Action to get indigenous voices in Australian Senate – see end of long article

The present level of debate about chaos in the lives of indigenous people in the Northern Territory can be compared to a group of land creatures trying to make sense of the features and behaviour of a dolphin, washed up on the shore, without acknowledging the existence of water,
Tragically for the dolphin, gasping on the shores and waiting to for help to be placed back in the water, the land creatures prefer to invent imaginary personality characteristics to explain the dolphin’s behaviour.

That is, the present debate about chaos in the lives of indigenous people in the Northern Territory is proceeding without any acknowledgement of the oppressive conditions under which Australia’s First Peoples had had to cope since 1788.

Many of the Westernised voices we hear in this debate are those who have accepted the terms of the debate which empower the colonising powers and which systematically make non-sense out of the lives of First Peoples.


Those people, many of good intent, make use of a suburban world-view which has a very narrow focus on ‘domestic violence’ and is resolutely blind to true domestic violence in Australia – domestic as opposed to international – which is the denial of the status of First Peoples as First Peoples.

This kind of ‘domestic violence’ operates in these days as forms of psychic violence. Formerly it took the form of murder of the body. Today it is aimed at murder of the spirit.

The view of ‘domestic violence’ invoked by those who are unable to wrap their minds around the existence of the indigenous struggle in this country belongs in glossy women’s magazines (hence the element of hysteria) not in serious debate.

The serious debate, for those who wish to restore full well-being to First Peoples, proceeds quite differently.


Firstly, the serious and mature debate, does not deny the existence of degrees of chaos in the lives of contemporary First Peoples. It does question the extend of this chaos in comparison with other parts of life and asks for far better information about things which are presented in the media without any contextual and comparative materials.


It does not accept that the present situation is accurately characterised by ‘child abuse’. There is a whole abuse of a Peoples going on here in Australia today.

It is “Peoples Abuse” coming from non-indigenous sources not ‘child abuse’ which is the real situation.

And a key target in this “Peoples abuse” remains, in general, all those who seek to keep the original cultures of this country alive and, in particular, indigenous men. Knocking them out is central to the cloning process by which introduced forms of culture seek to dominate Australia life.

Kerry O’Brien, on the ABC 7:30 TV report, asked Minister for Indigenous Affairs Mal Brough – the man Anglo-Australia places in charge of the well-being of indigenous people’s well-being – if the fact that indigenous children were dying at excessive rates was not at least as significant as child abuse – if dying was not worse than abuse and worthy of immediate action – and the Minister – clearly lost for words – responded in an entirely inappropriate way. Death of indigenous children was not the issue, apparently.

The heirs of the long history of child abuse in Australia – when indigenous men, women and children were brutally attacked and murdered during the expansion of the Anglo-Australian ‘settlement’ – now occupy the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.

For them to now feign real concern for the children of their imaginary Australian nation – and not to show real concern for restoring complete well-being for the whole of First Peoples families – is a fraud.

The interests of children in any culture are best protected by ensuring that the adults in their lives are well-reourced, affirmed in their own Being as determined by their culture, treated with real respect.

We well know, in Australia, that the state cannot provide to indigenous (or any) children what it is that their families can provide. The legacy of Stolen Generations, both in this country and elsewhere, requires us all to reject this attempt of PM Howard to drive a wedge between another generation and those who have their real interests at heart.

How can the state possibly instruct a Tennant Creek youth, for example, in matters crucial to knowing his Wirnkarra (Dreaming) Being – of who he really is, his responsibilities vis-à-vis his relations and country, and his life path/career to carry on the law? The state denies the existence of these life dimensions.

The ‘nation’ which has been founded by violent and genocidal means is a nation which had no place for First Peoples. The original peoples and their cultures were excluded from this lethal White Australia fantasy structure. The voices of Australia’s senior lawmen are not heard in the Australian Parliaments let alone in the Department of Prime Minister and

It is easier to hear the voice of a distant Prince in the United Kingdom seeking to play ruler in as Governor-General than it is hear the voices of traditional owners who have been seeking to communicate with non-indigenous authorities since first contact.

This modern Australian ‘nation’ of Queen and non-indigenous regime is obsolete.


