MEDIA RELEASE 27 February 2015
Ghillar Michael Anderson said from Perth today:
“Nigel Scullion, Federal Minister for Indigenous Affairs, continues on the archaic and well-worn path of telling Aborigines what to do rather than bite the bullet and enable total self-determination for Aboriginal Peoples. The appointment of yet again an 'Expert Indigenous Working Group' as agreed on 10 October 2014 at a Council of Australian Governments (COAG) on how to 'improve Indigenous land legislative, regulatory and administrative and operational systems and processes'.
It seems Minister Nigel Scullion and his COAG partners have heeded the legal advice from the Samuel Griffiths society of lawyers in 1998, when they said Australia is now confronted with a serious challenge to its sovereignty by Aboriginal Peoples and that Australia could no longer take for granted its status and that it must be prepared to defend it.
The demands that were put to Minister Scullion on 9 February 2015 by the delegates of the National Aboriginal Freedom Movement are a serious challenge to the Commonwealth government to enter into meaningful dialogue on ways forward, in regard to dealing with the issues that are dogging our communities nationwide.
It is very clear that the members of the Australian government are themselves desperate to hold onto power in order to maintain their dominance over Aboriginal people, while at the same time knowing that their time is limited, because Aboriginal Peoples throughout Australia do realise that what was done during the colonial period and up to the modern day was done by deceit and by fraud. Their colonial courts said that we are, and were, British subjects and now Australian subjects, but it seems this is purely a convenience, because in reality, if we were British subjects, then why weren't we offered, and why are we now, denied the same rights as British subjects and non-Aboriginal Australians, in respect to being compensated for that which has been taken from us? Clearly, there is something fundamentally wrong with this equation. Unfortunately many of our people are still caught up in the welfare system just trying to survive, let alone getting their head around such complex issues, which makes it easy for governments to tell lies through misrepresentation.
Now the Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Nigel Scullion, is co-opting yet another group of 'experts' to advise, this time, on how best to use 'Indigenous lands'.
I wonder if any of the people appointed to the 'Working Group', that is: Wayne Bergmann; Brian Wyatt; Valerie Cooms; Murrandoo Yanner; Shirley McPherson; Djawa Yunupingu and Craig Cromlin will be guided by the content of previous Commonwealth and State land inquiries, in order to understand the corporate knowledge of the original Land Rights fighters and to see what has been said over the last 30 years. Those reports and inquiries, if they were done properly, would yield them great knowledge of what Land Rights meant, and the form Land Rights should take for now and the generations to come.
The appointment of this Working Group is a mirrored reflection and part of a repetitive cycle. The cycle has now rotated completely, that is to say, when the National Aboriginal Conference (NAC) in the early 1980s was negotiating a Treaty proposal with the Fraser-led government, Sovereignty was one of the key issues. In order to thwart and confuse the Aboriginal community at a national level, Nugget Coombs led the establishment of the Federation of Land Councils, which connected regional Land Councils throughout Australia and at the same time he argued that these Land Councils had a greater grassroots involvement than the 60 000 Aboriginal people who voted in NAC elections across Australia. Nugget Coombs did this knowing that the passion Aboriginal people had was to get their land back, while the sovereignty and political arguments were not as tangible as gaining land title, so it was argued.
Is it a fluke of history that nearly all these Land Councils have now become Prescribed Body Corporates under the Native Title Act? They hold in trust Native Title rights and interests and now administer and control royalties and other benefits from each Native Title agreement including Indigenous Land use Agreements (ILUAs). But history has shown what the net result of that effort was. For those who don't know – we have got Native Title that locks away land and any benefits gained from it are held in trust for up to 10 – 40 years.
On the other hand, the Sovereignty Movement demands that the Australian government adheres to international law and applies all those rights that are guaranteed in international conventions as described in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Act 2005. By following all the correct procedures as are described by international law, process and procedures, the Sovereignty Movement is now scaring the living daylights out of the Commonwealth government.
It is imperative for this Working Group to examine how the Indigenous Land Corporation (ILC) constrains and restricts Traditional Owners from being able to use their lands for sustainable economic development, without having to comply with bureaucratic and institutional demands.
No Aboriginal body, which has acquired land through the ILC, can ever hope to become financially viable while ever the Commonwealth government retains Section 191S, which is Part of the legislation establishing the Indigenous Land Corporation within the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Act 2005. I would suggest Ms Shirley McPherson would have knowledge and understanding as to why governments control and restrict Aboriginal Peoples' ability to use their assets in the open market, so preventing independent economic development of any kind.
Furthermore, Aboriginal people must be permitted to register title of their lands to their own corporations that have the capacity to make profits. Aboriginal people cannot become part of the mainstream economy, if the Commonwealth government insists on persisting with caveats and protectionist policies. The current position is that the ILC has transferred land under the original Act to Aboriginal corporations, which are not-for-profit, while at the same time insisting they pay rates and services to local government. A questionable proposition indeed. We cannot be wrapped up in moth balls for the rest of our lives.
In some instances, when there are natural disasters, Aboriginal beneficiaries from the ILC cannot even gain government assistance for damage done by natural disasters, like white farmers can, because the Commonwealth government has caveats over the land titles, which then cause a denial of any ability to be able to benefit from natural disaster financial relief. So blackfellas have to sit with nothing and struggle out of the dilemmas caused by natural disasters by any means possible.
Then there are other instances where land has been bought for Aboriginal people, who have been dispossessed and dispersed, but they have never seen any benefits flowing to them whatsoever, while many Traditional Owners sit idly by while their land acquired by the ILC is leased off to white farmers, or in the alternative, make stock agistment arrangements with all the money going to ILC and nothing going back to the local communities.
I do hope that the black conservatives on this Working Group can cast off their white values and conservatism to take a hardline stance to recommend taking true ownership of the lands and to have these lands put to use for economic purposes at the peoples' discretion. I am certainly sure we do not have to coach our people into understanding their need to preserve and protect their sacred icons and sacred places, while developing an economic base.
I only with the government could do the same.
Ghillar Michael Anderson
Convenor and Joint Spokesperson of Sovereign Union of First Nations and Peoples in Australia and Head of State of the Euahlayi Peoples Republic
Sovereign Union of First Nations and Peoples in Australia
Asserting Australia's First Nations Sovereignty into Governance