at this years Reconciliation SA Virtual Breakfast.

Tickets on sale now and will close on midday 26 May 2020.

4.National Reconciliation Week 2020 #NRW2020 ” Conversations from The Heart ” #UluruStatement featuring Professor Megan Davis, Dean Parkin, Donnella Mills & Fiona McLeod AO SC

We will delve into what constitutional recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples might look like, the mechanics of constitutional reform, what reconciliation means for all Australians and the progress made, as well as what the justice system looks like on the frontline for First Australians.

Please join us for what will be an engaging, thought-provoking and memorable conversation.

Wednesday 27 May 2020
12.30pm to 1.30pm AEST

Details to be sent the day prior to acceptances only

Please note to register replace the ” Donnella Mills ” info on the form with your own info 


5.NRW launch: National Acknowledgement of Country 12pm* Wednesday 27 May 2020 

To launch NRW 2020 we are asking everyone to take to social media to acknowledge Country. We can’t be physically together to show respect but we can show respect to Country where we are.

On the first day of NRW, take the time to acknowledge the Traditional Owners of the Land that you are on, wherever you are.

Choose your social media platform – or the privacy of your own space – to pay your respects.

Consult the AIATSIS Map of Indigenous Australia for a guide to the Traditional Owners of the Land you are on, and tag the Traditional Owners and/or your own mob plus #InThisTogether2020 #NRW2020

 6.20 years on: Crossing Bridges for Reconciliation : 12pm – 1pm* Thursday 28 May 2020 

20 years on is a panel discussion hosted by ABC Speaking Out’s Larissa Behrendt. Panel members will reflect on the bridge walks of 2000 and the role of reconciliation since that historic moment.

Featuring Hon Ken Wyatt AM MP, The Hon Linda Burney MP, Reconciliation Australia CEO Karen Mundine and University of Wollongong Lecturer, Summer May Finlay.

Facebook Livestream on Reconciliation Australia and ABC Australia Facebook pages. The panel will be broadcast on Speaking Out, which can be heard on Radio National (Fridays at 8pm), ABC local Radio (Sundays at 9pm) and the ABC listen app.

7. In Concert Together 9pm -10pm* Friday 29 May 2020 ||

Reconciliation Australia and ABC bring you Busby Marou, Alice Skye and more in concert, hosted by Christine Anu on her National Evenings show on ABC Radio.

Tune into ABC Radio or the ABC listen app or watch on the Facebook Livestream on Reconciliation Australia, ABC Sydney or ABC Australia Facebook pages.

*All times are Australian Eastern Standard time.

For more event info and updates, check-out the National Reconciliation Week 2020 website. 

Aboriginal Health #CoronaVirus #NRW2020 News Alert No 70 : May 26 #KeepOurMobSafe Stan Grant essay : What do coronavirus, the rise of authoritarianism and the retreat of democracy have to do with Indigenous reconciliation in Australia? Everything.

” What do coronavirus, the rise of authoritarianism and the retreat of democracy have to do with Indigenous reconciliation in Australia? Everything.

Now is the time to think bigger about our own history, our unfinished business, and the demands of First Nations for justice.

Australia is in the crosshairs of a global ideological struggle between authoritarianism and liberalism.

We have not faced anything like this since the Cold War; the difference now is that authoritarianism threatens democracy from outside and from within.

The power of China, and the rise of a would-be autocratic populist political movement in the West, has seriously eroded freedom and democracy.

The democracy watchdog Freedom House has called this era a return to the iron fist.

Coronavirus has made this all very real: as China stares down Australia and US President Donald Trump — himself accused of undermining democracy — threatens to tear up the relationship with Beijing.

The historical injustice and the ongoing rights claims of First Nations people form part of these global fault lines. Not nearly enough thought goes into connecting these dots: Indigenous issues suffer from a myopic parochialism.

We cannot continue to ring-fence these questions only within our border. “

Article 1 Originally published HERE

Read in full below Part 1

 Part 2 
The Uluru Statement from the Heart offered a new compact with all Australians that would reset our national identity and enhance our political legitimacy. But its poetic vision and pragmatism proved its death knell.

Trying to reconcile two historically divergent if not hostile ideas – Indigenous sovereignty and the sovereignty of the Commonwealth – asked the nation to embark on a project of rehabilitation: “Voice, Treaty, Truth”.

Stan Grant is the vice-chancellor’s chair of Australian/Indigenous Belonging at Charles Sturt University and a journalist

Part 2

Symbolic gestures don’t help

Indigenous affairs appear stuck in a cul-de-sac of tired ideological culture wars, symbolic gestures and failed policy reinforcing intergenerational disadvantage. Only by opening the lens can we see how we might transcend old thinking.

