Showing posts with label indigenous culture. Show all posts
Showing posts with label indigenous culture. Show all posts

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Why are we still refusing to fully honour the spiritual and cultural relationship that traditional owners have to the land in Australia?


It doesn’t matter to the Turnbull Government that science declares that Aboriginal Australia has existed since time immemorial or that indigenous culture has existed on this continent longer than any other culture which is now part of multicultural Australia -  it stubbornly refuses to genuinely honour the spiritual and cultural relationship that traditional owners have with the land.

June 15, 2017

MEDIA RELEASE
14 June 2017
Traditional Owners slam passage of Native Title amendments
Traditional Owners fighting Adani’s proposed coal mine have expressed profound disappointment at the passage of Attorney General Brandis’ amendments to the Native Title Act, stressing that while Mabo’s legacy has been diminished they will continue to fight for their rights.
Senior spokesperson for the W&J Traditional Owners Council, Adrian Burragubba, says, “Adani’s problems with the Wangan and Jagalingou people are not solved this week. The trial to decide the fate of Adani’s supposed deal with the Wangan and Jagalingou Traditional Owners is scheduled for the Federal Court in March 2018.
“Our people are the last line of legal defence against this mine and its corrosive impact on our rights, and the destruction of country that would occur.
“Senator Brandis has been disingenuous in prosecuting his argument for these changes to native title laws, while the hands of native title bureaucrats and the mining lobby are all over the outcome.
“This swift overturning of a Federal Court decision, without adequate consultation with Indigenous people, was a significant move, not a mere technical consideration as the Turnbull Government has tried to make out.
“It is appalling and false for George Brandis to pretend that by holding a ‘workshop’ with the CEOs of the native title service bodies, he has the unanimous agreement of Traditional Owners across Australia. No amount of claimed ‘beseeching’ by the head of the Native Title Council, Glen Kelly, can disguise this.
“The public were not properly informed about the bill, and nor were Indigenous people around the country, who were not consulted and did not consent to these changes.
“We draw the line today. We declare our right to our land. There is no surrender. There is no land use agreement. We are the people from that land. We’re the rightful Traditional Owners of Wangan and Jagalingou country, and we are in court to prove that others are usurping our rights”, he said.
Spokesperson for the W&J Traditional Owners Council, Ms Murrawah Johnson, says, “Whatever else this change does, we know that the Turnbull Government went into overdrive for Adani’s interests.
“Brandis’ intervention in our court case challenging the sham ILUA was about Adani. Most of what Senator Matt Canavan had to say in argueing his ill-informed case for native title changes was about Adani. The Chairman of Senate Committee inquiring into the bill, Senator Ian McFarlane, referring to the native title amendments as “the Adani bill” was about Adani. And the PM telling Chairman Gautam Adani that he’d fix native title was about Adani”.
“We are continuing to fight Adani in court and our grounds are strong. If anyone tells you this is settled because the bill was passed, they are lying”, she said.
Adrian Burragubba says, “The Labor Opposition seems to understand this, even though they supported passage of the bill. Senator Pat Dodson went so far as to say this bill does not provide some kind of green light for the Adani mine, as some suggest.
“Pat Dodson acknowledged that W&J have several legal actions afoot against Adani and we are glad that in the midst of this dismal response to the rights of Indigenous people some MPs, including the Greens who voted against the bill, recognise the serious claim we have to justice.
Mr Dodson said in the Senate that: “most of this litigation will be entirely unaffected by the passage of this bill. In particular, there are very serious allegations of fraud that have been made against Adani regarding the processes under which agreements with the Wangan and Jagalingou people were purportedly reached. And those proceedings, which may impact on the validity of any ILUA, will only commence hearings in March next year. Other legal action is also underway, including a case challenging the validity of the licences issued by the Queensland government.”
This week researchers from the University of Queensland released a report titled ‘Unfinished Business: Adani, the state, and the Indigenous rights struggle of the Wangan and Jagalingou Traditional Owners Council‘.
For more information and to arrange interviews:  Anthony Esposito, W&J Council advisor – 0418 152 743.

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Yindjibarndi People granted exclusive native title over their traditional lands


A short entry by the Federal Court of Australia heralds exclusive native title for the Yindjibarndi People over their traditional lands in the Pilbara region of Western Australia.

