Message from John Hartley
In 2009 members of the Alyawarr People effectively informed the Rudd labor government that thier Peoples way of life is not for sale and walked back out into country. To be clear, I do not write or speak for or on behalf of the Alyawarr Peoples or anyone for that matter, I do so as a Human Being born of Mother earth inspired by transformative action motivated not by bitterness but by a deep caring for our People and Country and write the following from a personal perspective.
Of late I have listened and watched with interested the early achievements and actions of those members of the Alyawarr Peoples who walked back out into country and think they are a much needed current example of a grassroots non-cooperative cultural response. As I see it, the Alyawarr Peoples response to the racist policies of the rudd government is not simply a reaction to the current manufactured intervention but is borne of the continued and active “dispersal” policies that stem back to earlier colonising objectives.
The cultural response of those Alyawarr Peoples takes us out of the colonisers paternalistic one shoe fits all playground and plants our feet deeply back into country, it places our culture to the forefront of our responses and leads us away from the repetitive blame centered arguments, abstractions and trickery of western political systems and inaction it places outr future directly back in our hands transforming that inaction into postive pro-action.
The Alyawarr cultural response leads us not to Canberra but to Country not to further assimilation through dependency but to a continuing way of life, not to western law but to our own, not to hand fed scraps and the confines and indignities of the ration mentality and manufactured “real economies” but to self reliance, learning by doing and direct responsibility for self, Family and the coming generations. We all have an opportunity in this time to embrace the Alyawarr Peoples example and support its spread throughout Aboriginal country and it is time for all those of sound heart who truly hunger to see the manifestation of human rights and are supportive of our Peoples inherent right to maintain and live our way of life to mobilise and focus their attention and resources in support of the Alyawarr Peoples.
The motivation of our collective struggle as I see it anyway, is not forged of bitterness it can never be that, it is one motivated of a deep care for our Country, its Language, our People, our Stories and for our coming generations. The fact that our struggle continues here in this “lucky country” in no way determines our struggle to be less the struggle of the Peoples of South Africa, no less the struggle of the East Timorese Peoples, no less the struggle of all those Peoples around the globe who have been and who continue to be forced from their homelands and who have had their way of life trampled upon by governments and vested interested.
As Human Beings we have an inherent right to live as we see fit without fear and intimidation in the manner we so choose and to respond effectively and culturally in our own way, meeting our own responsibilities, expectations and obligations within the current industrialised environment as we see it.
I think, the struggle of the Alyawarr People, is the struggle it is our collective struggle and it is the struggle for the liberation of a People from colonial rule and subsequent oppression that serves only the bidding of a greedy few, colonial legal systems and laws are also so designed despite the manufactured perceptions to the contrary. Our Language, our Land and our Law are all connected and our stories run throughout the entirety of this country. Enough is enough, a way to shed the chains of disempowerment and dependency is before us the line has been clearly drawn and now is the time to step up.
Section by Waratah Rose Gillespie
On NAVAJO NATIONS visit in 2002
In searching for solutions, we can learn from the experiences of other countries.
The people of Navajo Nation have found a way to restore and rebuild their nation, with its own dynamic cultures, laws, and traditions.
At the turn of the (twentieth) century, the Navajo Nation numbered only 7,000 people. They were imprisoned in a concentration camp.
They were also pushed of their land, taught new forms of violence, and suffered hunger. As a result they were forced into a dependency on the same government which had robbed them of their land and their source of sustenance. A dependency on welfare followed, accompanied by subjection of their people to control by police and other agencies of that government. Their own indigenous government had been suppressed, ignored, and some of their people used as a tool to control, as agencies of the government of invaders.
Removal from their homelands was the most destructive thing that was ever done to them. Restoration of their homelands with de facto sovereignty made it possible for the Navajo Nation to rebuild and regenerate.
The Navajo Nation has now grown to be the second largest first Nation in the United States, with population of close to 300,000 people.