The assault on global democracy has powerful lessons for us.

If Australian politics cannot meet Indigenous demands for justice, what does it say about the strength and legitimacy of our own democracy?

This is the question posed by the 2017 Uluru Statement from the Heart, that proposed a three-pronged program of democratic rehabilitation: Voice, Treaty, Truth.

The cornerstone was a proposed constitutionally enshrined national Indigenous representative body — a Voice.

But this was rejected by the then Turnbull Government, labelling the Voice a “third chamber of Parliament” that would put race in the Constitution.

Those claims didn’t see the pragmatism and liberalism of what Indigenous people were asking for.

Political philosopher Duncan Ivison describes the Uluru Statement as an opportunity for a “possible re-founding of Australia”.

Our liberalism, he argues, needs to confront its own history of colonisation, empire, dispossession, genocide and political domination.

That is the wellspring of Indigenous rights claims. Failure to resolve or reconcile this history impedes Indigenous acceptance of the legitimacy of the state.

The Uluru Statement from the Heart proposed a rejuvenated Australian identity where we “can walk in two worlds”

History can be a weapon

All around the world we are reminded how history can be a weapon.

Polish Nobel laureate poet Czeslaw Milosz who wrote about the “dark instinct” that drew him to explore Europe’s blood stained 20th century once said: “Crimes against human rights, never confessed and never publicly denounced, are a poison which destroys the possibility of a friendship between nations.”

Historical blood feuds feed toxic identities that Indian philosopher and economist Amartya Sen said savagely challenges our shared humanity. Identity, he said, “can also kill — and kill with abandon”.

A man holds a sign that says 'Always was.. Always will be Aboriginal Land.'
History hangs heavily in our world.(Getty: Don Arnold)

History hangs heavily in our world.

Political leaders stoke a virulent nationalism by perpetuating narratives of grievance: Vladimir Putin laments the end of Soviet empire and accuses the West of humiliating Russia; Hungary’s Viktor Orban sees outsiders as oppressors and pledges to never forget the post World War I Treaty of Trianon which stripped Hungary of territory, and China’s Xi Jinping holds fast to what China calls the “one hundred years of humiliation” by foreign powers.

History can be a breeding ground terrorism and hatred: Islamic State and the extreme right both drink from the same poison well.

Australia is thankfully spared such violence, but history here too is a roadblock to reconciliation.

We need a rejuvenated Australian identity

The Uluru Statement offered a way through this impasse, proposing a rejuvenated Australian identity where we “can walk in two worlds” — black and white.

Uluru was a triumph of ambition but its rejection was a failure of political vision and courage

Rather than see it as detracting from Australia — creating an “us and them” — we could have seen it as strengthening Australia bringing “us” closer “them”, by meaningfully recognising First Nations people in our nation’s founding document.

Liberalism can be guilty of imposing conformity and homogeneity under the guise of neutrality.

But it can also embrace a liberating pluralism where deep political and social disagreements need not fracture civic unity.

That Indigenous people, for so long excluded from Australian democracy, can pledge a commitment to a shared future seeded in our constitution should have been a highpoint of our liberalism.

The simple power of communication

Ivison says we should look for the glue of liberal democratic belonging, and that belonging will emerge from a practice of democratic citizenship.

Simply: we must be able to speak to each other.

That is increasingly rare. We live in what the Indian writer Pankaj Mishra calls “an age of anger”.

We form our tribes and yell from the margins.

The impact of coronavirus — forced isolation, economic uncertainty and vulnerability — may indeed give us a sense that “we are all in this together”, but it can just as easily lead to more entrenched nationalism, leading to harder borders and economic protectionism, as the thread of globalisation unravels.

The question for our democracy this Reconciliation Week is the question for all democracies: will we emerge from this moment stronger with a greater appreciation of the need to work for our freedoms, or will we be less immune to that other virus: the virus of authoritarianism?

Stan Grant is the vice-chancellor’s chair of Australian/Indigenous Belonging at Charles Sturt University and a journalist.

NACCHO Aboriginal Health and #ReconciliationWeek News Alert : #NRW2020 Messages from Minister @KenWyattPM and our @NACCHOChair Donnella Mills : Let’s stand as one and continue being strong. We are all #InThisTogether2020 !’

“ This year’s #NRW2020 theme is ‘In this Together’ – reminds us whether in a crisis or reconciliation we are all #InThisTogether2020.