FEDERAL COURT OF AUSTRALIA

File number:
WAD 6005 of 2003
Judge:
RARES J
Date of judgment:
 20 July 2017

ORDERS

THE COURT ORDERS THAT:
1.    The parties consult and seek to agree and prepare a draft determination of native title for the Court to make under s 225 of the Native Title Act 1993 (Cth) to give effect to the reasons for judgment delivered today.
2.    The proceeding be listed for case management on 17 August 2017 at 11.30am.
Note:    Entry of orders is dealt with in Rule 39.32 of the Federal Court Rules 2011.

In the judgment Justice Rares stated in part:

54    I am satisfied, having considered all of the evidence, that this explanation of spiritual connection reflects both important traditional laws, that the Yindjibarndi acknowledged, and traditional customs, that they observed, at the time of sovereignty and continue to acknowledge and observe today. The explanation neatly captures the essence of the relationship of the Yindjibarndi to their country and their spiritual obligation, embedded in their traditional laws and customs, to protect that country, including from the presence and activities on it of strangers (or manjangu) unless the stranger(s) first obtain(s) permission from Yindjibarndi people.

55    In addition, I am satisfied that, if a stranger were free to enter Yindjibarndi country without permission, under those Yindjibarndi normative laws and customs that have continuously applied over the same time period, he or she could “hurt” the country by violating the Birdarra law, even if unintentionally; for example, by entering a sacred or restricted place, or taking something, such as a resource or animal, from the country. And, those laws and customs thus require the Yindjibarndi to protect their country from a manjangu gaining access to it or its living or inanimate resources without permission of a Yindjibarndi elder.

56    Moreover, I am satisfied by all of the evidence that the Yindjibarndi have continuously (since before sovereignty) acknowledged traditional laws and observed traditional customs relating to the presence, role and power of the spirits of the Marrga and “old people” in and over Yindjibarndi country.

149    I am satisfied that, on the evidence before me, the Yindjibarndi continue to acknowledge their traditional laws and observe their traditional customs that have existed since before sovereignty that a manjangu must seek and obtain permission from an elder before entering on Yindjibarndi country or carrying out activity there (except if the person is simply driving through).

150    Moreover, that conclusion is supported by the evidence of Dr Palmer, which I accept. He concluded that the Yindjibarndi had the right to exclude others who are not Yindjibarndi “and are consequently identified as manjangu”, but he also found that they had abandoned the pre-sovereignty right to put a trespasser to death.

151    Accordingly, I find that the Yindjibarndi have the exclusive right to control access to Yindjibarndi country and, in particular, to the claimed area.

PHOTO: The Yindjibarndi land extends across an inland section of the western Pilbara, including parts of the Millstream National Park. (ABC North West WA: Joseph Dunstan)
The response of that right-wing warrior Andrew Forest of Fortescue Metals was not long in coming.

The Australian, 21 July 2017:

A landmark court decision could set a new template for the way the mining industry approaches ­native title negotiation, after ­Andrew Forrest’s Fortescue Metals Group lost a long running claim over its Pilbara mining hub.

Fortescue could be on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars in past and future royalties, following the biggest native title ruling to hit an Australian miner for years.

Even so, Fortescue yesterday moved to hose down concerns about the impact of a native title ruling over its Solomon mining hub, noting that it did not expect the ruling to have any “material” financial impact on or inhibit current or ­future operations.

The ruling gives the Yindjibarndi exclusive native title rights over Fortescue’s Solomon mining hub in Western Australia that ­accounts for at least 70 million tonnes of the company’s annual iron ore output.

While the ruling does not prohibit Fortescue from continuing to operate the Solomon mines, it does potentially leave Fortescue exposed to a compensation claim over the hundreds of millions of tonnes of iron ore mined at the project to date as well as possible royalties over future production.

The Guardian, 21 July 2017:

Fortescue Metals Group is likely to appeal against a determination of exclusive native title for Yindjibarndi people over land in the Pilbara which encompasses its Solomon Hub mine.

On Thursday the federal court ruled in favour of the Yindjibarndi traditional owners, awarding exclusive rights and interests over about 2,700 sq km of unclaimed crown land, which encompasses FMG’s $110bn mine.

The company responded on Thursday that it had “no commercial concerns and do not anticipate any material financial impact following the court’s determination,” but on Friday its chief executive suggested it would appeal.

Nev Power told ABC local radio he thought the court’s decision was wrong.

“I think we are likely to appeal,” he said. “It’s a very unusual decision in that the judge has found exclusive native title possession on this land, which we think is unlikely to be the case. So we will be looking at it definitely and considering an appeal.”

Following the decision on Thursday FMG shares dropped 19c to $5.19, and opened at $5.05 on Friday.