As surely as the Hebrews were captives in Egypt, Australia’s First Peoples are being held as captives in their own country by a modern nation-state premised on the deny of their existence. Chaos can be the only result of a modern nation-state which such unstable foundations.

To reduce chaos, we must find new foundations – those which are profoundly rooted an acknowledgement of the massive damage which has been done to First Peoples by modern Australia and which seeks to heal that damage through new ways of relating based on an enduring spirit of cultural partnership.

It is a basic premise that any well-formed discussion will acknowledge that First Peoples in the Northern Territory are First Peoples captive in a modern nation-state.

All those who deny this basic fact, or who do not understand this, should not be taken seriously since they are (consciously or unconsciously) pursuing a Westernising and ethnocidal cultural agenda under which well-being can never be provided to First Peoples.

Many people in these debates get caught up in a process which seeks to redeem their Western worldview (and there is a wide range of them). The main task confronting them, however, is to learn to fashion new ears for themselves so they can better hear senior indigenous voices and new eyes so they can begin to see their true surroundings.

The mature analysis involved does not deny that chaos exists in the lives of contemporary First Peoples.

What it does deny is the validity of the one-sided monocultural means by which that chaos is interpreted.

One role of the modern nation-state is to ‘fix’ the means by which experience is interpreted. The mix of factors which go into the state sanctioned means of interpreting experience include the protection of all manner of non-indigenous investments and privileges.

Anyone genuinely seeking to restore well-being to First Peoples must, at a bare minimum, critically question the means by which chaos in the lives of First Peoples is interpreted by the same state which is founded on the denial of the relationship between First Peoples and their living countries.

What we require at this time for a healing approach are means of interpreting this chaos which are not only comprehensive but which are also culturally two-sided. This is a tough challenge, but one which must be seriously tackled if we are ever to escape from the present conceptual prisonhouse which is “modern Australia”.


Secondly, the serious debate refuses to accept the view that the chaos in the lives of First Peoples in the Northern Territory originates in their lives and in their communities. These people, having been terrorised by cattle-men, police and agents of the Anglo-Australian state, have had to live under forcefully imposed non-indigenous systems of law.

While they have, in some cases and to varying degrees, managed to keep core parts of their own law alive, the system of non-indigenous law which has been – and is – forcefully imposed upon them is premised on the denial of their very existence as peoples-with-countries.

To maturely accept ownership of the chaos in the lives of First Peoples in the Northern Territory, we must turn our full critical attention to the Legislative Assembly in Darwin (which refuses to recognise the existence of two systems of law) and, especially, to Parliament House in Canberra (which these days of a concentration of power in the hands of an Executive has effectively been reduced to the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet).

A very large degree of the chaos in the lives of First Peoples in the Northern Territory originates from these sources. First Peoples have been ‘sung’ into chaos by the anti-life songs which pass for well-formed legislation in monocultural Houses of Parliament in Australia.

The present ‘crisis’ in indigenous peoples lives has been ongoing in Australia since 1788. It has been ongoing in the Americas for over 500 years. Before that, the ‘crisis’ originating in European life extended into the lives of people in the Middle East, with the Crusades, Significantly, that Middle East crisis continues at the present time. The origins of ‘crisis’ in the lives of other peoples requires Europeans to reform their Ways.

The lack of a culturally appropriate form of representation for First Peoples to participate, in a spirit of cultural partnership, in the governance of this country must be the area of focus to be addressed – as a fundamental objective and priority – by non-indigenous peoples in Australia.


Thirdly, and this is the most important component of a mature debate about chaos in the lives of First Peoples in the Northern Territory, we are yet to hear from senior indigenous lawmen in the Northern Territory.

The absence of these voices means that, in lieu of a genuine cross-cultural dialogue we are, once again, being invited to participate in a monocultural monologue conducted (‘for the good of indigenous people’ – of course) entirely in terms of Western values and Western worldviews.


This treats First Peoples as ‘objects’ rather than as peoples who can only be represented by themselves.

Senior indigenous lawmen are people whose lives represent the very living spirit of this county. What they have to say may sound strange to ears formed to make sense in terms of an “English only” Australia. That is not their problem. There has been over two hundred years for English speakers to come up to speed and learn the languages of THIS country.