We have shown during these tough times that we can all do our part to stop the spread of a deadly disease and the results speak for themselves.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people continue to be impacted by the legacy of colonisation but what continues is our resilience amidst the adversity we face. When we face adversity together, we see stronger outcomes.

If we all can work together and support the journey of reconciliation, every step forward removes disadvantage and creates a more solid foundation for our country towards a better future for all Australians.”

Read and download full NACCHO Chair Donnella Mills Press Release HERE

Plus details of our Chairs and CEO NRW2020 speaking engagements 27 May

“National Reconciliation Week draws our attention each year to the ongoing efforts to walk together with a shared purpose, and to build a stronger future for all Australians.

This year’s theme, In This Together, resonates in new ways in light of the current COVID-19 pandemic and reminds us we all share this land and rely on each other to build a better future.”

Minister for Indigenous Australians, the Hon Ken Wyatt AM, MP, has asked Australians to think about what reconciliation means to them and what practical steps they can take to build trust, mutual respect and opportunities for Indigenous Australians. Pictured above with NACCHO CEO Pat Turner 

“The week commences 27 May marking the anniversary of the 1967 Referendum and concludes with the anniversary of the High Court’s Mabo decision on 3 June – both significant milestones in our shared history that had profound impacts on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.”

“These moments in our reconciliation journey remind us of the tireless campaigners who sought to bring us closer and the success that can be achieved when Australians come together as one.”

“This year also marks 20 years since Corroboree 2000 and the memorable Walk for Reconciliation across Sydney Harbour Bridge where close to a quarter of a million people demonstrated their commitment to reconciliation. The images from that day are still striking and it’s important we do not lose that enthusiasm.”

“While we are unfortunately not able to celebrate with gatherings this year due to COVID-19, there are many events happening online that people can get involved with.”

“From film screenings and book recommendations to panel discussions and streamed concerts, there are opportunities for people to learn about our history, engage with Indigenous culture and reflect on what it means to be in this together.”

“I also encourage all Australians to take part in the National Acknowledgement of Country. At midday on Wednesday 27th May, join Indigenous Australians across the nation by posting a video of an acknowledgement of the country you are on with the hashtags #InThisTogether2020 and #NRW2020.”

Visit for a guide to the Traditional Owners of the land you are on.

Visit or to find out more.

NACCHO #SaveADate 27 May @kwmlaw Virtual event / webinar : National Reconciliation Week 2020 #NRW2020 ” Conversations from The Heart ” #UluruStatement featuring Professor Megan Davis, Dean Parkin, Donnella Mills & Fiona McLeod AO SC

 ” The theme for National Reconciliation Week 2020 (#NRW2020) – In This Together – is now resonating in ways which could not have been foreseen when it was announced last year, but certainly reminds us that whether in a crisis or in reconciliation, we are all #InThisTogether.

In this special edition of Field Notes, KWM Community Impact’s webinar series, we are honoured to welcome Professor Megan Davis, Dean Parkin, Donnella Mills and Fiona McLeod AO SC for Conversations From The Heart. See Bio below “

In May 2017, the Uluru Statement from the Heart arose from a constitutional convention of 250 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander delegates achieving a consensus on Indigenous recognition. The Uluru Statement was an invitation to walk with and alongside Indigenous Australia.

KWM is pleased to facilitate a further conversation for our clients and our people, to coincide with #NRW2020, to explore the Uluru Statement, the concept of reconciliation and the empowerment of First Nations peoples.

See previous 40 + NACCHO Aboriginal health and Uluru statements posts

We will delve into what constitutional recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples might look like, the mechanics of constitutional reform, what reconciliation means for all Australians and the progress made, as well as what the justice system looks like on the frontline for First Australians.

Please join us for what will be an engaging, thought-provoking and memorable conversation.

Wednesday 27 May 2020
12.30pm to 1.30pm AEST

Details to be sent the day prior to acceptances only

Please note to register replace the ” Donnella Mills ” info on the form with your own info 


Don’t miss this opportunity to hear from some of Australia’s leading voices and acclaimed experts on Indigenous affairs, justice and reconciliation, as we gather for #NRW2020.

Our Panellists & Friends of KWM

Professor Megan Davis is Pro Vice-Chancellor Indigenous UNSW and a Professor of Law, UNSW Law. Professor Davis was elected by the UN Human Rights Council to UNEMRIP in 2017. Professor Davis currently serves as a United Nations expert with the UN Human Rights Council’s Expert Mechanism on the rights of Indigenous peoples based in UN Geneva. Megan is an Acting Commissioner of the NSW Land and Environment Court. Professor Davis is a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Law and a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Social Sciences. She is a member of the NSW Sentencing Council and an Australian Rugby League Commissioner. Professor Davis was Director of the Indigenous Law Centre, UNSW Law from 2006-2016. Professor Davis is an expert consultant to KWM.