Following decades of struggle, some first Nation Native American Nations have concluded treaties that entrenched recognition of their sovereignty. Sovereign powers are now divided between the United States Federal Governments, the State Governments and recognised Native American Nations to set up their own courts, using their own language, laws and legal processes.
I NOW SAY TO AUSTRALIAN ABORIGINES AND AUSTRALIAN PEOPLE YES WE CAN.
And its not about taking away peoples back yards, homes. To Australian people I say this, your grandfathers, grandmothers have journey to our lands in search of freedom and opportunity, to share this land with all other ethnic cultures, you are now part of us on our traditional lands, you are now part of us to care for Mother Earth and all her creations, to stand against the destruction of our environment, animals, rivers, trees.
September 28, 2009
APPEAL TO OUR CHURCH LEADERS
Racism is not merely one sin among many; it is a radical evil that divides the human family and denies the rights of humanity. And divides us all, in the structure of our society.
Racism violates the fundamental freedoms and human dignity. Racism is the denial of the truth of dignity of each human being
I appeal to the great churches and their leaders within, who remain silent across our country, we are part of their children of god, we are part of Mother Nature’s creations, and we are one voice, one people.
Do I now sense fear, uncertainty? From our leaders, is this god’s wish our leaders now be silent and watch continual destruction of their black brothers and sisters, Culture, Languages, our lands taken from us at the stroke of a pen, under the NTER Measures that continue to create walls of separation? Discrimination and racism.
The principal source and centre of healing, unifier of all people and cultures, Our fathers, the leaders of our great churches across our country speak out, not only in the assemblies of the bishops, but in every diocese and parish in the land, in every chapel and religious house. Inform all gods children we must unite as one and stand for human rights
Our fathers you came to us in our peoples need in last 200 years, our needs now are much greater, our cultures, traditions and custom, are holding on by a single strand. Return to us once again and walk with us as one people, share with us our journey to stand against racist policies that create divisions.
Spokesperson for Alyawarr people
September 14, 2009
Appeal to Indigenous leaders
On behalf of my elders and leaders, I urge all Indigenous leaders across Australia, men and women, to consider the following.
We are at the cross roads of change; do we unite, do we reconnect to our past, present and future, our traditions, customs, languages, land and our young people. Our next generation of leaders; young men and women are caught up in the cycle of destruction through, alcohol, drugs, and abuse; locked in gaols, away from their homelands, their families, spiritual journeys, and their roles and responsibilities.
These are our lost generation, caught in a time warp – no way forward, no way back.
I urge that we, as leaders, show true leadership in Aboriginal ways to bring our people together as one, or are we too far assimilated that we cannot put aside our differences and can no longer think in the traditional way?
Do we now have fear and uncertainty of each other?
Do we continue to stay silent, and watch the continued destruction of our people, our culture, and our land taken away?
Do we watch our people forced from homelands into hub centres to create Ghettos, where there will be abuse, drugs, fights, jealousies, murders?
Have we forgotten we are the caretakers of our lands, animal species, trees, waters, mountains, and of our people?
Do we shut our minds and thoughts in the hope that all our troubles may go away?
Do we look at our people, our young, and pretend everything is fine?
Do we bring our white brothers and sisters together with us, to share our journey of unity, a common aim towards bridging the gap, and with humanity, to stand as equals and show respect towards each other? to stand against evil
Now is a turning point for all Aboriginal people: do we sit back, to leave a history for our next generations of doing nothing? Do we leave them with shame and embarrassment of a history where we, as leaders, were too divided with self interest, and we stood back with fear and uncertainty of the unknown?
Do we stand strong and reconnect the link in the chain again with our brothers and sisters who long ago walked off WAVE HILL, who showed leadership, determination and a path of unity and recognition, and reconnection with land and people as one.
Our future is in our hands.
We are the ones to bring change.
We cannot be divided and be lone voices in wilderness anymore, but join those voices into one chorus
Our younger generation, our people and our white brothers and sisters are watching and waiting for us; for our direction and action.
