One of Australia’s most prominent Aboriginal voices and the last remaining founder of Aboriginal Tent Embassy, Michael Anderson warns Aboriginal and Torres Strait peoples against signing Indigenous Land Use Agreements (ILUA). He said to do so is to hand over every prospect of sovereignty.
The former lawyer said the ILUA is poor compensation for sovereign rights.
The Native Title Act was set up to procure compensation for Traditional Owners who agree to access to Country for predominately the resource sector. But the Act was watered down by former Prime Ministers Paul Keating and John Howard. It allows for ‘good faith’ negotiations between the applicant seeking access to Country and the Traditional Owners.
There is no prescription regarding what the compensation should be and hence much chaos and grief has tormented Aboriginal communities nationwide over Native Title.
“The ILUAs are designed in such a way that the State, Territory and Federal Governments can say to the world and the local Courts, ‘The Aborigines recognise us as the Sovereign State because they signed an ILUA under our laws,” said Mr Anderson.
He said that in effect by signing an ILUA the Aboriginal peoples of that region are extinguishing their right to sovereignty to its full extent.
“In Australia we have reached a very important time in our history where we must come together as distinct sovereign nations to jointly locate a national perspective on our sovereign rights.”
He is supported by an increasing number of Aboriginal voices who are calling out for a national debate on sovereignty, and what it means. Recently, Brisbane-based Kombumerri and Waka-Waka Elder Mary Graham recently slammed the Commonwealth Government for not taking time out from pushing for the nominal inclusion of Aboriginal people in the Constitution to open up a national discussion on Sovereignty.
This followed Foreign Affairs Minister Bob Carr’s public comments disparaging the Sovereignty movement.”
“Suddenly, we are presented with a demand for Aboriginal Sovereignty which can only mean separatism, which nobody has defined and which, on principle, 99 per cent of Australians would oppose and a majority of Aborigines oppose,” said Mr Carr.
During a keynote speak at Queensland ANTAR’s recent General Meeting Ms Graham said the Commonwealth should not be turning away from the opportunity to initiate a full-on national discussion on Aboriginal Sovereignty.
She slammed the point home that Australia remains the only English speaking nation of the Commonwealth to not have a Treaty with its Aboriginal peoples.
“What does having ourselves recognised in the Constitution actually mean?”
“We all have to ask ourselves, who is really going to be advantaged by the recognition given to Aboriginal people in the Constitution?”
Ms Graham said she feared that if Aboriginal peoples settled on agreeing to only the acknowledgment of Aboriginal peoples in the Constitution the opportunity for a national discussion on Sovereignty could be missed altogether.
She said Aboriginal peoples should speak up and hold out for a Treaty before agreeing to settle the Constitutional reforms. But she also forewarned that Aboriginal peoples must also have a conversation about what Sovereignty should mean – “one amongst ourselves” before any national conversation.
She criticised the high profile Aboriginal leaders and Aboriginal organisations who are supporting the Commonwealth’s Constitutional reforms. “These Aboriginal people are a small number and they should stop claiming that they represent all our peoples.”
“It is important we do not lose the opportunity for the discussion on Sovereignty.”
Mr Anderson said that these same people “have always been the people who have betrayed our legal rights and interests.”
“I say, these people are not able to demonstrate any real achievements that they have influenced in the past forty years. The medical services, some housing companies and legal services which continue to this day are the achievements of the 1970s Black Power movement.”
“Everything we have, we achieved by getting on the streets and fighting for them. Nobody gave us anything.”
“The Aboriginal Embassy is a testament to the fact that we are independent sovereign peoples,” said Mr Anderson.
He said if Native Title holders have not inserted a “special clause in the ILUAs” then they are ceding their sovereign rights for pittance compensation from developers and miners.
“We as First Nations peoples are not Australians.”
“Under international law we have the right to revolt and the United Nations is obligated by law to assist us in our efforts to be liberated.”
“I appeal once again to all our countrymen and women to think about what you are doing when you sign an ILUA, for you are in fact ceding your sovereignty for a few crumbs.”