Dean Parkin is from the Quandamooka peoples from Minjerribah (North Stradbroke Island) in Queensland. He was involved in the negotiations leading to a Native Title determination in 2011 and continues to work with his community on this journey. Dean has a Bachelor of Arts (Politics and Journalism) from the University of Queensland. An experienced independent management consultant, Dean has worked across the public, corporate, not-for-profit and political sectors. He has advised a range of clients on strategy, engagement and co-design, including the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Palladium, Coles, the Referendum Council and Jawun. In addition to extensive experience in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander affairs, he has commercial experience both in Australia and the UK. Mr Parkin is also an expert consultant to KWM.

Donnella Mills is a proud Torres Strait Islander woman with ancestral and family links to Masig and Nagir. Donnella is a member of James Cook University Council, Director of Wuchopperen Health Service and Chair of the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation – NACCHO.  She is a Cairns-based lawyer with LawRight, a Community Legal Centre which coordinates the provision of pro-bono civil legal services to disadvantaged and vulnerable members of the community.  Donnella is currently the project lawyer for the Wuchopperen Health Justice Partnership. This innovative HJP is an exciting model of care providing access to justice in a community controlled setting, where lawyers and health professionals collaborate to achieve improved health, social, emotional and spiritual well-being outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.


Our Moderator


Fiona McLeod AO SC is a Senior Counsel practising in the areas of commercial and public law matters. Fiona is a leader of the national and international legal profession having led the Law Council of Australia, Australian Bar Association, Victorian Bar and Australian Women Lawyers. In 2017 she devised and, with the support of a Steering Committee, led the Justice Project, a landmark research project undertaken by the Law Council into access to justice impacts on vulnerable groups in Australia launched in 2018. She was appointed to the Victorian Honour Roll of Women in 2014, was awarded the AWL Woman Lawyer of the Year in 2018 and she was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) in 2020.

NACCHO Aboriginal Health and #SocialDeterminants “Poor housing is not an issue of indigeneity; it is an issue of poverty” – Dr Paul Torzillo

Aboriginal health, more specifically, is often characterised as wicked.

But when it comes to the link between housing and Indigenous health at least, Dr Paul Torzillo says emphatically,

“This is not some issue about cultural dissonance. This is not a wicked problem.”

Dr Paul Torzillo is a founding director of Healthabitat. A non-profit company that has been working for more than three decades to identify a quantifiable link between housing and health in remote Aboriginal communities, and to offer solutions to clearly articulated, fixable problems.

Drawing above showing Healthabitat’s nine Healthy Living Practice

This article by Habititat and Tracey Clement

“It’s going to get too hard for ngurraritja to live in the desert soon. I might shift somewhere when the desert dries up – up north, down south.”

Without action to stop climate change, people may be forced to leave their country,”

Climate change is a clear and present threat to the survival of our people and their culture,”

Living in “unbearable concrete hot boxes” doesn’t help.

People resort to sleeping outside, or cramming everybody into the coolest room, with all the well-known consequences for the spread of diseases.

It’s also common for people to sleep in shifts, with young people roaming the streets at night where they get into trouble, and sleeping during the day when they should beat school.

You can sometimes see people in communities hosing the outside of their Besser brick walls with garden hoses to keep cool despite the water shortages – that’s how desperate they are.”

” Too hot for our mob ” From Central Land Council’s Head of Policy, Josie Douglas

Download Land Rights News 


Read all NACCHO Aboriginal Health and Housing Articles HERE

Read all NACCHO Aboriginal Health and Social Determinant Articles HERE

Drawing above showing Healthabitat’s nine Healthy Living Practice

The company applies a scientific approach to what some have seen as a social and cultural problem.

Some problems are so complex we label them ‘wicked.’ As the Australian Public Service Commission (APS) explains, “The term ‘wicked’ in this context is used, not in the sense of evil, but rather as an issue highly resistant to resolution.”

In a document titled, ‘Tackling wicked problems: A public policy perspective,’ the APS, a policy unit within the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, cites climate change, obesity, land degradation and Indigenous disadvantage as examples.

In 1985, Torzillo was working as a medical officer for the Nganampa Health Council at the Pukatja (Ernabella) health clinic in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands in South Australia. There he met architect Paul Pholeros (1953–2016) and anthropologist Stephan Rainow.

