From #Mabo25 to #UluruStatement and #Treaty : Mabo Commemoration Oration : Senator Patrick Dodson

 ” Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people will continue to call for a treaty and a strong Indigenous voice if nothing is done.

These calls only highlight the need for constitutional reform.

Australia cannot move forward while our founding document, our birth certificate, embodies our racist past. The stubborn stains in our racist Constitution must be erased.

  • Eddie Koiki Mabo would expect nothing less.
  • Eddie Koiki Mabo was a great Australian.

We can find the Mabo spirit within each of us, and work together to build a great Australia, free from racism, honorable and just.”

Part 2

 “Last month at Uluru, in the spirit of constitutional conventions from which we had previously been excluded, many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people gathered.

Their one page document, Uluru Statement from the Heart, issues a series of challenges to the Parliament and the people of Australia.

  • It calls for constitutional reforms to empower our people and take a rightful place in our own country.
  • It calls for the establishment of a First Nations Voice enshrined in the Constitution.
  • It calls for a Makarrata Commission to supervise a process of agreement-making between governments and First Nations and truth-telling about our history.

A treaty or agreement, whether one or many, would be an acknowledgment flowing from the Mabo decision that terra nullius is a discredited, outmoded legal fiction and that this land was taken from Aboriginal people.”

Senator Patrick Dodson on June 16 delivered  this year’s 2017 ANU Mabo Commemoration Oration at University House. The Mabo Commemoration Oration was held to recognise the 25th anniversary of the Mabo ruling.

In June 1992, the High Court of Australia recognised that a group of Torres Strait Islanders, led by Eddie Mabo, held ownership of Mer (Murray Island). In acknowledging the traditional rights of the Meriam people to their land, the Court also held that native title existed for all Indigenous people. This landmark decision gave rise to important native title legislation the following year and rendered terra nullius a legal fiction.

Senator Patrick Dodson is a Yawuru man from Broome in Western Australia. He has dedicated his life work to being an advocate for constructive relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples based on mutual respect, understanding and dialogue. He is a recipient of the Sydney International Peace prize

Image above : On display at Parliament House Canberra in a careful hand with coloured pencils, Eddie Mabo drew this map in the shape of the Island of Mer, noting the family names associated with tracts of the Island, including his own family name.

Full Oration

Thank you very much Vice-Chancellor Professor Brian Schmidt and thank you for the Welcome to Country. I too join in the appreciation of the Ngunnawal and Ngambri people for their welcome to their lands.

It is a great honour for me to be here at the Australian National University tonight to deliver a speech in honour of the late Eddie Koiki Mabo.

  • Mr Mabo was a man of history.
  • He celebrated his Mer and Torres Strait Islander history.
  • He made Australian history.

So it is to history that I will turn to start my remarks.

On 26 January 1788, the British flag was raised at Botany Bay.

The land, now part of the City of Sydney, was the territorial property of the Gadigal and Bidigal people of the Eora nation. It was held and looked after by them, for countless generations.

With a cheer and a tot of rum, to the sounds of fife and drums, the colony of New South Wales was proclaimed.

Over time, other colonies were established in other parts of Australia or by separation of their territory from New South Wales.

• Queensland was one of those.

Over time, the boundaries of the Queensland colony were stretched to include offshore northern islands around 1859.

The lines on the map between Papua New Guinea and Australia included the Murray Islands, the largest of which is Murray Island or Mer.

  • In 1912, the Island of Mer was declared a Reserve under the Land Act 1910 (Qld).
  • In 1936, Eddie Mabo was born in Mer.
  • In 1982, Eddie Koiki Mabo and four other Murray Islanders commenced proceedings against the State of Queensland.

They claimed ownership of parcels of land on Mer as the holders of native title under their customary law.

This litigation, bearing the name of the man we commemorate tonight, transformed the modern Australian common law.

• The case changed our History.

• For the good. On the first floor of our Parliament, I walk past a display of foundation documents of  Australia’s law and society.

This week I watched a group of school children walk through the area on their tours of Parliament House, under a banner that reads, “Parliament is the law-making body which determines the rules of the society by which people live.”

A couple of young boys were looking at a case where a page out of an old-school notebook was on display.

In a careful hand with coloured pencils, Eddie Mabo had drawn the shape of the Island of Mer, noting the family names associated with tracts of the Island, including his own family name.

On the same floor, there are other important documents and paintings on display: The Yirrkala bark petition, the Barunga petition, the Kevin Rudd apology.

Each of these artefacts talks to our most significant national historical challenge.

How can we recognise and acknowledge the fact of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander prior ownership of this land we now call Australia?

Mr Mabo’s map and the petitions call for all of us to recognise and acknowledge the fact  of occupation.

• to re-think the received colonial settler narrative. They remind us of the exertion of force by and on behalf of the British authorities.

  • The fact is: the British did not ask permission to settle.
  • The fact is: no-one consented, no-one ceded.
  • The fact is: the judiciary and the legislature have become less generous since The Mabo ruling.
  • The fact is: we need an agreement or treaty to settle not only the ongoing legacy of terra nullius but also the legacy of its existence.

The first peoples were in this land as owners and governors of their respective countries before and when the colonists ‘arrived’ and began to gradually occupy their territories and rule over them. Today those native title holders under the Native Title Act are evidence of their descent from their ancestors and are the living testimony of their prior occupation of their lands and waters.

They and their people proclaim continuing occupation. This land was not, and is not, terra nullius.

The only thing that threatens this is the application of extinguishment written into the Native Title Act. It is more sinister than its existence as a legal mechanism, because in most cases it requires the consent of the very people that hold the Native Title.

This is neither honourable, nor generous.

This is treachery and brings shame to the Mabo name. It belittles the vision and motives of Mr Mabo and the other families who fought and won a seminal victory in the High Court.

The Chief Justice of Australia who heard the Mabo case, Justice Sir Gerard Brennan made this determination on 3rd June 1992 :

  • The common law of Australia rejects the notion that, when the Crown acquired sovereignty over territory which is now part of Australia it thereby acquired the absolute beneficial ownership of the land therein, and
  • accepts that the antecedent rights and interests in land possessed by the indigenous inhabitants of the territory survived the change in sovereignty.
  • Those antecedent rights and interests thus constitute a burden on the radical title of the Crown.

His decision in the Mabo case ruled that:

• the Meriam people are entitled as against the whole world to possession, occupation, use and enjoyment of the island of Mer.

Rejecting the notion of “terra nullius”, native title was found to have survived the acquisition of sovereignty.

Of course the High Court as an instrument of our Constitution cannot rule on the issue of sovereignty.

It took ten long years to resolve the Mabo claim. It is a poignant tragedy that Koiki Mabo did not live long enough to hear the decision of the High Court.

  • To celebrate the recognition of what he knew in his heart and mind to be the truth
  • His country was in Mer.

From our viewpoint in history, we see the Case that bears his name as a major landmark, a signpost for our future. But the road is long and at times the travelling is hard going.

The Mabo decision led to an eruption of controversy and alarm, in much of mainstream Australia.

Mabo was an affront to the security provided by the lie of terra nullius.

The Commonwealth Parliament, in 1993, under the Labor Government of Paul Keating, enacted the Native Title Act.

The Act sought to build on the common law as defined in the Mabo case.The integrity around this today raises serious questions.

In my own State of Western Australia, in which more than half of the land was legally unalienated and mineral rich, the Government objected. The State Parliament in Perth passed a law to extinguish native title from the moment of colonisation and challenged the Commonwealth Act.

The High Court upheld the validity of the Native Title Act and found the Western Australian law to be invalid.

On a personal note, that decision enabled the Yawuru people to pursue our own native title interests and reclaim our country. My brother Mick and I have good reason to be forever grateful to Koiki Mabo and his pioneering vision and courage.

Another major milestone took place in 1996. The High Court in the Wik case found that Native Title and pastoral leases could co-exist.

The pastoral leases were a feature of the colonial period, trying to reign in the peacocking of the best lands by squatters.

  • There was at least some consideration by the Colonial authorities of the rights of Aboriginal people to travel over the leases.
  • Such rights themselves became caveats on the pastoral lease until gradually modified.

The Wik case was a simple matter of concurrent and co-existing rights but with the Native Title rights yielding to the leaseholder if there is a conflict. The public reaction by some sectors was ill informed and disgraceful.

So the generosity of the Court already had begun to harden somewhat in the qualification they put on the notion of “concurrent and coexistent” rights.