Monday, 24 July 2017

The oldest continuous culture in the world just became est. 18,000 years older



Jabiru, Northern Territory: Aboriginal people have lived in Australia for a minimum of 65,000 years, a team of archaeologists has established - 18,000 years longer than had been proved previously and at least 5000 years longer than had been speculated by the most optimistic researchers.

The world-first finding, which follows years of archaeological digging in an ancient camp-site beneath a sandstone rock shelter within the Jabiru mining lease in Kakadu, Northern Territory, drastically alters the known history of the trek out of Africa by modern humans, according to the leader of the international team of archaeologists, associate professor Chris Clarkson of the University of Queensland.

The findings, which are already causing intense interest in archaeological circles across the world, have been peer reviewed by internationally recognised scientists and are published this week in the world's most prestigious science journal, Nature.

Among the trove of discoveries are the world's oldest stone axes with polished and sharpened edges, proving that the earliest Australians were among the most sophisticated tool-makers of their time: no other culture had such axes for another 20,000 years.

"The axes were perfectly preserved, tucked up against the back wall of the shelter as we dug further and further," Professor Clarkson told Fairfax Media.

"There was one on the surface, another further down that we dated at 10,000 years. Then there were quite a few further down still which were able to date at 35,000 to 40,000 years, and finally one at 65,000 years, surrounded by a whole bunch of stone flakes."

The team had also found the oldest known seed-grinding tools in Australia, a large buried midden of sea shells and animal bones, and evidence of finely made stone spear tips.

Professor Clarkson said one of the most striking finds was the huge quantity of ground ochre, right from the oldest layers. This suggested the first humans to populate Australia were already enthusiastic artists, and had continued to be so through their continuing culture in an area known for its spectacular rock art…..

The discovery also confirms that Australian Aborigines undertook the first major maritime migration in the world - they had to sail a minimum of 90 kilometres across open sea to reach their destination whatever route they took in their long journey out of Africa.

No other humans had undertaken such a journey 65,000 years ago. However, after crossing between islands, they could have walked the last stretch between Papua New Guinea and northern Australia because sea levels were so low at that time, Professor Clarkson said.

Nature, Published online 19 July 2017, Human occupation of northern Australia by 65,000 years ago:

Abstract
The time of arrival of people in Australia is an unresolved question. It is relevant to debates about when modern humans first dispersed out of Africa and when their descendants incorporated genetic material from Neanderthals, Denisovans and possibly other hominins. Humans have also been implicated in the extinction of Australia’s megafauna. Here we report the results of new excavations conducted at Madjedbebe, a rock shelter in northern Australia. Artefacts in primary depositional context are concentrated in three dense bands, with the stratigraphic integrity of the deposit demonstrated by artefact refits and by optical dating and other analyses of the sediments. Human occupation began around 65,000 years ago, with a distinctive stone tool assemblage including grinding stones, ground ochres, reflective additives and ground-edge hatchet heads. This evidence sets a new minimum age for the arrival of humans in Australia, the dispersal of modern humans out of Africa, and the subsequent interactions of modern humans with Neanderthals and Denisovans.

Extended Data Figure 3: Grinding stones, residues and usewear of specimens collected from phase 2 at Madjedbebe.

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

"This is a contemptible intervention from a pro-mining government to deny the legal rights of Indigenous people"


“Our traditional lands are an interconnected and living whole; a vital cultural landscape. It is central to us as a People, and to the maintenance of our identity, laws and consequent rights. If the Carmichael mine were to proceed it would tear the heart out of the land. The scale of this mine means it would have devastating impacts on our native title, ancestral lands and waters, our totemic plants and animals, and our environmental and cultural heritage. It would pollute and drain billions of litres of groundwater, and obliterate important springs systems. It would potentially wipe out threatened and endangered species. It would literally leave a huge black hole, monumental in proportions, where there were once our homelands. These effects are irreversible. Our land will be “disappeared”.”  [Wangan & Jagalingou People, Our Fight]

BuzzFeed News, 18 May 2017:


Human rights lawyer and adjunct professor of law at Macquarie University, George Newhouse, said Brandis' intervention was using native title law against Indigenous Australians rather than assisting them.

"This is a contemptible intervention from a pro-mining government to deny the legal rights of Indigenous people under the Native Title Act 1993," he told BuzzFeed News.

"[The government's] power is being used to obstruct Indigenous land claimants. This discriminatory law only affects Indigenous Australians. The rights of Indigenous people continue to be stripped away for the benefit of big coal miners."

