“They just want justice”

April 21st, 2013  |  Published in Race(ism)

Is it possible to provide justice for indigenous peoples, I wonder, as I sit on the land of the Wurundjeri people, at my computer, involved in this activity called blogging?

What I would really like to be able to do is go way back and ask the original past owners of the land how we might visualise a different future – one without the massacres and destruction and pain (and possibly without blogging as well, I guess). Failing that, I recently attended a seminar by the CEO of SNAICC (Secretariat of National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care) who spoke about the here and now.

“Indigenous people want very little,” he said. “They just want justice.”

It is indeed not much to ask; but is it possible to achieve? Wouldn’t it involve undoing the injustices? And how could we ever do that?

sorry is just the beginning

The speaker went on to provide ideas, which I reproduce as follows:

  1. Acknowledge sovereignty. Aboriginal people have been on this land for over 60,000 years, have never surrendered their claims to sovereignty, have never sold their country and have never lost a war.
  2. Be honest about our history. The truth must be told in regard to the facts of history. That is, that Aboriginal people have suffered greatly, but have endured and survived in spite of the conscientious efforts by the dominant culture, including our attempted genocide of their culture, their society and them as peoples.
  3. Safeguard Aboriginal cultural heritage. Cultural heritage can be defined in at least two ways – as physical and social. Aboriginal people must be given the means to protect these. The dominant culture seems to still be pursuing policies that equate to a sort of relentless ‘genocide by stealth’.
  4. Recognise and respect Aboriginal culture. Aboriginal cultures are the oldest surviving cultures on this planet. It will take years, perhaps even a generation or two, for Aboriginal people to rebuild their society – providing we STOP sabotaging their every effort! Rebuilding will take time, money, mistakes, confusion, conflict, leadership and our support.
  5. Seek Aboriginal representation in all areas and at all levels of civic society. Aboriginal people must be allowed the time and means of developing, and be resourced to operate, their own systems of representation by which to interface with the dominant culture. These representative mechanisms will be the foundation of future relationships between the governments and other institutions of the dominant culture and Aboriginal peoples.
  6. Pay reparations. The past cannot be forgotten or ever entirely forgiven. What has been taken is nothing less than almost everything. Money will not compensate for the losses, but it may enable a fresh start – built from a secure economic base. Besides, in the dominant culture, money is the means of compensation and should not be denied to those whose losses, at our hands, are the greatest.  

We also heard of concrete actions we can take on personal, organisational, and corporate levels, ranging from the now fairly standard acknowledgements of the original owners of land to participating in learning circles and returning land with freehold title.

The ANTaR website provides a wealth of ideas and information, and is well worth an explore. As a baseline, I have noted the key annual dates (such as Sorry Day, Mabo Day, National Aboriginal and Islander Children’s Day) so that I can acknowledge them as they arise on social media.

Find out more

SNAICC, Secretariat of National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care, is the national non-government peak body in Australia representing the interests of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and families.

ANTaR, Australians for Native Title and Reconciliation, is an independent, national network of mainly non-Indigenous organisations and individuals working in support of justice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in Australia.

Australia Aboriginal Tribes Map: For visual representation of the nations and clans across Australia, and the original owners of the land on which you live, work, or travel, this map is fascinating and informative. http://mappery.com/map-of/Australia-Aboriginal-Tribes-Map.


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