The Government of Prime Minister John Howard, could have used this decision as a positive step, as an opportunity for advancing reconciliation.

The Howard “Ten Point Plan” led to the 1996 amendments to the Native Title Act, and in the words of his Deputy Tim Fischer, delivered ‘bucket-loads of extinguishment’.

That legislation was in my view intended to reinstate terra nullius or to remove what Justice Brennan called the ‘burden on the radical title of the Crown’.

As a sweetener they also delivered opportunity previously denied except under a statutory land rights Act.

They opened the opportunity for Agreement Making, which unfortunately is too often structurally tied to extinguishment. Indigenous Land Use Agreements could be negotiated under the Act whereby Native Title Holders and other parties could agree on the use of Native Title lands, for mutual benefit and economic development.

Far too often, the price of that opportunity has been too high, in my view, leading to the extinguishment of Native Title, forever and a day, leaving a lingering burden on the shoulders of the native title holders.

Nevertheless, hundreds of agreements have been negotiated and signed across the nation, especially in Queensland, but also in my state of Western Australia, where an ILUA Agreement for the Noongar people, had been hailed as a major landmark, a Treaty in all but name for the people of the South West.

In the Senate this week, the validation of Indigenous Land Use Agreements has been under debate. There is a tension between law-making in the Parliament, the decisions of the Courts and the aspirations of Aboriginal people to negotiate agreements that retain their rights.

The concept of separation of powers is not always empathetic to the sense of justice held by Aboriginal people.

The Noongar agreement came unstuck with the McGlade decision. With the recent amendments in the Parliament this Agreement will go back to the process of registration, for the Noongars to settle.

At every step, the Labor Party has pushed for consultation on these Bills, through a Senate Committee, through submissions and through consultations with representatives of the Native Title Representative bodies.

At every step, we have remembered the legacy of Koiki Mabo and understand the fact that Native Title rights, now recognised in the common law, should not be changed, extinguished or modified at the whim of Government.

They do not exist as a gift of the Parliament, or an act of largesse by the Government of the day.

Native Title rights are ongoing rights, with deep roots into our common law held exclusively by Native Title holders. Amending legislation should always require the ‘free, prior and informed consent of Native Title holders.

The Native Title Act, much amended over time, has evolved in complexity and function. Koiki Mabo would probably have some difficulty understanding how his vision has become brutalised by Parliament.

The Australian Law Reform Commission, in its 2015 review, Connection to Country, has identified key areas of reform that are yet to be implemented by the Government. Indeed, we still await a formal response from the Government to its recommendations.

From my own perspective, as a native title holder, and now as a legislator, I see five key areas where the functioning of the Act requires rework, not least to better align it to the vision of Eddie Koiki Mabo. These are, in summary:

  • The need to rethink the presumption that an Agreement for alternative uses of native title land requires extinguishment of native title rights;
  • The need to rethink the decision-making process required under the Act;
  • The need to improve the fungibility for native title land without needing extinguishment or loss of communal title;
  • The need to address the rights of compensation for the loss of enjoyment, access and use of Native Title lands.
  • The need to change the onus of proof burden from native title applicants to the Crown
  • The Native Title Act can be refashioned to shift the point of balance towards the ongoing rights, interest, needs and concerns of Indigenous Australians. Doing so would restore the Act to its fundamental purpose: to recognise and protect native title, in the interests of Indigenous Australians, and our shared national future.

Last month at Uluru, in the spirit of constitutional conventions from which we had previously been excluded, many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people gathered.

They set out to deliberate and report back to the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition, through the Referendum Council, on Constitutional recognition.

Their one page document, Uluru Statement from the Heart, issues a series of challenges to the Parliament and the people of Australia.

  • It calls for constitutional reforms to empower our people and take a rightful place in our own country.
  • It calls for the establishment of a First Nations Voice enshrined in the Constitution.
  • It calls for a Makarrata Commission to supervise a process of agreement-making between governments and First Nations and truth-telling about our history.

From a Parliamentary perspective, we look forward to the report on those consultations from the Referendum Council at the end of the month. Hopefully working through these issues in the Parliament, in the time ahead, will take place in the spirit of constructive optimism.

To formulate a successful referendum outcome, especially in the next year a bipartisan, indeed, cross party consensus will need to be carefully shaped.

In my personal view, Constitutional reform, a treaty and a strong Indigenous voice have never been mutually exclusive—one does not come at the expense of the others.

• Of course I support an Agreement making process

A treaty or agreement, whether one or many, would be an acknowledgment flowing from the Mabo decision that terra nullius is a discredited, outmoded legal fiction and that this land was taken from Aboriginal people.

It would also pick up the opportunity that was lost when the Native Title negotiations focused solely upon land tenure.

I have never held the view that Mabo was only about land tenure. In fact when my views clashed with the then negotiators I was asked to discontinue any involvement in the process and dutifully left it to those who settled the issues with Prime Minister Keating.

There was no treaty when this land was colonized. In the future a treaty will be a strong step for a mature and harmonious nation. The work of Labor Governments in our States of Victoria and South Australia show it can be done.

Of course we need a strong Indigenous voice.

For too long Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have been denied a voice, excluded from decision making processes about their own lives.

Indigenous people want to reset our relationship with government.

  • We want to be heard.
  • We have been calling for this for a long time.

Working to make a Voice effective within the processes of Parliament and capable of support from the whole Australian population in a referendum is a key challenge. A challenge Labor will consider carefully.

We look forward to more information on how the idea of an entrenched Voice can become a systemic, secure and successful legislative reality.

• We need to address the systemic racism that exists in our nation’s founding document, Australia’s Constitution.

We want our past to be acknowledged and we want to be involved in decisions about our future.

The Uluru Statement called for a First Nations Voice enshrined in the Constitution and a Makarrata Commission to supervise a process of agreement-making between governments and First nations and truth-telling about our history.

Many rejected the  idea of any ‘symbolic’ acknowledgement in what they saw as a racist document, the  Constitution.

This may well have been a statement from the heart.

It is time we acknowledged that Indigenous people were not included in the Constitutional Conventions that were held all over Australia in the lead up to Federation.

The Australian Constitution was written by people who thought Indigenous people were lesser beings; a dying race with no sense of land use and development.

  • The dynamic of racism in Australia is institutional and it is structural.
  • The foundations of racism are entrenched, persistent, in this nation’s founding  document.

The question we need to work through is not about choosing between a treaty, a voice or constitutional recognition.

The question is whether Australia is able to move forward towards reconciliation —be that in the form of a Treaty, or an Indigenous voice enshrined in the Constitution —while the nation’s foundation document remains, in its DNA, a flawed and racist document.

I understand this because I was a member of the Expert Panel on Constitutional Recognition of Indigenous Australians, which was tasked to report to the Government on possible options for constitutional change to give effect to indigenous constitutional recognition and to assess any legal consequence that might flow.

In 2012, the Expert Panel delivered our report , which made a series of recommendations including:

  • a statement of acknowledgment in the Constitution, relevant to the lawmaking power in indigenous affairs (new Section 51 A);
  • a modification to the wording of the Commonwealth’s lawmaking power in

Indigenous affairs (s 51 (26);

  • a constitutional prohibition on racial discrimination (new S 116A); and
  • the removal of a provision that contemplates states disqualifying people from voting based on their race (s 25).

These recommendations recognise that the Government has the power to make laws about Indigenous people, but the laws must be beneficial and give the Parliament guidance.

It would be a mistake to consider this constitutional reform as merely ‘symbolic’.

Nothing about our Constitution is symbolic. There is not even a preamble that could point us to something symbolic.

The words in the Constitution reference powers that the Parliament uses to make laws.

They are words with real power. They are words that guide the Parliament in making laws and the Courts when they judge the validity of those laws.

Changing powers in the Constitution and giving clarification around how such powers can be used is not mere symbolism, “pretty words”.

Having an Indigenous voice enshrined in the Constitution, without amending the Constitution to remove racially entrenched ideologies, is puzzling.

It seems to assume that an Indigenous voice in the Constitution could be strong enough to challenge the entrenched structural racism which shapes the policies and laws that affect the lives of Aboriginal people without removing the racist elements of the Constitution.

We know these policies and laws. They are the policies of assimilation, of forced social and cultural change. These are the policies that continue to remove Aboriginal people from their families, country and culture.