Greens Deputy Leader and Senator for Queensland, Larissa Waters, slammed the intervention, saying the government had sided with Adani over traditional owners.

"Brandis’ attempt to push a bill through the Senate that was designed to ram through the Adani coal mine against the wishes of the local Wangan & Jagalingou people failed, so now he is interfering in their court case," she told BuzzFeed News.

"This isn’t about good reform to Native Title it’s about making things as easy as possible for Adani at the expense of the land rights of First Australians".

Shadow attorney-general Mark Dreyfus said Labor supports the government's proposed amendments to the Native Title act, but declined to comment on Brandis' intervention.


Senator Brandis’ intervention follows his second failure to rush through changes to the Native Title Act. The Attorney General has asked the Court to not make a ruling, but wait for the political process around the Native Title Bill to conclude. The Bill has not passed the Senate because of a lack of consultation with Traditional Owners around the country, and concern about key provisions.

Senior spokesperson for the Wangan and Jagalingou (W&J) Traditional Owners Council, Adrian Burragubba, said, “The Attorney General has made an extraordinary and political intervention in matters before the court. Intervening in our case shows Brandis is working in billionaire Adani’s interests, not ensuring the proper administration of justice. Again, Brandis is making Native Title all about Adani’s mine instead of good law reform.

“Brandis should apply himself to good law reform, and let the court do its work. Instead he’s trying to influence the decisions of a judge in favour of a mining company.
“The Wangan and Jagalingou Council are seeking Federal Court orders to strike out the purported Indigenous Land Use Agreement [ILUA] filed by Adani Mining with the National Native Title Tribunal. The ILUA would authorise ‘extinguishment’ of our native title and allow the mine to proceed against our strong objections and our right to say ‘No’.

“The Federal Government has been attempting to push through amendments to the Native Title Act to overturn the ruling in McGlade and protect Adani’s interests. Along with other Traditional Owners, we  continue to demand proper consultations and the necessary time to achieve consent for Native Title amendments”, he said.

While on the other side of the country another opportunistic miner is using Native Title law for his own benefit


SYDNEY, May 18 (Reuters) - Mining magnate Andrew Forrest has used laws designed to protect indigenous land rights to stop prospectors searching for minerals on his West Australian cattle farms, angering both traditional Aboriginal landowners and mining community members.

While tensions between the competing interests of indigenous landholders, pastoral leaseholders and miners on government-controlled land are common, Forrest's approach represents one of the first known examples of a non-Aboriginal successfully using rights afforded to indigenous people to their own advantage.

Native title is a legal doctrine in Australia that recognises indigenous rights to certain parcels of land.

Forrest's use of it is not illegal, but it adds to the fractious relationship he has with some indigenous groups. Different groups have raised concerns over Forrest's cattle interests and have battled over land rights with the company he founded and chairs - Fortescue Metals Group, the world's fourth biggest iron ore miner……

But Matthew Slack, the head of the Buurabalayji Thalanyji Aboriginal Corp which oversees native title for the indigenous landowners, said it was "pretty rich" for Forrest to use rights designed to protect indigenous interests.

Thalanyji were also concerned about cattle numbers and water use at Forrest's 2,400 square km (927 sq mile) Minderoo pastoral lease in Western Australia's Pilbara district, he said.

"We are disgusted with Forrest and have been for some time. Slack said. "Our dreamtime creatures can't survive because the river is so low."

Sunday, 7 May 2017

Australia Past & Present: always was, always will be........ *This post may contain the names and links to voices of peope who have passed away*


River Peoples

Left to right: Evelyn Barker, Sharni Hooper, Kevin Hooper, Julie Johnston, Gloria Johnston, Phyllis Cubby, Fred Hooper(Chairman), Phillip Sullivan and Alison Salt.
(Absent from the picture are Sam Jefferies and Desmond Jones)

Sydney Criminal Lawyers, transcript of Paul Gregoire interview with Murrawarri Republic Chair Fred Hooper, 22 April 2017:

This weekend in Brisbane, the Referendum Council is holding the last of the Dialogues: a series of meetings with First Nations peoples to discuss the issue of recognising the nation’s Indigenous people within the Australian constitution.
The findings from the meetings will be reported at the First Nations Convention at Uluru in late May.
However, for many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people constitutional recognition is a token gesture. And what needs to be established is a framework of treaties between the government and each of the continent’s Indigenous nations.
But over recent years, there are some First Peoples nations that have gone a step further and declared independence.

