Inclusion. Discussion. Awareness. Recognition.
In 1972, my family lived for a time on the small island of Kunhanhaa (Mornington), a remote indigenous community in the Gulf of Carpentaria, NQ.
Formative memories of beautiful ochre cliffs, plentiful barramundi, awe-inspiring waterspouts, dangerous box jellyfish and mobs of cattle swum across the channel.
Feet stamping corroborees in the red dirt, harmonies in church, brilliant aboriginal stockmen. Being the only little white girl in my class.
One day, to impress my beautiful eldest sister, an impulsive young pilot flew us, kids rolling freely in the cargo hold of the Cessna, to nearby Bentinck Island of the Kaiadilt peoples.
There, in the place they called Dulkawalnged, ‘the land of all’, I saw older men and women sheltering languidly on the sand, under corrugated iron sheet-shelter-homes, looking out towards the sea,
I wasn’t told then, but now I know, that these beautiful people, holding countless generations of wisdom, were grieving their precious children, who had been taken away long before; their little ones with gentle, playful hearts, their future and their independence. Their hope for continuous connection with country had been ripped out, disrupting songlines and first law, obfuscating the languages of ancestors.
This memory stays with me, and affects me deeply, 50 years later.
Thus, with the deepest respect, I acknowledge the First Nations people, the Traditional Owners of this land, this space; the Yagera, Juggera and Ugarapul peoples, who cared for this country, its land, waters and wildlife, for over 60 000 years.
At Greater Springfield Veterinary, we pay our respects to these elders, past and present, and join in hope for the promise of future leaders.
– Jeannet Kessels (van Klinken) standing in line.
Uluru Statement from the Heart
We, gathered at the 2017 National Constitutional Convention, coming from all points of the southern sky, make this statement from the heart:
Our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander tribes were the first sovereign Nations of the Australian continent and its adjacent islands,and possessed it under our own laws and customs. This our ancestors did, according to the reckoning of our culture, from the Creation, according to the common law from ‘time immemorial’, and according to science more than 60,000 years ago.
This sovereignty is a spiritual notion: the ancestral tie between the land, or ‘mother nature’, and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples who were born therefrom, remain attached thereto, and must one day return thither to be united with our ancestors. This link is the basis of the ownership of the soil, or better, of sovereignty. It has never been ceded or extinguished, and co-exists with the sovereignty of the Crown.
How could it be otherwise? That peoples possessed a land for sixty millennia and this sacred link disappears from world history in merely the last two hundred years?
With substantive constitutional change and structural reform, we believe this ancient sovereignty can shine through as a fuller expression of Australia’s nationhood.
Proportionally, we are the most incarcerated people on the planet. We are not an innately criminal people. Our children are aliened from their families at unprecedented rates. This cannot be because we have no love for them. And our youth languish in detention in obscene numbers. They should be our hope for the future.
These dimensions of our crisis tell plainly the structural nature of our problem. This is the torment of our powerlessness.
We seek constitutional reforms to empower our people and take a rightful place in our own country. When we have power over our destiny our children will flourish. They will walk in two worlds and their culture will be a gift to their country.
We call for the establishment of a First Nations Voice enshrined in the Constitution.
Makarrata is the culmination of our agenda: the coming together after a struggle. It captures our aspirations for a fair and truthful relationship with the people of Australia and a better future for our children based on justice and self-determination.
We seek a Makarrata Commission to supervise a process of agreement-making between governments and First Nations and truth-telling about our history.
In 1967 we were counted, in 2017 we seek to be heard. We leave base camp and start our trek across this vast country. We invite you to walk with us in a movement of the Australian people for a better future.