These are the policies that have caused Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to  make up approximately one quarter of Australia’s prison population, despite making up  just 3 per cent of the total population.

These are the policies which have led to Indigenous Australians dying a decade earlier than non-Indigenous Australians.

  • Policies that repeatedly fail Aboriginal people.
  • Policies that Koiki Mabo challenged with his life and would do so today if he were alive.

It is no coincidence that these policies exist alongside a constitution that is the legacy of a colonial settler narrative, a narrative that saw Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander people as lesser beings and Australia as a land belonging to nobody. If we are going to clean up the mess that racism has made in Australia, in the hope that we might one day achieve reconciliation, we have to do it properly and honorably.

The report of the Referendum Council at the end of this month deserves and requires weighty consideration. If the Referendum Council’s recommendations do not get broad parliamentary support it will fail and there will be no referendum.

If there is broad support then, it requires careful consideration of a Bill and Explanatory Memorandum that can pass through this challenging and complicated parliament.

It requires a question that can be put to the Australian people that will pass the high bar of a referendum.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people will continue to call for a treaty and a strong Indigenous voice if nothing is done.

These calls only highlight the need for constitutional reform.

Australia cannot move forward while our founding document, our birth certificate, embodies our racist past. The stubborn stains in our racist Constitution must be erased.

  • Eddie Koiki Mabo would expect nothing less.
  • Eddie Koiki Mabo was a great Australian.

We can find the Mabo spirit within each of us, and work together to build a great Australia, free from racism, honorable and just.

Kaliya. Thank you.

 

NACCHO Aboriginal Health #NRW2017 #Mabo25 : Mabo’s legacy lives on 25 years after landmark High Court decision

” Mabo establishes a fundamental truth and lays the basis for justice … Mabo is an historic decision – we can make it an historic turning point, the basis of a new relationship between Indigenous and non-Aboriginal Australians. 

I believe that Mabo gives Australia the opportunity to mature as a nation. Just as there is no economy without environment, development must include justice and human rights.

I am not supposing a utopian dream where in all parties are completely happy and negotiate the perfect solution, but a way ahead toward fair and just solutions which all parties can live with and which do not sacrifice the interest of one over the other.

Most important of all, in the Federal Constitution, it is necessary that there be a recognition of Sovereignty as by that recognition and resulting compensation so that Aboriginal people can regain our dignity and be treated as equal partners in any future development of our land.

Charles Perkins AO 1993 Alice Springs ” Creating an economic template for our  healthy futures.” see full extract part 1 below

He (Eddie) was a fighter for the underdogs, anyone who was deemed to be treated unkindly – he would step up and support them.

“He also became a voice for people who had language difficulties.

To me, he was like a hero of the people.

I was sitting at a hospital in the carpark and I heard on the radio that my dad had won and I went ‘Oh my God he’s won’

And then I just started crying and I looked at my boy and I thought, he did it, he finally did it.”

ON THE morning of June 3, 1992, Gail Mabo was feeding her five-month-old son in her car, when her father’s landmark achievement was broadcast around Australia. Part 2 Below Interview Townsville Bulletin

 ” The High Court’s Mabo decision, 25 years ago on Saturday, triggered widespread celebrations and fresh hope among Indigenous Australians and their supporters, and exaggerated, even vitriolic outrage from some politicians, business leaders, journalists and academics.

These critics foreshadowed various economic and social disasters, including Jeff Kennett’s grossly irresponsible scaremongering that “backyards were at risk”. That was never the case. Little, if any, of this predicted chaos eventuated. Quite the reverse.”

Reforms are urgently needed to the native tile scheme

Dr Bryan Keon-Cohen, AM, QC, was junior counsel to Ron Castan, AM, QC, throughout the Mabo litigation, 1982-1992 Canberra Times 1 June See Part 3 Below

 ” In 1992 the High Court decided in Mabo No 2 that customary native title could be recognised at common law, reversing the longstanding doctrine of terra nullius—that the land of Australia had belonged to no one when the British arrived.

In some quarters the decision was condemned for its activism, and the fear of judicial activism currently haunts debates about Indigenous constitutional recognition.

Many benefits have flowed from the Mabo judgment and the recognition of native title to land—these benefits have been both practical and symbolic.

I can answer the question posed in the title of my lecture in the affirmative.

The Mabo judgment was an agent for change and recognition, though many issues of Indigenous recognition and rights remain unresolved.”

The Mabo High Court judgment:

Was it the agent for change and recognition?

The 2015 Mabo Oration was delivered by Dr Dawn Casey PSM FAHA, (now NACCHO COO ) at the Queensland Performing Arts Centre, on 15 August 2015.

To View Website HERE or Download Speech

2015-Mabo-Oration-V 2

Part 1 :  ” Creating an economic template for our  healthy futures.” Dr Charles Perkins speech to NIBEC Business Conference in Alice Springs 1993 see full here

Pictured above Charles Perkins on the 3 June 1992 just after the Mabo judgement announced with then PR Colin Cowell ( Copyright Koori Mail first anniversary Conference )

As we are all aware this is The International Year of the World’s Indigenous Peoples which was launched in December 1992 in New York at the United Nations. It is a significant beginning to this decade of the 90o. the time is right, the scene is set, our people are ready and willing – this is or could be the decade for the renaissance of the Indigenous people in this country we now call Australia. History is  a guide but still a memory.

The future is ours to create. Today is our tomorrow. All societies have it seem to have one or two opportunities to fulfil their dreams and ours has arrived. We are on the threshold of our great national dream. The just, the good, the compassionate, the prosperous society.

The catalyst to move our people collectively towards this greater future has been granted to us the High Court in the recent Mabo decision. It could not come at a more opportune time, It is our once in a lifetime chance to recreate the society that we all desire.

As the Prime Minister stated in Sydney in December 1992, “We need these practical building blocks of change.

The Mabo judgement should be seen as one of these. By doing away with the bizarre conceit that this continent had no owners prior to settlement of Europeans. Mabo establishes a fundamental truth and lays the basis for justice … Mabo is an historic decision – we can make it an historic turning point, the basis of a new relationship between Indigenous and non-Aboriginal Australians. The message should be that there is nothing to fear or to lose in the recognition of historical truth, of the extension of social justice, or the deepening of Australian social democracy to include Indigenous Australians”.

Within this context the federal government must pursue, as they promised some years ago, the concept of a treaty.

This government must keep its promise to enter into a Treaty with the Indigenous people, particularly in this U.N. Year of the Indigenous People. This would demonstrate to the world that Australians – both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal, can exist in cultural harmony and celebrate our common humanity.

History must not be a cross we should carry as a nation, into the future. Our children must inherit a society better than the one we inherited. A treaty is not so much a matter of dollars and cents, it is more spiritual and symbolic. It can be a catalyst which binds us together as a nation, respecting our past but building for the future. Australians must never forget that Australia was Aboriginal land and still is Aboriginal land. A Treaty is the appropriate mechanism for such negotiations. Naturally, such a Treaty can be one of the basic principles for discussions and conclusion with the framework of the recent and further Mabo High Court decision.

As is public knowledge, on 3 June 1992, the High Court made the great leap forward in recognising that Australia and the Torres Strait Islands were not empty “terra Nullius” before the British invasion of 1788, but were peopled by hundreds of Aboriginal nations, each with a distinct, rich and complex culture. The Mabo decision thus take recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture at its starting point, and establishes that Aboriginal and TSI peoples have rights which have their source in traditional customary law rather than the British common law imposed on us in 1788. In this respect, the decision is empowering, as Aboriginal people are not starting with nothing and waiting for rights to be handed out piecemeal at the political him of the government of the day.

The Mabo decision represents an opportunity for some measure of justice to be gained for Aboriginal Peoples who are the most dispossessed of Indigenous peoples of all former British colonies, who are the most jailed race in the world and who have suffered and continue to suffer cultural genocide. However, Mabo is very limited in its “context”, it only addresses the narrow concept of native title and thus is defined in traditional areas.

It is also important to recognise the limitations of the case. Firstly, Aboriginal and TSI Sovereignty is a demand by Aboriginal people that the courts and Parliament of Australia recognise and acknowledge that the “acquisition” of sovereignty by the British in 1788 was illegal under English law at the time and also international law.