Never ceded
On March 30 2013, the Murrawarri Republic made a formal declaration of independence. The Murrawarri people pointed out that they’ve been living on their land – situated on the border of NSW and Queensland – for tens of thousands of years, and sovereignty had never been ceded.
The People’s Council of the Murrawarri Republic sent their declaration to the Queen of England requesting documents proving Crown title within 21 days. But no response was received and this was interpreted as proof that indeed the republic was an independent state.
According to the council, “there were three legally recognised doctrines that governed the taking over or acquiring of new land under 18th century British and international law.” These were a declaration of war, the negotiation of a treaty or the principle of terra nullius: the concept that the land had no owners.
The British didn’t declare war on the Murrawarri Nation, and the Murrawarri people never sign a treaty. Great Britain actually claimed the land was terra nullius, however, the local Murrawarri people were actually living there at the time.
And as the council further outlines, the High Court of Australia abolished the legal fiction of terra nullius in its 1992 Mabo versus Queensland (No 2) ruling. The court recognised native title – or that Indigenous people had a prior claim to the land – in Australia for the first time.

Sovereign Nations
The Murrawarri Republic encompasses an area of around 82,000 square kilometres and has a population of about 3,500 people. It was the first Indigenous nation on the continent to declare its independence, but others have followed.
The Euahlayi Nation declared their independence in August 2013. The Wiradjuri Central West Republic did so in January 2014. And the Yidindji Tribal Nation renounced legal ties with Australia that same year. All the nations have independent governments, and some have established police forces.
Fred Hooper is the chair of the People’s Council of the Murrawarri Republic. During his time, the Murrawarri elder served six years in the Australian Navy as a submariner and spent nine years working in the public service.
Sydney Criminal Lawyers spoke with Fred Hooper about the process the republic went through to declare its independence, their guiding principles, and what he thinks about constitutional recognition.

The Murrawarri Republic declared independence from Australia in March 2013. Can you outline the process you undertook in order to do this, and the reasoning behind it?
Firstly, we didn’t declare our independence from Australia. We declared that we were always independent from Australia. We declared our continued independence and statehood. Because we’ve never ceded our sovereignty or allodial title to the Crown of Great Britain.
The process that we went through. First of all, it came out of the fortieth anniversary of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy, where sovereignty was the main focus of the anniversary.
We then consulted other members of the Murrawarri people. We researched forms of independence and forms of republics as well.
From a meeting of Aboriginal people in Wollongong, we then went away and researched it. And found that a republic was the best for us, because we were never a kingdom. We didn’t have Kings and Queens. And we didn’t claim our seat to the throne through God.
We decided to go with a republic.
So the process was that we researched declarations of independence. How other countries declared their independence. And we decided to go with something similar to Israel’s declaration of independence through the United Nations in the creation of the state of Israel.
We wrote the declaration. And then it was a matter of getting people to sign it. We hit the road and went to sporting events and got Murrawarri people to actually sign the declaration.
From there we wrote to Queen Elizabeth II notifying her – because she is the head of state of the country – of our intentions and our declaration.

The High Court in the 1992 Mabo case recognised native title in Australia for the first time. In response to that judgement the federal government passed the Native Title Act 1993.
Can I ask why the people of the Murrawarri nation didn’t instead decide to make a native title claim under the provisions of this Act?
Well we found that the Act didn’t work. We found that the Act was established for white Australia and all the benefits went to white Australia. All the benefits, except for one right, the right to negotiate.
Then that right to negotiate within the Native Title Act, if you don’t negotiate with mining companies within six months, and you don’t come to an agreement, then the Federal Court or the judicial system of Australia can overturn the native title.
They can force you into arbitration or they can rule in terms of development. So it’s unjust and unfair legislation.
But also, we found that in Mabo there were a number of things that the High Court said. One was that the Crown did not gain absolute beneficial ownership to the land. The Crown did not gain allodial title to the land.
They did not gain the original title off the Murrawarri to our traditional land. So therefore, we felt that our ownership of that land has continued, and that’s supported by Mabo in that statement by the judges.
Mabo did two things. It overturned the fiction of terra nullius. And it created a new principle of occupation that was outside the international law and outside of international norms, because it created a principle of peaceful settlement. Nowhere else in the world is there a principle of peaceful settlement.
We believe that we have a much stronger case. The research that was done in terms of Murrawarri people found that we’re actually not citizens of Australia, because citizenship comes through the Citizenship and Naturalisation Act of 1948.
That Act actually screens First Nations people in this country from becoming citizens of Australia. So we felt that we were alien from this nation, and that our nation was here prior to 1788.
And there was one other very interesting thing that we looked at as well. There was this old farmer in Western Australia, who declared himself independent from Australia. He pays no taxes. He declared himself a principality.
So we thought, well, if somebody from Europe can come out here and declare their independence from Australia and consider themselves a micro-nation and get acceptance, then the First Peoples should have some claim to the land as well.
We felt that Mabo gave us that opportunity, because the High Court actually said that the Crown did not gain absolute beneficial ownership to the land.