Do we have the ability to come together, to unite and show them the light and direction? Are we going to show that leadership?
Let us stand united against the federal governments’ Northern Territory Emergency Response legislation and other racist policies, and the Northern Territory governments’ homeland policies by (sending statements to govt and media, walking off communities, signing on to support groups, attend a gathering) don’t let the flame die down
Richard Downs, Alyawarr Spokesperson
The only way to stop making laws because of race is to stop making laws because of race
The government cannot by bald assertion adopt by law under the cover of being a “special measure” pursuant to the Racial Discrimination Act in attempt to protect an activity targeted to a race and no others as a legal shield.
Nor can the government’s characterization as being a purpose and object to ameliorate conditions of disadvantage because of race justify the use of racial discrimination.
The social needs of Australians are not based on race as one of the criteria; it remains need.
Such naked declaration disguising the true nature of unnecessarily racial discrimination to enforce a government policy affecting no other Australian does not ipso facto meet the international requirements to justify separate racial treatment under the special measure of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (Cth).
0429 140 528
Richard Downs, August 23, 2009
I bring with me many voices of concern, from my leader’s who are custodians of our traditions and customs, passed down over generations, for many thousands of years; leaders who are the caretakers of our lands through our dreaming, mother earth, and spirits – still with us to this day, watching over all of us.
These leaders saw our children with lighter skins (termed half cast) taken away, because they were of a different colour to our people. Some of these children were never to return, but were lost in a world of inhumane treatment perpetrated by the governments’ policies of assimilation and attempt to destroy our culture. Some returned in their late 50’s and 60’s, only to find emptiness, as the older generation had already moved on to join our ancestral spirits.
Since colonization we have endured much hardship, cruelty, theft, genocide, and destruction of our culture, traditions, customs and laws.
We are people who are very easy to forgive and move on; this we have done for over 200 years, with no resentment and hatred, but always willing to extend our hands and welcome our fellow human beings to embrace them as one with our spiritual lands.
Yet the governments and the agencies have always continued their false pretence of charity, giving a little, while still retaining the power and taking away everything they could with the other hand.
Indigenous people have always put people of different races and cultures first; above selfishness, above any personal wishes.
We have always put our children alongside us so they may learn the ways of our people through teaching, listening, and stories from their elders. They learned about life, the interconnection of all living things, breeding cycles of all animals on our lands, and the songs that go with each animal; so they too have a place on earth. The songs and ceremonies were to ensure the continual survival of animals and it was our ownership, our responsibility to ensure no part of those traditions and customs were lost.
Today we see a great decline in all our species across the world; all the living creatures that we were to protect through our songs and ceremonies to ensure the cycle of life continues for all, and to ensure there was a place for them along side our human brothers and sisters across the world. But our friends have now moved on with others, continuing to follow, as we will all do one day.
This destruction across the world shows that we have not listened and we have not taken note of how best to protect our environment, species of animals and plants, cultures, languages, traditions and customs of all people.
Today, and since the introduction of the “intervention” in 2007, Indigenous people across the Northern Territory are facing a renewed and sustained level of destruction and denial of our basic human rights under the Federal government’s Northern Territory Emergency Response, introduced under the guise of protecting children.
The policies that were developed, passed through parliament quickly, implemented with martial law, and which were supported by the Labor party while in opposition, are having serious and detrimental effects on Aboriginal people across the NT.
The NTER breaches many articles of the United Nations DECLARATION on the Rights of INDIGENOUS PEOPLES, which Australia proudly declared, through its minister for Indigenous Affairs, Jenny Macklin, that it has endorsed or signed it, and that this shows “our faith in a new era of relations between states and Indigenous peoples in good faith, good will and mutual respect”. Yet it has not yet bound the Declaration to Australian government legislation or any process of implementation and continues to perpetrate racially discriminatory laws and increasingly so, across Australia.