And that the acquiring of the land was by dispossession, genocide, ethnocide and it was consequently unlawful, illegal and immoral. Plus the demand that the government of Australia as the inheritors of the British Crown, compensate Aboriginal people for the loss and the damage done to our land and our culture. It is not a demand upon Australian individuals to surrender their land but rather a demand for recognition and compensation by the community as a whole. Sovereignity was not argued by the plaintiffs in Mabo, and therefore Commonwealth and State governments, according to the decision, have ultimate power to extinguish native title at will, subject to the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (Cth).

Given these limitations, the hysteria and scare mongering currently seen in the media is put into perspective. Australians will not lose their homes and backyards. One of the most basic principles of Mabo is that once a State Government grants freehold title to a third party (ie. A person or company) , and native title to that area is automatically extinguished. In lay language, once any person buys a bit of land, native title is completely wiped out.

You can see that far from Australia being on the brink of a black coup d’etat, native title is actually quite limited and vulnerable.

The question then arises, where do we go from here ?. The notion of native title coinciding with other interests in land points us toward the answer.

Mabo is about working together, about balance and recognition of Aboriginal and TSI culture as a source of strength and wisdom from which all Australians can learn.

Mabo is also about self-determination – giving Aboriginal and TSI peoples the space and resources to enjoy our culture, work out our own solutions and control our own lives. The imposition of successive waves of government policy has not solved anything for us, but only created more problems.

Some of the most difficult aspects of post-Mabo relations will stem from competing land use in the form of resource development and native title. I do not believe that Aboriginal And TSI peoples are anti-development, if it is done in a way which respects them.

The history of conflict between mining companies and Aboriginal people has largely resulted form the formers deceit, lack of proper consultation and negociation, marginalisation of Aboriginal people from benefits flowing from projects undertaken on their land and disrespect for the wishes of Aboriginal people, for example; in relation to the protection of sacred sites.

Today, Aboriginal people must be equal partners at the negotiating table, we must have our say and governments and resource developers must listen and work out with us proper solutions to these vexed problems in a faire, reasoned and balanced way. I believe that Mabo gives Australia the opportunity to mature as a nation. Just as there is no economy without environment, development must include justice and human rights.

I am not supposing a utopian dream where in all parties are completely happy and negotiate the perfect solution, but a way ahead toward fair and just solutions which all parties can live with and which do not sacrifice the interest of one over the other.

Most important of all, in the Federal Constitution, it is necessary that there be a recognition of Sovereignty as by that recognition and resulting compensation so that Aboriginal people can regain our dignity and be treated as equal partners in any future development of our land.

Part 2 : My father has opened the doorway.

His legacy is not just ours, it’s for everybody

“I was sitting at a hospital in the carpark and I heard on the radio that my dad had won and I went ‘Oh my God he’s won’,” she said.

“And then I just started crying and I looked at my boy and I thought, he did it, he finally did it.”

An overwhelming sense of pride enveloped Ms Mabo who was 28 at the time.

And 25 years later, her father, Eddie Mabo, continues to make a huge impact on her family’s life and the Australian community.

Saturday, June 3, will mark 25 years since the High Court abolished terra nullius – meaning land belonging to no one.

Eddie Mabo, who died five months before the High Court ruling, championed the historic court case to establish the traditional ownership of Australian land.

Ms Mabo said she and her siblings had grown up listening to the significance of land rights.

“He (Eddie) was a fighter for the underdogs, anyone who was deemed to be treated unkindly – he would step up and support them,” she said.

“He also became a voice for people who had language difficulties.

“To me, he was like a hero of the people.”

However in what Ms Mabo called a “knee-jerk reaction from the Government”, a 10-point plan was put in place following the High Court ruling.

Ms Mabo said government conditions regulated land rights so that indigenous people had to “jump through more hoops”.

“But at the end of the day, it’s about how people approach that and how they fight,” she said.

“It’s a longer battle but it’s a battle worth fighting.

“My father has opened the doorway.

“His legacy is not just ours, it’s for everyone.”

Palm Island Mayor Alf Lacey said the 25-year anniversary was a reminder that the ruling had “done what it needed to do”.

“The only thing I’d like to see is that it doesn’t stop progress for our future generations, particularly for our kids,” he said.

“We want to share some of the wealth and employment opportunities.

“It’s really important it gives us recognition.”

Mr Lacey said Native Title agreements, once resolved, enabled jobs to be created.

“Adani is going to be a good opportunity for indigenous North Queenslanders,” he said.

“Everyone needs to take a breath of fresh air because at the end of the day we have to provide a future for future generations.

“We need jobs. We need to reassess where we are.

“The only way we’ll close the gap is to give our mob an opportunity, rather than meddling in the social issues – they’re not getting us anywhere.”

Townsville is invited to attend the region’s commemoration of the 25-year Mabo Decision on June 3 at Jezzine Barracks.

The free event will include a performance by the John Butler Trio.

Part 3 :Reforms are urgently needed to the native tile scheme

The High Court’s Mabo decision, 25 years ago on Saturday, triggered widespread celebrations and fresh hope among Indigenous Australians and their supporters, and exaggerated, even vitriolic outrage from some politicians, business leaders, journalists and academics.

These critics foreshadowed various economic and social disasters, including Jeff Kennett’s grossly irresponsible scaremongering that “backyards were at risk”. That was never the case. Little, if any, of this predicted chaos eventuated. Quite the reverse.

Illustration: Andrew Dyson Illustration: Andrew Dyson

The court’s decision – that Indigenous Australians, subject to proof, enjoyed traditional rights and interests in their ancestral land pursuant to their customs and traditions, and that British colonisation had not extinguished these rights – opened up a wide range of possible responses by governments, state and federal.

After 18 months of intensive negotiations, the Keating federal government delivered a three-part response. These were the Native Title Act 1993; an Indigenous Land Corporation and associated Land Fund; and a social justice package.

The social justice package disappeared without trace. The ILC continues to operate, purchasing properties around the nation, transferring title to Indigenous corporations and assisting with their management. As at June 30, 2016, the ILC had purchased 252 properties, totalling around 5.86 million hectares, and granted 191 to Indigenous corporations.

The Native Title Act has delivered valuable results, but it remains a limited, excessively legalistic and inadequate scheme. As many have stated, the act – a heavily negotiated compromise deal championed by Paul Keating – represents a clear failure by the Federal Parliament to exploit anything like the full potential of the Mabo decision.

Following the Wik decision of 1998, the Howard government’s amendments to the act, including then deputy prime minister Tim Fischer’s “bucket loads of extinguishment”, further entrenched these defects.

The scheme’s greatest failing – and a prime area for urgent reform – is that the extensive extinguishment regime, plus legal technicalities built into the claims process, means that Indigenous communities who have lost their traditional connection to their country due to colonisation, and who thus are most worthy of some land-related redress – those located along the eastern seaboard – are cut out of the scheme’s benefits.

Nevertheless, much has been achieved. As of March 2017, 388 determinations whether native title exists have been made by the Federal Court – 308 of those succeeded, in whole or in part. These successful claims cover about 32 per cent of the Australian land mass.

Following strident opposition during the first 10 years by respondents, including by governments of all persuasions, today, native title is a more accepted part of the political and business landscape: much of the 1992-93 fear and trepidation has abated. Thus, over the past decade, many more claims have been negotiated, not forced to trial, delivering savings in cost and effort (but not always time), and many more “consent” determinations of native title. This more co-operative engagement provides a firmer basis for co-existence on the same land between traditional owners and crown grantees into the future.

A second stream of achievement is the negotiation and execution of Indigenous Land Use Agreements between traditional owners and respondents as part of the claims process. Currently, 1172 ILUAs have been concluded under the NTA’s “right to negotiate” regime. These deliver a range of outcomes for all sides: to the (for example, a mining company) respondents, secure access to land and utilisation of its resources.

Recent noteworthy developments include the emergence of regional claims where several claimant groups join together, as one “cultural block” to make one claim to one large, consolidated area. Examples include the Akiba claim, finalised in the High Court in 2013. Here, 13 Islander communities joined together and successfully claimed a large area of seas in the Torres Strait. Akiba also decided, for the first time since 1992, that native title rights can include rights to commercially exploit the land, seas and resources.

A second regional claim concerns the Noongar people in south-west of Western Australia. There, six groups joined together and negotiated a resolution with many respondents by way of six ILUAs and a legislated settlement with the WA government. Significant financial and other benefits were involved.

These regional claims also provide an obvious and potentially fruitful land-base for pursuing domestic “treaties” or “agreements”, which might deliver a measure of self-government to the relevant native title owners. In this sense, 1172 “domestic treaties” are already in place. Further, such “treaty” discussions are now under way with the Victorian and SA governments.

