REGIONAL WEEKEND OF HEALING ACTION – Sept 8 and 9, 2007.
Just when we should be celebrating the fruits of the 1967 campaign to empower the Federal Government to make laws for the benefit of Australia’s original peoples, we get more evidence that things have gone seriously off track.
The spirit of 1967 has been replaced with the 1950s attitude of Australia, which itself should have been the tail end of “Australian for the White Man” and the White Australia policy of the Australian Constitution of 1901.
ENGLISH (RULES) ONLY
Today we learn that the “ English Only” approach of past times is very much alive and well and residing in the mind of the Federal Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Mal Brough.
Rather than realising that all non-indigenous people in Australian should be learning to speak the languages of this country, his approach is to insist that those who – despite all odds – do speak their original languages shall be forced to speak English.
These languages speakers are a real treasure, and they should be provided with whatever resources they require to retain their languages and, if they and their community Elders so choose, be provided with whatever additional resources they require to become competently bi-lingual.
Mal Brough – his face a mask of pious concern, his heart beating to the arrhythmia of cultural genocide – has also brought a new low in stand-over tactics in the town camps of Alice Springs, where real healing energy is urgently required.
PM HOWARD – A DISAPPEARING MAN
The decade long Howard government’s cultural genocide approach towards this county’s First Peoples grows more repugnant by the day.
Prime Minister John Howard, has never governed for the well-being of the wider Australian constituency, let alone indigenous peoples. He has always been a ‘misleader’ and never a leader for the whole country. Instead of growing in stature to fill the office, you can actually see him diminishing daily.
If the present Australian Prime Minister will not say “Sorry” to the Stolen Generations and their families, then he must be replace by one who will – and who will mean it.
ONUS ON US TO CHANGE THINGS
Rather than compiling a list of the Howard government’s utter failure to nourish and protect the well-being of surviving First Peoples (does anyone think otherwise?) the question is “What action are we going to take to change this appalling state of affairs?”
There is a historical gerrymander which prevents indigenous people from being able to have a real say in the governance of this country. The time to have insisted on “one person one vote” was 1788.
The main burden for changing the policies of the Australian government falls on non-indigenous people – many of whom are very well resourced and in a position to make both a personal and financial contribution.
This must be done in cultural partnership with local indigenous peoples.
2005, 2006 – CALL FOR NATIONAL DAY OF ACTION
During a forum as part “Re-conciliation Ready or Not!” exhibition at Wollongong City Gallery (NSW) in Reconciliation week 2005, Aunty Barbara N. put forward the idea of a National Day of Action.
One message from that event was “Provide land for Koories so we can heal themselves”. Another was “Make Treaty the major item on every agenda!”
But organising such a national day of action has proved to be a big task.
The best we could achieve was the Wollongong “Treaty Now!” event in Reconciliation Week last year, 2006.
Over 50 people attended and it was a great success within itself – all those attending felt spiritually recharged. It was really a magic event. We did not change the world overnight, but we grew in our inner strength and quiet resolve to make life better for all in this country. To heal life.
Aunty Barbara endorsed her call for a National Day of Action at that “Treaty Now!” forum.
We thought then that we would be working with the NSW Greens and ANTaR NSW to make this happen on 3 June, Mabo Day, this year, with a focus on Canberra (and local events elsewhere for those who could not make it to Canberra).
For a variety of reasons, the planning work for such a major event did not come together. That must not stop us from dealing with unfinished business.
We did prove we could do something at the local level though. Now it is tome to take that next step towards maturity – the Regional level.
INSPIRATION FROM 1967
With this week’s celebration of the success of the long campaign for rights for Aborigines (which took place across Australia since 1788 and took shape in the 1930s only to be interrupted by WWII) we are reminded that these matters can take decades if not lifetimes of steady effort.
REGIONAL WEEKEND OF HEALING ACTION 2007?
With the Federal election coming later this year, we should continue to work towards a National Day of Healing Action – that is, to build on Aunty Barbara’s original idea and extend it to include a wider reform agenda – this will give us all the room to include many other aspects of the reconciliation process.
Such as? “Bring back the indigenous social justice package which was to be part of the deal which provided “certainty” for business after the Mabo decision in 1992.”
But if we cannot achieve a national day of action, we may be able to take another step and hold a regional weekend of healing action at many places across the country.
TIMING IS EVERYTHING – APEC LEADERS IN OZ
A good section of the world’s media will be focusing on Sydney and Australia for the APEC meeting which runs for a week in early September, and focuses on the weekend of Saturday 8 and Sunday 9 September.
For people of good heart, who are committed to peaceful and non-violent means of demonstration, the weekend of 8 and 9 of September represents a unique opportunity to make a statement about the need to resolve unfinished business and to so in a healing way.
APEC Leaders from our neighbouring countries could also well benefit from knowing that the high handed approach PM Howard brings to dealing with indigenous people in PNG and the Pacific is not justified in light of the systemic failure to address institutionalised racism and associated problems in this country.
REGIONAL ACTIONS ACROSS THE COUNTRY?
During these trigger happy times, we may be well advised to stay away from Sydney. The Masters of War have found their spiritual home in the Sydney CBD, and they are sure to attract the frustrated energy of the conflict feeders much beloved by mainstream media sub-editors.
We will do well to stay away from the Sydney CBD if our aim is effective action. Let them have the imaginary ‘centre’ while we do something in the centre of where we actually live – in our local and regional communities.
Instead of one large demo (in the old style), there could be local/regional action-oriented events in different places throughout the country on the weekend of the APEC meeting in Sydney.
Groups of indigenous and non-indigenous people who are working in a spirit of cultural partnership could arrange for creative actions (bands, party Saturday night and speakers?) in their own regions.
CAREFUL CONSIDERATION REQUIRED
A peoples movement does not have a ‘central committee’ to make decisions and to provide leadership.
You are the decision maker. And what you really endorse is what you will act on and put into action.
If this idea for a REGIONAL WEEKEND OF HEALING ACTION during the APEC leaders meeting resonates with you, please remember to put it into your conversations when you are talking with people about what we can do to change things. These opportunities will arise during the coming reconciliation week.
All of these suggestions require careful consideration by people and especially with those First Peoples who are the local hosts for such local events.
If you consider a local/regional event as part of a Weekend of Healing Action during the APEC leaders meeting has some merit, please discuss it in relevant forums over reconciliation week – with the aim of forming a local working group – with both indigenous and non-indigenous people – working in a spirit of cultural partnership, and a first meeting to take place in June.
Viva la reconciliation revolution!