We seek the support of the UN Special Rapporteur, Prof. James Anaya, and other international human rights bodies, to advise the Australian Government to recognize that, under Article 1, Indigenous people have the rights to the full enjoyment, as a collective or as individuals, of all human rights and fundamental freedoms as recognized in the charter of the United Nations, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and international human rights law; and Article 27, to ensure to establish and implement, in conjunction with the indigenous peoples concerned, a fair, independent, impartial, open and transparent process, giving due recognition to indigenous peoples’ laws, traditions, customs and land tenure systems, to recognize and adjudicate the rights of indigenous peoples pertaining to their lands, territories and resources, including those which were traditionally owned or otherwise occupied or used. Indigenous peoples shall have the rights to participate in this process.
There has not been one house built for Aboriginal people since the government’s announcement of $672 million for the Strategic Indigenous Housing and Infrastructure Program across the Northern Territory, designed to alleviate the chronic overcrowding and the physical and social issues that result from this, and to address significant and persistent under-funding and under-resourcing for decades by all persuasions of government. This program is now being investigated by the NT government, and has caused at least one minister to resign from her party and very nearly lost Paul Henderson, and the Labor party, government.
We were told recently by the Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Jenny Macklin, that Ampilatwatja Community will not have any new house’s built – that there is not a great enough need. The sewerage system upgrades only commenced 5 weeks after our people walked out of houses and yards flooded with raw sewerage. The Government Business Manager has promised some housing upgrades and repairs to existing buildings – and the massive commitment of a “rubbish” truck.
Yet we hear the Prime Minister and the Indigenous Affairs minister boasting that they are now closing the gap on all issues, under Council of Australian Government ministers’ agreements and the Northern Territory Emergency Response.
Release the chains of control; give us our freedom; let us walk once again as free human beings on this earth (our mother), with our ancestors, spirits, songs, and ceremonies.
Let us share our richness of cultures with others. We are all one blood and connected through our spiritual dreams of pathways, Earth, Water, Trees, Sky, and Wind, which carry our thoughts and spirits across all continents.
Let us once again embrace our younger generation into our folds to show and give them guidance, as these are our next generation of leaders who are lost between two worlds (cultures) but are at the cross roads between light and darkness.
We have an opportunity and one chance in our life time to get it right. Let your hearts guide you, not your government policies which are at the core of the destruction of Aboriginal people.
A man who takes away another man’s freedom is a prisoner of hatred; he is locked behind the bars of prejudice and narrow-mindedness. I am not truly free if I am taking away someone else’s freedom, just as surely as I am not free when my freedom is taken from me. The oppressed and the oppressor alike are robbed of their humanity.
Nelson Mandela – Freedom – Compassion
The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.
Nelson Mandela – Inspirational – Great – Challenges – Determination
20 August 2009
Professor James Anaya
Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
1211 Geneva 10
Tel. + 41 – 22 917 96 47
fax + 41 – 22 917 60 10
Dear Professor Anaya
Today, across the Northern Territory, and since 2007, Indigenous people are facing a path of destruction through the denial of our basic human rights under the Federal government’s intervention.
The Aboriginal people of Ampilatwatja, comprising 30 elders and members of the Alyawarra nation, walked off their community in July in protest against, and to remove themselves from, the Australian governments Northern Territory Emergency Response (NTER) legislation, which has subjected them to martial law, exercised by a military junta, since its enactment in 2007.
Since this time, Aboriginal people living in Prescribed Areas have been excluded from the protection of the Racial Discrimination Act and Northern Territory Anti-Discrimination legislation and have been subjected to controls in all aspects of their lives. The NTER legislation constitutes serious, substantial and persistent racial discrimination against Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory, multiple violations of the Race Convention and other international human rights covenants, to which Australia is signatory.