Many problems remain with the native title scheme and reforms are urgently needed. The most glaring failure, to my mind, is the excessively onerous burden of proof imposed upon Indigenous claimants.

Among many suggestions for reform, including reversing the current onus of proof, are recommendations contained in a substantial report of the Australian Law Reform Commission, Connection to Country (April 2015). These are sensible reforms fully consistent with the spirit of Mabo and the NTAct: to recognise, protect, and facilitate the claiming of, native title.

The ALRC’s report was tabled in the Federal Parliament in June 2015. To date, the Turnbull government through the Attorney-General, Senator George Brandis QC, has failed to offer any response, let alone adopt these much-needed reforms. This rejection by silence is simply unacceptable, and is another example of elected politicians refusing to confront political “hot potatoes” – one major factor that triggered the commencement of the Mabo case in 1982.

As we celebrate 25 years on, this disinterest must be replaced by action. Otherwise, grand words about “closing the gap” become yet more cant and hollow hypocrisy.

Dr Bryan Keon-Cohen, AM, QC, was junior counsel to Ron Castan, AM, QC, throughout the Mabo litigation, 1982-1992.

 

 

 

 

 

NACCHO Alert : Statements to Parliament #1967referendum #Mabo25 speeches from PM @TurnbullMalcolm and @BillShortenMP

 ” I want to thank the ‘67 Referendum campaigners and thank the Mabo campaigners for the gift they gave our nation through their perseverance and dedication to their peoples and cultures.

And I thank all First Australians who preserve their ancient culture, work so hard to maintain and recover ancient languages.

Your culture defines who you are, it speaks to your country, your identity, your belonging.

For time out of mind, for more than 50,000 years your people and your culture have shaped and been shaped, cared for and been cared by, defined and been defined by this land, our land, Australia.

Your culture, our culture, is old and new, as dynamic as it is connected – on the highest tree top the new flower of the morning draws its being from deep and ancient roots.

Now it is up to us, together and united, to draw from the wisdom and the example of those we honour today and so inspired, bring new heights and brighter blooms to that tree of reconciliation which protects and enriches us all

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull speech : Anniversary of the 1967 Referendum and the 25th Anniversary of the Mabo Decision

Download full PM Speech here PDF

Prime Minister 1967 Referendum specch to house

Image above designed by Kristina McKinlay from NCIE Event

On Sunday 28 May from 12-5pm the NCIE 180 George St Redfern is commemorating the 50th anniversary of the successful 1967 Referendum at a community event.

NCIE CEO, Kirstie Parker said, “We’re proud to host stories and memories from the referendum campaign at the NCIE. We hope many of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and wider communities will be able to attend to share stories, memories, film, images and food with us.”

 “And finally to a referendum, the highest hurdle in Australian politics, asking Australians to vote Yes for Aboriginal people.

I want to say, as we acknowledge the champions and heroes here, I want to acknowledge the 90.8 per cent of Australian, perhaps some of us here, our parents and grandparents – they too deserve credit for righting a long-overdue wrong.

That overwhelming verdict speaks for a country that came late to the need for institutional change – but our families did get there in the end.

And it speaks for people who refused to take ‘No’ for an answer.

As the celebrated poet Oodgeroo put it:

“The real victory was the spirit of hope and optimism…

We had won something… We were visible, hopeful and vocal.

Fringe-dwellers, no more”

Mabo was an historic decision – and the Keating Government made it an historic turning point. Without regard for politics or polls, Paul Keating took the opportunity to ensure justice was done.

He brought Indigenous leaders to the Cabinet table itself to negotiate the Native Title Act – including our friend, now-Senator Patrick Dodson.”

Bill Shorten Opposition Leader : Anniversary of the 1967 Referendum and the 25th Anniversary of the Mabo Decision see full Speech Part 2

Download full Bill Shorten Speech here PDF

Bill Shorten 1967 Referendum Speech to house

View speech here

Or Here

Mr Speaker.

Yanggu gulanyin ngalawiri, dhunayi, Ngunawal dhawra. Wanggarralijinyin mariny bulan bugarabang.

I acknowledge we are on the lands of the Ngunnawal and Ngambri people and pay my respects to their elders past and present.

Australians come from nearly 200 countries, of all faiths, all cultures and all backgrounds.

And yet in a world where conflict and intolerance seem more intractable than ever, we live together in peace and harmony in the midst of extraordinary diversity.

Our nation has a bright future and much to celebrate.

However, Mr Speaker, we know that we have not always treated our First Australians with the respect that they deserve.

Truth is the first step towards healing.

And this week we honour those milestones that helped our nation chart a course towards reconciliation and healing – the 50th anniversary of the 1967 Referendum, 25 years since the Mabo High Court decision, and 20 years since the Bringing Them Home report.

Fifty years ago, laws and regulations controlled where our First Australians could and couldn’t move and what they could and couldn’t do – lives limited, lives demeaned, lives diminished.

Generations of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children were removed from their families and communities. We acknowledge that this removal separated children from their mothers and fathers, their families, their lands, their languages and cultures – cared for by their ancestors for over 50,000 years.

Indigenous Diggers, returned from war having defended our freedoms, our democracy and the rule of law, were denied the rights of citizenship for which they had so fiercely fought.

Fifty years ago our nation was given the opportunity to vote for change.

And, Mr Speaker, our nation did.

No member of this place authorised a ‘no’ case.

The Parliament and the community were united.

The Constitutional amendment was substantial, as it needed to be.

And the result defined our nation.

The 1967 Referendum had the highest ‘Yes’ vote of any Referendum before or since.

By working together as one, we voted as a nation to enable the Commonwealth to make laws relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and for our First Australians, who had always been here, to finally be counted in the official population.

As the Indigenous rights campaigner, the late Chicka Dixon told his daughter Rhonda, who is here today, ‘The government counted everything. They counted the cattle, the cars, the TVs, but they didn’t count us. It’s like we were invisible’.

A campaign badge said ‘Vote Yes for Aborigines’ and the Referendum was known as ‘the Aboriginal question’. But this was a question about our Australian values, and the nation voted yes for Aborigines and for Australians.

And so the campaign was fought on the platform of rights and freedoms. Indigenous people wanted and demanded to enjoy the full and equal rights of the citizenship they had been granted years earlier.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in many parts of the country could still not freely attend public swimming pools, sit in the classroom at a public school without fear of exclusion, or have a drink with their mates at the local pub. And fundamentally our First Australians could not shape their own identity.

And that discrimination and exclusion diminished us all as Australians.

It did not reflect the sacrifices and the contribution our First Australians made to our nation, or indeed the humanity of all of us, all our fellow Australians.

90.77 per cent of people recognised this injustice and voted for change.

This renewed confidence inspired our first Indigenous Parliamentarian to join the Liberal Party—Neville Bonner who entered the Senate in 1971.

Pat Dodson, Malarndirri McCarthy and Jacqui Lambie serve in the Senate today as Neville Bonner did.

And Ken Wyatt was the first Aboriginal man to be elected to this House, and Linda Burney the first woman.

Ken, the Minister for Ageing and Indigenous Health is the first Indigenous Minister in a Commonwealth Government.

The 1967 Referendum provided the constitutional basis for our native title legislation and heritage protection.

And in response to the historic Mabo High Court case, which overturned the doctrine of terra nullius, the Parliament passed the Native Title Act in 1993.

Today, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ rights and interests in the land have been formally recognised in over 40 per cent of Australia’s land mass.

The number of determinations under the Native Title Act now outweigh the number of claims currently registered.

The ownership and custodianship of the land has led to greater economic empowerment of communities across the country, the preservation of culture, and a network of Indigenous rangers who maintain our lands for our children and grandchildren.

And just as we could not foreshadow all the positive implications of these changes, great things can flow from amending the Constitution again.

We must not forget, Mr Speaker, that the road to the 1967 Referendum was neither short nor easy.

For more than 50 years before, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people had fought to stop discrimination by governments.

There were many compromises along the way.

Building on the success of the ’67 campaign, 50 years on, we now have the chance to take another step in our journey.

An important Indigenous designed and led discussion is occurring at Uluru today, as our nation considers further changes to the Constitution.

It is vitally important our First Australians consider and debate the models of recognition, free of political interference, and that the diversity of views and opinions within the Indigenous communities are discussed.