The Murrawarri Republic has its own constitution drafted in April 2014, and its own government: the People’s Council of the Murrawarri Republic.
Can you tell us about the guiding principles of the republic?
We have the constitution. It’s a draft constitution. The declaration set up the principle of the People’s Council, which looks at different types of legislation, emblems, seals, symbols and negotiations.
Our principles are that we don’t exclude anybody from our nation. The constitution does not exclude non-Murrawarri people from living within our nation. And it does not exclude them from being a part of our nation, benefiting from it, living on our nation, or owning land.
We’re looking at the governance of that land, and how the Murrawarri can govern that land for all of its citizens, not only just the Murrawarri people that live there, and the Murrawarri people that don’t live on country as well.
Some of the guiding principles are based on sharing our country. The other thing we don’t want to do is kick people off our country. It’s about benefits for all our citizens, both ancestral and non-ancestral citizens.

It’s been four years since the Murrawarri Republic declared independence. How would you say life has changed over that period for the local people?
Life continues. This is a political process. It’s a fight that we’re taking on politically.
We’ve had no benefits from government. But one of the other things that happened is that some of the development that’s happening, they actually talk to us as well. They just don’t leave us alone. They talk to us.
Also our People’s Council is looking at how we can look at projects that can benefit the whole of the nation. We’re looking at renewable energies in some of our communities. We’re looking at how we can get those renewable energies into those areas. So those type of benefits.
We’re a little bit further down the track. We’re more recognised now as a nation.
I also sit on an organisation that recognises 22 Sovereign First Nations on what they call the Murray-Darling Basin.
And we’ve managed to get the traditional owners and our nations recognised in Commonwealth legislation, through the Murray-Darling Basin Plan. It’s recognised through statute law that sits under the Water Act.
From that we’re looking at doing other things with other Aboriginal nations, like the Euahlayi Nation.
And one of the big things that came out of a meeting in Canberra last year was that overall there’s 48 Sovereign First Nations in the Murray-Darling Basin. Those 48 nations are now looking at how and what are the processes of us negotiating treaties with each other.
Under international law, a nation can be recognised as treating with other nations if it has trade. So through those treaty negotiations, and those negotiations with those other nations, we’re looking at how we can look at trading amongst ourselves.
How we can look at overseas trade with other First Nations, say in America, Canada and Maori in New Zealand.
These some of the things that are coming out of what we did in 2013.

The Murrawarri Republic was the first Indigenous nation on this continent to declare independence, and there are a few others now.
Do you think there will be more Indigenous nations following suit in the future?
normal Yes. I think it’s people’s understanding, because they’ve been so colonised over the last 200-odd years.
It’s their understanding. And it’s showing those nations that we think we have a case here legally through international law.
We always say Australia is still a colony of Great Britain. And Australia’s constitution even says that, or be it a self-governing colony. There’s still a string there to Great Britain.
What we’re looking at is recognition from Great Britain that we have never ceded our sovereignty. That we have never ceded our lands.
Hopefully now, a lot more nations will come on board. People are ringing and asking about how we did it.
And we have a package that we send out to people that are looking at declaring as well. So we are assisting other nations around the country. And every now and then, another will pop up and declare their independence.

Can I ask how that process is going? And could you explain the benefits of being placed on the list?
We have written to the Decolonisation Committee. To date, we haven’t got a response and we’re planning to write to them again to request to be put on the decolonisation list.
By being placed on the list, there’s an international obligation for Great Britain as the colonising country of the continent of Australia to decolonise under United Nations Resolution 1541.
If you are placed on that list, you are in the process of decolonisation. And there are other small countries that are on the decolonisation list. There’s one in the Pacific that only has 50 citizens.
We’re looking at firstly, trying to get onto the list. And secondly, negotiating with Great Britain, through the Queen’s ministers in Australia, in regards, to decolonising and also, self-governing of our territory.
This will benefit the people that are living in our territory, instead a lot of the benefits of the funds and the revenue that are generated within our country, leaving our country.