Aboriginal people had no option but to walk off the Prescribed Area, thereby removing them from being subject to the NTER legislation, and which additionally accords them the status of being internally displaced refugees. “We no longer have any rights to exist as humans in our own country and are outcasts in our own community”, says Richard Downs, spokesperson for the Alyawarra elders.
Aboriginal people are nothing without our land – the connection to land is real; we belong to the land, and any threat to this connection results in immediate physical and psychological illness; trauma and despair. Research conducted by the Australian Indigenous Doctors Association shows that Aboriginal people are experiencing feelings of “collective existential despair”, characterised by widespread helplessness, hopelessness and worthlessness, and with profound implications on resilience, and the social, mental and emotional wellbeing of Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory; indeed, throughout Australia.
Our basic human rights are being violated… at this very moment, we are being violated. Our children are watching their elders struggle with the multiple layers of oppression and despair, and their cultural wellbeing is being irreparably damaged. For an intervention, which is supposed to be about protecting children, to be so blatantly harmful to them, is a travesty.
The policies that were developed, and pushed through quickly under the governments’ colonial martial law, are causing severe and irreparable damage to Aboriginal people throughout the Northern Territory of Australia.
“The current status of Aboriginal people is that we are refugees in a Country we have called our own since time immemorial”, says Richard Downs, spokesman for the Alyawarra nation.
This legislation also contravenes Section 116 of the Australian Constitution: “The Commonwealth shall not make any law for prohibiting the free exercise of any religion”. By depriving the Alyawarra nation the right to their religious and cultural freedoms by forcing them to move off their land to escape a military junta, thereby deprives them the right of access to their homelands to fulfil their cultural and religious obligations.
“Past and present policies continue to deny our right to be within our homelands on our own terms”, states Michael Anderson, leader of the Euahlayi Nation of northwest NSW and southwest Queensland and elected spokesman of the 16 tribes in the Gumilaroi nation.
Therefore the Alyawarra nation makes the following recommendations and respectfully request that you:
1. Register the Alyawarra nation as refugees under the International Refugee Convention as Internally Displaced Persons, thereby according them the international obligations and protections this status affords, and
2. Ensure that the Australian government is aware of, and fulfils, its obligations under the International Refugee Convention, the UN Charter for Human Rights, the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and other international human rights covenants, to which Australia purports to be a signatory.
Richard Downs – Alyawarra Nation firstname.lastname@example.org 0428 611 169
PO Box 1360
TENNANT CREEK 0861
Michael Anderson – Euahlayi Nation email@example.com 0427 292 492
My solitude, my strength
I hear the sounds of nature around me, the soft gentle breeze; the rustle of leave’s and sounds of insects. I watch the red western sky with its golden rays as the sun sets I watch in silence around me as it disappears over the distance horizon.
As shadows of darkness approach, around me sounds of nature awaken to distance moonlit glow, sounds of insect’s calls and chatter of crickets. My thoughts and dreams are of people long ago, cultures and languages ruminants of people who wandered mother earth long ago, as her children, times of aplenty and times of hardship.
Changes are inevitable and for better we are told but at what cost and destruction to mother earth, her children, people, animals we are one and as one we are disappearing ever more.
The sound of distant lonely wail breaks my thoughts as a dingo calls in search of a mate, on padded pores they travel on, silent and in stealth gleam of yellow glow shows movement, how long we wait my friend , before we to are gone on our journey, you are part of my ancestors, your ancestors to have journeyed afar
with our people, we are now as brothers and closer ever more as the controls of measures ever encircle tighter, yet we seek freedom, where our spirits may roam free, let our mothers soft whispering breeze carry our thoughts, cries over the mountains, through trees to distant shores. My friend we are like the grains of sand ever drifting, blowing and changing directions, yet we are free in our place of solitude, our time for ever how long that maybe.
I to feel your loneliness, and sorrow yet I feel spiritual energy within to continue on a journey to right from wrong
Justice shall not be revenge, hate, resentment is not of our ways. Embracing of all cultures, humanity as all equal shall be our continued goal.