The next step in Constitutional recognition needs to be embraced by all Australians, but it needs first to be embraced by our First Australians if it is to be proposed at all.

I know I speak for the Leader of the Opposition when I say we both look forward to receiving the report from the Referendum Council.

The early campaigners who stood up for what was right, who fought to stop discrimination and whose contribution to the nation has been so remarkable should be recognised, remembered, well known.

As I was saying to some of you earlier this morning – you have written great bold chapters in our nation’s history.

Campaigners like Worimi man Fred Maynard, who established Australia’s first all-Aboriginal political organisation, the Australian Aboriginal Progressive Association in New South Wales in the early 1920s. Fred wanted the right for Aboriginal people to determine their own lives, control their own land, and for the New South Wales Government to close the Aborigines Protection Board.

Campaigners like William Cooper, a Yorta Yorta man from Victoria, who tried to petition King George V seeking Aboriginal representation in the Australian Parliament. The then Government said ‘no good purpose’ would come of sending the petition, and they didn’t – a glimpse of the political powerlessness experienced by Aboriginal people in those days. I acknowledge the presence in the House today of William Cooper’s great-grandson Kevin Russell.

Jessie Street had an unwavering belief that the time was right to launch the campaign for the 1967 Referendum. Jessie said: “You can’t get anywhere without a change in the Constitution and you can’t get that without a referendum. You’ll need a petition with 100,000 signatures. We’d better start on it at once”. And together they did. We welcome Jessie’s grandson, Andrew Mackay, and great grandson, Will Mackay, who are here today.

Joe McGinness brought state representative bodies together to speak with one respected voice to Government and the people of Australia. Joe is one of the great unsung leaders of our nation. Senator Pat Dodson has said that Joe was: “The inspiration to many…who have joined in the battle for justice. He has provided wisdom and advice, guidance and correction, humour and hope.” We welcome his daughter Sandra McGinness, who is here with us today.

Sir Doug Nicholls was a founding member of the renamed Federal Council for the Advancement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, a coalition of church leaders, unionists and Indigenous activists.

Sir Doug’s daughter Aunty Pam Pedersen and granddaughter Diana Travis—who were both in the campaign, Diana as a teenager—are also here today.

These are just some of the many people who brought wisdom and leadership to ‘67’s cause.

So too did Jack and Jean Horner, Stan Davey, Shirley Andrews, Pearl Gibbs, Hannah and Emil Witton, whose daughter Heidi and granddaughter Keren Cox-Witton are with us today.

And, of course there was Faith Bandler who campaigned so hard—for 10 years—and who would help bring the Referendum home.

Faith’s vision was clear—to see Aboriginal people as ‘one people’ with all Australians.

Hers was a message, not of assimilation, but of unity – of black people and white people working together, equally valued. Faith did not want to be singled out – in her view the Referendum outcome was the result of good teamwork

We honour all those who stood together including those in the house with us today—Aunty Dulcie Flower, Aunty Shirley Peisley, Aunty Ruth Wallace, Uncle Bob Anderson, Uncle Gordon Briscoe, Dr Barrie Pittock and Uncle Alf Neal.

The Freedom Riders led by the young Charlie Perkins in 1965, brought racial discrimination into the minds of Australian households and appealed to a great Australian value – a fair go. Welcome Eileen Perkins, Charlie’s wife, his son Adam and three grandsons.

And on the 3rd of June we will acknowledge a critical milestone in Indigenous land rights—the 25th anniversary of the historic Mabo High Court decision.

It was Eddie Mabo and the other plaintiffs, Father Dave Passi, Sam Passi, James Rice and Celuia Mapo Salee who’s perseverance brought about the High Court of Australia’s decision to recognise the native title rights of the Meriam people of the Murray Islands in the Torres Strait.

And they are all represented here today. I want to especially acknowledge the presence of Eddie Mabo’s wife, Aunty Bonita and their daughter Gail.

Eddie Koiki Mabo was an advocate of the 1967 Referendum, fighting for equal rights including education. But despite the success of the ‘67 campaign, in 1972 Eddie Mabo still had to get permission from the Queensland authorities to visit his dying father on Mer Island. That permission was denied. Six weeks later his father died.

Gail wrote: “My father never forgave the government authorities for this injustice. It fuelled his determination for recognition and equality in society”.

In 1982 the Mabo case began.

It was hard fought and it took its toll.

Eddie Koiki Mabo passed away on the 21st of January 1992, just months before the High Court recognised what he and his fellow plaintiffs had always known – that Mer Island belonged to the Meriam people and that Meriam customs, laws and cultures had existed for tens of thousands of years.

Mr Speaker, we were fortunate to have Eip Karem Beizam from Mer Island who performed a hymn in memory of that momentous time.

Thank you for your beautiful hymn, and for bringing the Meriam language into the parliament today.

Au Esau – thank you.

We have come a long way since the Referendum and the Mabo case, but we have not come far enough.

We have made gains in child health and infant mortality rates and in fighting chronic disease. Native title holders are unlocking their lands for cultural protection and economic empowerment.

More Indigenous students are enrolling in university than ever before, and around two-thirds are women. For Indigenous university graduates, there are no employment gaps with the rest of the Australian population.

But the gains are not enough.

I want to ensure that Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians are equally educated and equally empowered—that Australians are ‘one people’, as Faith Bandler and her fellow campaigners so desperately hoped and fought for.

That’s why today, in furtherance of our programs and our policies and objectives we are announcing a $138 million education package further to enable the economic and social inclusion for which the ’67 campaigners fought.

As Sir Douglas Nicholls said: “All we want is to be able to think and do the same things as white people while still retaining our identity as a peoples”.

For full inclusion in the economic and social life of the nation, we need our young Indigenous people to have a solid education, while keeping strong their identity.

Mr Speaker, today we reflect on the past and its impact on the present. We look forward with hope and optimism. We are joined today by 50 Indigenous Youth Parliamentarians who stand today on the shoulders of these giants.

I want to thank the ‘67 Referendum campaigners and thank the Mabo campaigners for the gift they gave our nation through their perseverance and dedication to their peoples and cultures.

And I thank all First Australians who preserve their ancient culture, work so hard to maintain and recover ancient languages.

Your culture defines who you are, it speaks to your country, your identity, your belonging.

And as we embrace in reconciliation your culture enriches us all.

For time out of mind, for more than 50,000 years your people and your culture have shaped and been shaped, cared for and been cared by, defined and been defined by this land, our land, Australia.

Your culture, our culture, is old and new, as dynamic as it is connected – on the highest tree top the new flower of the morning draws its being from deep and ancient roots.

Now it is up to us, together and united, to draw from the wisdom and the example of those we honour today and so inspired, bring new heights and brighter blooms to that tree of reconciliation which protects and enriches us

Bill Shorten Opposition Leader : Anniversary of the 1967 Referendum and the 25th Anniversary of the Mabo Decision

Thank you Mr Speaker

Firstly, I wish to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which we meet, and I pay my respects to elders past and present.

This parliament stands on what is, what was and what will always be Aboriginal land.

It is important – and right – that more Aboriginal people come to stand here as Members and Senators.

And I want to thank our friends from the Torres Strait for the welcome ceremony. It is always astonishing to see the world’s oldest culture brought to life in front of you.

On behalf of the Opposition, I want to give a special welcome to the original warriors for change – and their proud family members.

Your presence here today enriches this day – it puts a human face on history.

In fighting to be part of the Australian identity, you gifted a larger identity to all Australians.

You and your guests simply make us more proud to be Australian.

Today we commemorate and celebrate two signal moments in our Australian story and we honour the heroes who made it possible.

The 1967 Referendum and the High Court’s Mabo decision were triumphs for truth telling and for decency.

Both were platforms for further progress.

And overwhelmingly, both were victories authored by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

People who for so long had been relegated to silent roles, or written out of the script altogether – took centre stage.

In 1967, they looked non-Indigenous Australia in the eye and said:

Count us together.

Make us one people.

And in 1992, the insulting, discriminatory fiction of terra nullius was overturned.

While he tragically did not live long enough to see justice done, Eddie Mabo kept the promise he made to his darling daughter Gail, who is here today, when he said:

‘One day, my girl, all of Australia is going to know my name’

Our country is bigger and better for the courage and endeavour we remember today.

But we should never forgot that neither of these acts we commemorate today sprang from a spontaneous act of national generosity.

None of these changes happened by accident – nor were they given as gifts from the table. These were earned.