At the time the British arrived on this continent there were over 500 different nations already existing here. There’s never been any formal treaties set up between the Commonwealth of Australia and the various First Peoples nations.
Instead of looking towards formal treaties, the federal government is pushing for recognising Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the Australian constitution.
What are your thoughts on constitutional recognition?

I attended the Dubbo Dialogue on constitutional recognition. And I was elected to go to Uluru in May for the Dialogue.
Our position is we need to talk sovereignty and treaty.
One of the other reasons we declared our independence was that John Howard made a statement when he was prime minister and they were talking treaty with Aboriginal people. He came out and said in public that we cannot treaty with our own citizens.
Being recognised in the constitution, we feel, will wipe out our identity. There will no longer be separate Indigenous nations within the continent of Australia. We will all be labelled Australian Aborigines. We won’t have identity back to country.
A lot of the services that are helping people that are recognised in the constitution will dry up.
But also, through the treaty process there is a real opportunity for us to negotiate tangible outcomes, in terms of revenue and looking at governing our own nations as well. Making decisions about that and providing health services. Which is a bottom up approach, and not a top down approach which is happening now.
For us, we can’t have real constitutional recognition without a treaty document to back it up. And a treaty document is a legal document registered with the United Nations.
The constitution forgot us when it was written and I don’t think being recognised in the constitution is going to change anything for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people around the country.

And lastly, Fred, it’s Anzac Day next week. On that day in 2015, you were stopped from marching alongside the Submarine Association in the Anzac parade in Canberra, because you were holding a Murrawarri Republic flag.
You were also stopped from laying a wreath because you’d been leading the Frontier Wars march, which honours those Indigenous people who lost their lives fighting the British as they took over the continent.
This First Peoples procession has followed the Anzac Day march for the past six years.
Could you tell us whether the Frontier Wars march will be taking place in Canberra this Anzac Day? And what it means to the Indigenous people of this continent that the government still won’t officially acknowledge that these wars took place?
Yes it will be happening this year. I’m hoping to get down to it.
For us, it’s the recognition that this country was not peacefully settled. They are saying this country was peacefully settled, but it wasn’t.
We fought the British. We fought the colonisers. And there were great warriors fighting all the way that aren’t being recognised in this country. They recognise conflicts overseas, but what about conflicts on our own soil?
For a lot of Aboriginal people that’s the issue. We know that these things happened. We know that people were massacred. We know that the British declared martial law.
If you look at America and you look at the Battle of Little Bighorn, a lot of that has been recognised by the Americans.
One of the things the War Memorial said was that they don’t recognise wars before Federation. But there’s one war they recognise and that they celebrate pre-Federation which is the Boer War. And there were Aboriginal people that were taken to that war as well.
So I think that’s not a very good excuse for not recognising that there were wars and conflicts in our own country.

Fred thanks very much for speaking with us today. And best of luck going into the future with further establishing the Murrawarri Republic as independent nation.
No worries. Thank you.


Essie Coffey was a Muruwari woman born in southern Queensland. She was co-founder of the Western Aboriginal Legal Service and served on a number of government bodies and Aboriginal community organisations.

Born at Essiena Goodgabah in southern Queensland, Essie Coffey and her family were fortunate to avoid forced relocation to a reserve. Instead they lived on the move, following seasonal rural work.

Coffey went on to be co-founder of the Western Aboriginal Legal Service and the Aboriginal Heritage and Cultural Museum in Brewarrina, serving on several government bodies and Aboriginal community organisations including the Aboriginal Lands Trust and the Aboriginal Advisory Council. She was an inaugural member of the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation.

Coffey was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) on 10 June 1985, for service to the Aboriginal Community. She was nominated for an MBE but refused it, explaining "I knocked the MBE back because I'm not a member of the British Empire".

With Martha Ansara, Coffey made the award-winning film [“My Survival As An Aboriginal”] (1978), which she gave to Queen Elizabeth II as a gift at the opening of Australia's new Parliament House in 1988. The sequel, [“My Life As I Live It”] , was released in 1993. Coffey also appeared in the film 'Backroads'.

Essie Coffey and her husband, Doc, had 18 children, 10 of whom were adopted.

Parks Australia, 14 July 2012:

The Murrawarri people of central New South Wales have celebrated the return of their country and the declaration of the Weilmoringle Indigenous Protected Area. The Murrawarri have been working with the Indigenous Land Corporation for many years to purchase Weilmoringle, a 3,500 hectare property on the New South Wales and Queensland border.


Brewarrina Aboriginal Mission…..