They began working together at the invitation of elder Yami Lester, who could see that people in the community were still getting sick, despite improved health services. In 1987, the trio released a report known as the Uwankara Palyanku Kanyintjaku (UPK) – a plan to “stop people getting sick”, in the local Pitjantjatjara language.

In the UPK, Torzillo, Pholeros and Rainow – who would become the founding directors of Healthabitat – identified a clear link between deficiencies in the built environment and the poor health of community members.

The report outlined nine Healthy Living Practices: washing people, washing clothes and bedding, removing wastewater safely, improving nutrition through the ability to store prepare and cook food, reducing the negative impact of over-crowding; reducing the negative effects of animals, insects and vermin; reducing the impact of dust; controlling temperature in the living environment; and reducing hazards that cause physical trauma.

These practices are still at the core of what Healthabitat does today.

Healthabitat primarily works on projects that focus on improving health by fixing what Dr Fred Hollows (1929–1993) called “health hardware,” in this case the physical infrastructure in a home that enables occupants to undertake the nine Healthy Living Practices. Since 1985, licensed contractors overseen by Healthabitat have completed some 287,919 repair jobs, mostly in remote Indigenous communities. But recently they also conducted projects in densely populated urban areas in both Australia and the USA. “And those projects have provided data to support the important thesis that poor housing is not an issue of indigeneity,” Torzillo says, “it is an issue of poverty.”

While a common misconception persists that occupants in remote Aboriginal communities have destroyed their own homes, Healthabitat’s extensive collection of data has demonstrated that vandalism (or even unsuccessful repair work) accounts for only seven percent of damaged health hardware.

Overwhelmingly, poor design, poor material choices, shoddy or incomplete initial construction (19%), and lack of routine maintenance (74%) are the factors that lead to substandard infrastructure in the homes that they have worked on.

As Torzillo puts it, “We have found that you can improve health hardware in these communities for an affordable cost. And we have also shown that the key reasons that these houses aren’t performing are not reasons which are philosophical, or race related, or even occupant dependent. They are issues that are fixable.”

Small teams of local people undertake Survey-Fix work as part of Healthabitat’s “yellow caps” house repair program.

This all seems fairly straightforward. After all, the link between sanitation and health has been widely accepted since at least the Victorian era. A functioning toilet, kitchen and shower should be standard in all homes, and yet the problem of healthy housing in Indigenous communities is ongoing.

Which is not to say that Healthabitat has not had some success. “I think what we have done is we have unequivocally changed the language and the rhetoric around housing in Australia. So at every housing conference somebody talks about the nine Healthy Living Practices, and at every conference people talk about housing for health, and most bureaucratic statements include language that would suggest that they are adopting the principles,” Torzillo explains. “The difficulty is in the implementation.”

Despite clearly defined solutions and quantifiable evidence that its projects work, Healthabitat’s methodology has yet to be meaningfully translated into Federal and State government policy within Australia. When asked why, Torzillo admits that there is no easy answer. For him, “the hard question”, as he puts it, is why do those in authority insist on labelling the problem as ‘wicked’?

Tackling this question is one of the reasons Healthabitat became an industry partner on a Housing for Health Incubator, led by Professor Tess Lea and facilitated by the Henry Halloran Trust. Beyond the big, complex ‘why’ questions, Lea and her team are also examining the interactions between politics and bureaucracy and probing the ‘how.’

They are asking questions, Torzillo says, such as: “How is it that we are still building houses that don’t perform? How is it that we are losing housing stock because we don’t have sustainable maintenance systems? How does that happen?” Their research, which will conclude later this year, also addresses another apparently wicked problem: climate change.

As Torzillo explains, “Our work started with me thinking predominantly about child health, predominantly about infectious disease and the impact of washing and waste disposal in the 1980s. Most of that still stands, but now there is a whole other set of issues.” Climate change is perhaps the issue of our times, and it is already hitting hard in the communities Healthabitat works with. “Lots of remote communities now have temperatures in the high 40s and low 50s centigrade. And they are not going to have the money to afford the energy to control temperature. So communities are going to be threatened by that,” Torzillo says. “This is a big issue right now. So we want to bring that into the centre of what we’re doing.”

With this in mind, the Henry Halloran Trust Incubator is looking at updating, modernising, and refocusing Healthabitat’s work with an emphasis on the impact of the climate crisis on housing for poor people.

As Torzillo points out. “It’s not a future issue, it’s a here-and-now issue.”

Tracey Clement is an artist and writer based in Sydney, Australia.