They were battles against ignorance, fought in the face of indifference.

They were the result of struggle, the culmination of years of campaigning, of grassroots advocacy, of rallies and freedom rides.

Of lobbying and legal wrangling, the setbacks and sacrifice.

Like all great acts of progress – they were hard fought, hard work and hard won.

Victory didn’t just change our Constitution, or our laws, it changed our country for the better.

Mr Speaker, fifty years is not so long ago.

It’s not so long ago that fans could cheer the brilliance of the great Polly Farmer – a man who overcame polio to transform the role of ruckman forever.

But at the same time, when selected three times as an All-Australian, his Aboriginality meant he wasn’t counted as an Australian.

Not so long ago that Buddy Lea, a section commander in 10 Platoon at the Battle of Long Tan – could be shot, three times, while trying to carry a comrade to safety, return home a hero to his brothers-in-arms, he had the chance to die for Australia, yet not be counted in the census as an Australian.

Not so long ago that Australian mothers lived with the perpetual chronic anxiety that their child could be taken from them, stolen away from culture, country and connection.

And you only have to talk to members of the Stolen Generations – as the Prime Minister and I did yesterday – to know that shadow has still not even departed.

Mr Speaker

Exclusion from the census was a disgraceful insult – the bitter legacy of the political bickering of Federation and its obsession with ‘race’.

But far more harm was done by the provision which prevented the Commonwealth from making laws with regard to Aboriginal Australians.

This gave successive Federal Commonwealth governments an alibi for failure – it left the First Australians at the mercy of a patchwork of arbitrary state policies.

Struggling against institutionalised prejudice which cemented inequality and denied basic freedoms.

A racist system which broke families and shattered connections with country.

Where men, women and children lived with the fear that on a policeman’s whim or an administrator’s paternalism they could be deported from their communities to hell-holes hundreds of miles away.

We do honour to the people of 1967 and the plaintiffs of Mabo to use today as time to think hard about the cost of institutionalised prejudice – to generations and to our nation.

On the weekend, Michael Gordon wrote movingly of what Indigenous Queenslanders called ‘life under the act’

He spoke with the remarkable Iris Paulson, one of 11 children, sent to Brisbane from Cherbourg mission to work as a servant for ‘pocket money’.

Iris still carries her ‘exemption card’ which allowed her to travel and to marry without permission from the authorities.

She still carries the memory of Auntie Celia’s inspiration.

A proud Aboriginal woman who:

Said what she thought at a time when a lot of people were too scared to speak, for fear of being pushed back onto the reserves.

The Prime Minister has mentioned some of the names but:

· Auntie Celia

· Pearl Gibbs

· Charles Perkins

· Jessie Street

· Faith Bandler

· Pastor Doug Nicholls

· Stan Davey

· Bert Groves

· Joe McGinnis

· Kath Walker

· Chicka Dixon

And many others, some of who we are privileged to have here today, deserve recognition for making the 1967 referendum possible.

All had witnessed – and lived with – inequality.

Faith Bandler used to talk about her time in Young, picking cherries for the Land Army during the Second World War.

Chatting with the Aboriginal people working on the adjoining property.

She learned they were picking the same fruit, at the same pace, for the same purpose – but for far less money.

Doug Nicholls’ speed and skill took him all the way from the Goulburn Valley League, to train with the famous Carlton Football Club.

One night, he went into the rooms for a rub-down.

The trainer refused – point blank – to touch him. He would not put his white hands on Doug’s black skin.

Carlton’s loss became Fitzroy’s success. Doug went on to become a Fitzroy champion – but he never forgot that night.

I welcome his daughter, Pam Pederson here today.

This is the world it is perhaps too easy to forget existed. But this is the world that the people we honour today lived in – these are the attitudes and practices they were up against.

Their task was far bigger than one campaign for one vote. It meant:

· Breaking the ‘great Australian silence’ that cheapened and diminished our history.

· Opening the eyes of this country to inequality and poverty

· And finding new ways to tell a story as old as Australia’s European history.

In May 1957, a full ten years before the vote, Pastor Doug Nicholls screened a film in the Sydney Town Hall showing the hardship experienced by Aboriginal people living in the Warburton Ranges.

It captured hunger and disease – it showed children ‘too weak to brush flies from their face’.

One newspaper reported: “there were cries of disgust and horror – and people openly wept”

The meeting attended by 1500 or so – and supported by the Australian Workers Union – launched the first petition to parliament for Constitutional change, tabled by the Labor

Member for Parkes, Les Haylen.

In the years that followed folding tables and clipboards were set up in church halls and shopping streets, in country towns and big cities.

And by 1963, campaigners for change had collected 103,000 names – before the internet, before social media and before smartphones. This was human commitment: face-to-face meetings and persuasive argument.

Soon, members of the house started referring to the petition as the ‘morning prayer’ – because it was the first item of business every day.

This was all hard graft – eroding resistance, tackling self-interest, refusing to rest until the issue was at the centre of the political debate.

Everything done on a shoestring budget of small coin donations.

And finally to a referendum, the highest hurdle in Australian politics, asking Australians to vote Yes for Aboriginal people.

I want to say, as we acknowledge the champions and heroes here, I want to acknowledge the 90.8 per cent of Australian, perhaps some of us here, our parents and grandparents – they too deserve credit for righting a long-overdue wrong.

That overwhelming verdict speaks for a country that came late to the need for institutional change – but our families did get there in the end.

And it speaks for people who refused to take ‘No’ for an answer.

As the celebrated poet Oodgeroo put it:

“The real victory was the spirit of hope and optimism…

We had won something… We were visible, hopeful and vocal.

Fringe-dwellers, no more”

Mr Speaker

The same spirit lived in Eddie Mabo – he knew who he was and where he belonged.

As he said: ‘sticking a union jack in the sand’ didn’t ‘wipe out 16 generations’.

He took that essential truth all the way to the highest court in land.

And for once, a justice system which had so often failed and disappointed our first Australians, came through.

Native title became part of the inherited common law – not dependent on the largesse of government or second place to business deals.

Eddie Mabo’s victory stretched far beyond the sand and waters of the island he loved.

It reached back two centuries to eliminate the ignorant lie of terra nullius and enshrine in our laws: the bond between the world’s oldest living culture and this ancient continent.

It also proved that one man, with love for his country and his culture in his soul can change the world.

Mr Speaker

Mabo was an historic decision – and the Keating Government made it an historic turning point. Without regard for politics or polls, Paul Keating took the opportunity to ensure justice was done.

He brought Indigenous leaders to the Cabinet table itself to negotiate the Native Title Act – including our friend, now-Senator Patrick Dodson.

In the Senate itself, Gareth Evans spent more than 48 hours of the debate on his feet,

taking questions and fending off an attempted Opposition filibuster.

Today we are all the beneficiaries and witnesses to the legacy of Paul Keating’s

courage.

Mr Speaker

In remembering these historic achievements, we are reminded of the tension, the balance between celebrating success, honouring our past and recognising unfinished business.

Reconciliation has always depended on truth-telling.

We love to say Australia punches above our weight – and it does.

Nowhere is that more true than in the brilliant accomplishments of our Aboriginal and

Torres Strait Islander peoples.

– Scientists making breakthroughs

– Authors winning acclaim

– Artists

– Architects

– Rangers on country

– Olympians

– Senators

– Ministers

– Australians of the year

– Champions in every footy code.

This is all true. But what is also true is the inequality that brought tears to the eyes of that crowd in Sydney Town Hall in 1957 – that inequality, in different forms, still lives with us.

Stubbornly, obstinately, not yet eradicated.

In different guises, paternalism and neglect still afflict our policy-making.

Empowerment is said a lot more than it is delivered.

In too many ways, not enough has changed in 50 years.

Too many young Aboriginal men are more likely to go to jail than to university. 40 per cent of Aboriginal children are in out-of-home care. Children growing up away from their country and from kin, away from their culture – struggling at school during the day, battling trauma at night.

Too many mothers still lose their precious babies to preventable disease.

Too many of our first peoples grow up with lesser opportunity – for good jobs, decent housing, a happy family and a long life.

Changing this means tackling the nitty-gritty of practical disadvantage.

Understanding that what works in Yirrkala might not apply in Palm Island, that what succeeds for the Murri might not deliver for the Pitjantjarra.

Recognising that every community, whilst linked by their Australianess, has its own culture and its own particular circumstances.