Statement of significance:

The Brewarrina Aboriginal Mission was the oldest institutional-type community in the state that was still managed in 1965. Brewarrina Mission was the first institution formally established by the Aborigines Protection Board as part of its policy to segregate Aboriginal people. Over the years, the Brewarrina Mission was used to house other Aboriginal people from Tibooburra, Angledool, Goodooga and Culgoa to form the reserve which operated between 1886 - 1966 and was one of the longest running reserve stations in NSW. During the reserve period many Aboriginal people died and were buried in the reserve cemetery. The cemetery is no longer used by the community its integrity is held high within the values of the Aboriginal people. The entire site of Brewarrina Mission including its cemetery is a significant place to the many Aboriginal tribes including Ngemba and Murrawarri tribe as a 'place of belonging'. The place retains its high integrity in its cultural, spiritual, social and historical values to many Aboriginal people across NSW.

Paroo: Oral History of Lorna McNiven - an Indigenous woman who was born in Eulo in south-western Queensland. Her family, known as river people, are the Budjari and Murrawarri peoples.
Lorna and Liz McNiven's evidence to the Australian Parliament Joint Committee On Native Title AndThe Aboriginal And Torres Strait Islander Land Fund, 2 October 1996. 

Excerpt from McKellar on behalf of the Budjiti People v State of Queensland [2015] FCA 601 – Native Title consent determination, 23 June 2015:

A number of Budjiti People recall activities with their parents and grandparents on the waterways and lakes found within Budjiti country. Dinny McKellar was taken to Lake Wyara and Lake Numalla by his grandparents to collect swan eggs. The flowering of the gidgee trees was a signal that the swans were laying. Lorna McNiven remembered how she went on a rowboat with her parents to fish in Caiwarro Waterhole.

Fish from the lakes and the Paroo River has featured in the diet of generations of
Budjiti People. Analysis of material at archaeological sites in the application area found evidence that people included in their diets both fish and shellfish. The practice of utilising the waterways and lakes continues to the present today. As stated by Lorna McNiven,“Budjiti People are always fishing on the Paroo”. Nina Prasad goes fishing two or three days a week when the fish are biting. Dinny McKellar goes fishing and sometimes takes his cousin Dulla McKellar with him. Favoured fishing locations would be revisited several times a year.

Seasonal events such as the flooding of the Paroo River are remembered by many
witnesses as times of celebrations. People would walk upstream to meet the flood waters after rains as they signalled when fish stocks along the Paroo would be replenished and there would be food for everyone. Today people return to the river after heavy rains. Sam Eulo returns with his whole family, including his mother Ruby Eulo, to Caiwarro after a fresh flow of water passes down the Paroo.

These activities require care and respect as the landscape contains potential dangers. A story recounted to Philip Eulo was how Grandma Toogler had to swim back from an island on Lake Numulla after collecting swan eggs. The creature Muddan-gaddah had caused the lake to rise. Whilst fishing Nina Prasad and Rhonda Cavanough heard the slapping of the Muddan-gaddah in the river. They packed up and returned home as they were wary of the creature.

Smoking ceremonies involving burning leaves of the dogwood bush or sandalwood bush are used as protection by the Budjiti People. Millie Shillingsworth for example, smokes herself when near the Paroo River to ward off the Muddan-guddah. Smoking is a means of calling on the good spirits to offer protection to the performer of the ritual. Dinny McKellar conducted a smoking ceremony so that he would be safe when he swam amongst the reeds to collect swan eggs. The spirits would also bring good fortune. Dinny was taught to smoke his fishing line so that the ancestors would know who he was and assist with a catch.

Budjiti People perform other rituals when out on country. Judy Shillingsworth throws dirt into the water and calls out “Gouyoo Gouyoo” before throwing in her line. She learnt this from her mother Ruby as well as her grandmother. The same ritual is performed by Nina Prasad to attract the fish. Nina Prasad spits on her bait just as her mother once did.

Lorna McNiven remembers when Budjiti People used to meet with neighbouring
groups. They used to have ceremonies at the lakes, it had to be when there was an abundance of food. There would be meetings or ceremonies or anything after there had been “a big wet” and the lakes would be full of fish and birds. Millie Shillingsworth also recalls being told about a big ceremonial ground up at Caiwarro. In her outline of evidence she says that she remembers her “Granny saying that all the tribes have different ceremonial sites and the different tribes would meet and exchange things. Aunty Kate told me about ceremonies on Caiwarro, the men would all get out there and have a big feed and dance and do a corroboree and exchange things. Granny used to say it was men’s business, it was a meeting place”.