Well respected Western Australian Nyungah Land and Cuture worker Iva Hayward-Jackson believes it is high time that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures are redressed every dignity – by removing barriers that impede their right to adequately ensure their right to cultural integrity. Through cultural awareness and education, pride and empowerment will lead to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ improved wellbeing.
Mr Hayward-Jackson, wants to see Aboriginal peoples, young and old, who had been disenfranchised from their historical and contemporary identities to have unfettered access to their historical and cultural histories. He does not want to see his people afflicted by modernist ills which deny their authentic cultural identity. Psychosocially, not knowing ones identity has led to loss. This loss can lead to breakdowns which can lead to incarceration and impoverishment. He would like to see his people spend time on Country or through Aboriginal controlled and owned galleries and archives be able to find themselves. He said it is imperative to preserve history and therefore more must be done in preserving sacred and historical sites so people can learn of their lands and cultures.
He said that imprisonment rates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are not just a national shame but an international disgrace for a nation that is the world’s second wealthiest nation per capita. He describes the justice and prison systems “as failed for our peoples.”
He said that some peoples now live within Country that has been over developed and that Country for one people is not the same as for another people. Mr Hayward-Jackson said that for instance the Nyungah peoples of Perth and Western Australia’s south west should have sacred sites recognised and as many keeping places as possible for Nyungah peoples to be able to visit, learn from, identify with and respect.
“We need ownership of our sacred sites, and all our places, including especially our ancestors’ burial areas. They must be returned to our control,” said Mr Hayward-Jackson.
Critics of the South West Aboriginal Lands and Seas Council (SWALSC) have argued that they have failed to secure all their peoples sacred sites and burial sites in the State Government’s proposed $1.3 billion native title offer. Sovereignty campaigner Marianne Mackay said, “Our customary rights are not being respected, our peoples’ sacred sites, campfire sites, historical routes and trails have not been identified and fought for by SWALSC. They matter to us, to our identity, to who we are and want to be, to what we want to tell our children’s children about us.”
Traditional owner and Aboriginal studies historian Professor Len Collard dedicates his spare time to identifying historical sites, routes and trails. He said that there is much yet to be done to identify sites, and that SWALSC should ensure that these are done, prevailing on much of his work.
Mr Hayward-Jackson said that Aboriginal lore is pivotal to identity and reminded that Aboriginal peoples are the oldest surviving ongoing cultures. Indeed, researchers have identified Western Australia’s Aboriginal peoples, from the Kimberley, Pilbara (along the Dampier Archipelago) and the south west, including the islands of the south west are the oldest finds of Aboriginal culture on this continent.
Mr Hayward-Jackson said, “Our sacred materials from museums, government and private collections need to be returned to our people. Universities need to hand over what belongs to us, and for us to be the keepers, for all this within our keeping places.”
“Whether our history and materials are overseas or in other parts of the country they must be returned.” There are still hundreds of museums around the world that have not repatriated these materials to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
“It is our right to protect our own culture in the now and in the future. This is self-determination and self-control,” said Mr Hayward-Jackson.
“One point I would like to make is that there must be more Aboriginal cultural galleries that allows our peoples to preserve our historical documents and sacred materials. For our people to learn from these evidences as well as the learning for our Elders on our Country.”