But regardless of the community, every community of our first Australians has the right to participate in the Australian story – and we should do whatever it takes to give them that chance.

As a parliament and a people we should come to this task with humility as well as hope.

It is why Constitutional Recognition is most hard – but most important.

Securing a place of honour for the first Australians on our national birth certificate isn’t the final word, or the end of the road. We understand that.

But it does say we are serious – serious about justice, both historical and real.

It says we’re prepared to help write a new story with Aboriginal people, our first Australians, a chapter which is a story of belonging.

That’s why Recognition cannot be empty poetry authored by white people.

It has to be as real as Australia can make it, as meaningful as we are capable collectively of achieving.

In that spirit, we await the conclusion of the gathering at Uluru – and the advice presented to the Prime Minister and myself, and all of us privileged to serve this parliament.

Mr Speaker

Fifty years ago – to the Holt Government’s great credit – it didn’t fund the case against constitutional change.

Remarkable really. A parliament full of white men, many born at the turn of the 20th Century, approved a straightforward statement of the ‘Yes’ case.

And I quote:

Our personal sense of justice, our common sense, and our international reputation in a world in which racial issues are being highlighted every day, require that we get rid of this out-moded provision.

If that parliament, in those days could find common ground on the elimination of discrimination from the Constitution.

If they could summon the humility to acknowledge that however firmly they had clung to their old attitudes, those attitudes were wrong.

Then surely we – 50 years later – in our more reconciled, a more confident and more diverse modern Australia.

Surely we can find it in our abilities, in our intellect, in our heart to achieve Constitutional Recognition.

So, in celebrating these old anniversaries and looking back – it falls to this parliament, to ask ourselves the question: What will be our contribution going forward?

The words and the sentiment of everyone here is admirable, it is excellent. But we will not have the ability to shirk the question that will be asked of us.

It is our turn to step up. Not to find fault – but to find common ground.

Not to look for the lowest common denominator – but to find change that we hopefully, in 10 to 20 years’ time, can say: Do you remember when answered up? When we measured up?

When we spoke to the better angels of the Australian nature. That we actually said that this Constitution can afford to recognise our first Australians.

I am grateful for the presence of so many of those who campaigned in 1967, of those who campaigned in 1992, of the family members.

You give us inspiration.

You do this place honour.

I sincerely hope and promise – that we will do our very best to carry that spirit, and your courage for the questions we must answer.

We must answer affirmatively for Constitutional Recognition of our first Australians.

 

 

 

NACCHO Press Release: Mabo day highlights need for full constitutional recognition: peak Aboriginal health body

 

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Constitutional recognition is so important because it is about recognition of Aboriginal heritage, our connection to country and our rights as Australia’s First Peoples.

“Racism, discrimination and a lack of respect and recognition have terrible and lasting impacts on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s mental health and social wellbeing.”

National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) Chair, Matthew Cooke

The peak Aboriginal health organisation today reaffirmed its support for the full and proper recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Australia’s Constitution as Mabo Day is celebrated across the country.

Mabo Day commemorates a landmark High Court decision that removed the idea of ‘terra nullius’ from Australian law, after a decade long campaign for a native title claim by a group of Torres Strait Islander people, led by Eddie Koiki Mabo.

Photo /painting :Eddie Koiki Mabo (c. 29 June 1936 – 23 January 1992) from the Torres Strait Islands known for his role in campaigning for Indigenous land rights and for his role in a landmark decision of the High Court of Australia which overturned the legal doctrine of terra nullius (“land belonging to nobody”) which characterised Australian law with regard to land and title

National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) Chair, Matthew Cooke, said Mabo Day celebrates a big step towards reconciliation for Aboriginal people but also highlights how far we have to go and the need to remove all discrimination from the Australian Constitution.

“Twenty three years has passed since that historical decision which finally recognised that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders had occupied this land for tens of thousands of years before white colonisation.

“We now need nothing less than full and proper recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Australia’s constitution and the removal of all traces of discrimination,” said Mr Cooke.

“Constitutional recognition is so important because it is about recognition of Aboriginal heritage, our connection to country and our rights as Australia’s First Peoples.

“Racism, discrimination and a lack of respect and recognition have terrible and lasting impacts on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s mental health and social wellbeing.

“Constitutional recognition, like the Mabo decision and the national apology, would be another step in the right direction towards not just reconciliation but also in closing the gap in the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

“However, efforts to achieve recognition need time and proper planning, including an extensive education and awareness campaign to ensure all Australians fully understand why recognition is so important.

“It is also critical that constitutional recognition does not prevent or make void any efforts by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to assert their rights as sovereign peoples or to pursue a treaty.

“The bipartisan support for recognition offers us a real opportunity for us to get this right and ensure the full and proper recognition of Aboriginal people in the Australian Constitution.”

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NACCHO good news story: Indigenous Australians honoured by Australian Post

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Indigenous Australians honoured by Australia Post

Warning – Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are warned that this document contains names and images of deceased people.

Five eminent Indigenous Australians are being honoured by Australia Post in a new stamp issue. There are five domestic base-rate (60c) stamps featuring Shirley Smith AM, Neville Bonner AO, Oodgeroo Noonuccal, Eddie “Koiki” Mabo and Charles Perkins AO.

Since European settlement, many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians have fought to make Australia a more just and equitable society. This stamp issue honours five of these exceptional individuals who tirelessly campaigned for the rights of Indigenous people.

Australia Post Managing Director and CEO Ahmed Fahour said Australia Post has a long standing commitment to improving the social and economic wellbeing of Indigenous Australians.

“We trust this stamp issue will remind all Australians of the significant contribution made by these important Indigenous Australians,” said Mr Fahour.

Shirley Smith AM (1921-98), also known as “Mum Shirl”, was born on Erambie Mission, Cowra, New South Wales. She was a member of the Wiradjuri nation and was a committed activist for the justice and welfare of Aboriginal Australians. She was a founding member of several important organisations including the Aboriginal Legal Service and the Aboriginal Medical Service in the Sydney suburb of Redfern. Shirley received many awards for her work, and was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) and a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE).

Neville Bonner AO (1922-99) was born on Ukerebagh Island on the Tweed River, New South Wales. In 1971 he became the first Aboriginal person to sit in the Commonwealth of Australia parliament. He also became the first Indigenous Australian to be elected to the parliament by popular vote. An elder of the Jagera people, Neville Bonner continued to be a strong advocate for Indigenous rights until his death in 1999.

Oodgeroo Noonuccal (Kath Walker) (1920-93) was a descendant of the Noonuccal people of Minjerribah, North Stradbroke Island, Queensland. Oodgeroo was a poet, political activist, artist, educator and environmentalist. In 1962, she was instrumental in advocating for citizenship rights for Indigenous people. Oodgeroo received numerous awards in recognition of a lifetime commitment to Indigenous peoples and her outstanding contributions to Australian literature. She was awarded three honorary doctorates by universities within Australia.

Eddie “Koiki” Mabo (1936-92) was born in the Meriam community of Las on Mer, known as Murray Island, in the Torres Strait, Queensland. In 1982 Eddie challenged land ownership laws in the High Court of Australia and won. The notion of terra nullius (land belonging to no one) was expelled from Australian law paving the way for the Native Title Act 1993 (Cwlth). In 1992, Eddie was posthumously awarded the Australian Human Rights Medal by the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission. This year is the 20th anniversary of the Native Title Act.

Charles Perkins AO (1936-2000) was born at the Alice Springs Telegraph Station Aboriginal Reserve in the Northern Territory. His parents were Arrernte and Kalkadoon people. In 1965 Perkins led the Freedom Rides, exposing racial discrimination throughout country NSW. From 1984 until 1988 he was Secretary of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs, the first Aboriginal Australian to attain such a position in the bureaucracy. In his post-public service life Perkins played key roles on the boards of Aboriginal arts, sport and media organisations. He was a member of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC), serving as Deputy Chairman from 1994 to 1995, and was also a member of the Arrernte Council of Central Australia.

The stamps were designed by Lynette Traynor of the Australia Post Design Studio.

Products associated with this stamp issue include a first day cover, stamp pack, set of five maxicards, prestige booklet, gutter strip of 10 x 60c stamps with design and a roll of 200 x 60c self-adhesive stamps.

The Indigenous Leaders stamp issue is available from 9 July 2013 at participating Australia Post retail outlets, via mail order on 1800 331 794 and online while stocks last.