It is no longer good enough for major forums on indigenous issues in the Northern Territory to begin with a simple welcome to country or acknowledgement of country and then proceed with a monocultural monologue rooted entirely in Western values and Western worldviews.

If the voices of senior indigenous lawmen are not to be heard, than that forum cannot seriously discuss indigenous business until their senior cultural partners arrive.

Discussing actions necessary to reconstitute Australia – to reform the 1901 Constitution and Parliaments – and how to get real resources urgently required by First Peoples should keep people busy while waiting.


Two exampleof the need for real resources come to mind at this moment.

1. the Mutitjulu community at Uluru urgently needs support and resources.

2 the new National Indigenous Tetevision service needs real help and support in order to create jobs in local communities to make television programs.

There are a lot more cases where communities can use real support and resources.

People so moved (which is what a peoples’ movement is all about) may be able to provide real support via the relevant local community Councils or other community controlled bodies.


The time for reforming English ways is here. To reduce chaos in the lives of First Peoples, non-indigenous peoples have to make reforming your ways (in order to provide spaces for First Peoples to lives as First Peoples in all parts of Australian life) a fundamental priority.

Now is not the time for hasty and ill-conceived action of the type laid down by the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.

In place of a three point military plan, complete with exit strategy, we must respectfully ask to hear the voices of our senior cultural partners and to learn from them how they interpret this chaos in their lives and what they request us to do about it.

In the absence of those who can sing the songs for country to guide us, we will only cause more damage to Australian life.


When these voices are clearly heard, and if they are in agreement, we need to commit all of this country’s available resources to repairing all of the damage caused to original Australian life since 1788. It may take many generations to achieve this.

We should dedicate the 21st century to work together in a spirit of cultural partnership with the aim of healing Australian life.

We will need to reform the 1901 Constitution and to reform our Parliaments and legislative assemblies to provide space for First Peoples as First Peoples in our systems of governance at all levels.

And for this, a new peoples movement is required in which all manner of minor conceptual craftspeople can address the challenges of fashioning new eyes and ears, as well as experimenting in finding two-sided and culturally balanced forms of representation – on all levels of life.


What non-indigenous people can do, without the need for further approval from indigenous Elders, is to serious address the issues and actions required to reform the modern Australian nation-state in order to provide spaces (and resources) for culturally appropriate forms of indigenous representation.

We have been told often enough that it is up to non-indigenous people to reform the non-indigenous side of life.

Given the enormous gerrymander which has developed since 1788, the workings of ‘democracy’ make it impossible for First Peoples to correct the imbalances required for Two Peoples to become level.

What is required, in the absence of a majority of non-indigenous people suddenly overcoming their conditioning (reinforced daily by Western media) regaining their sanity and coming to their senses, may be to aim to gain genuine indigenous representation in the Australian Senate in the coming Federal election in 2007. There is a small but significant number of Australia people in the reconciliation movement ready to act – all that is required is some means of coordination of a campaign.

In the past, bodies like ANTaR and the various reconciliation councils have failed to mobilise a peoples movement during elections on the grounds that they do not get involved in politics.

The issue of getting representative indigenous voices into the Australian Senate – as a matter of urgency transcends party politics.

Now is the time for a peoples movement to be mobilised, one way or the other.

What is needed are indigenous candidates for Senate elections who are clearly endorsed by the Elders of their communities – to be supported by non-indigenous people, especially members of local reconciliation groups, working through national secretariat such as a body like ANTaR.

If you are a member of a local reconciliation group or ANTaR, you can take action today by putting the election of indigenous candidates into the Australian Senate onto the agenda for your group’s next meeting – and, with time rapidly running out, moving to take real action.


1. Short term – Indigenous representatives (man and woman) in the Senate in all State and Territories in the coming 2007 Federal election.

2. Longer term – In order to correct the historical gerrymander which prevents First Peoples’ representation in the Australian Parliament, and in the absence of culturally appropriate forms of representation, and with the abolition of ATSIC, to amend the Australian Constitution to provide for indigenous representation (man and woman from each State and Territory) in the Senate and the House of Representatives.


Other suggestions or ideas – to post them on this songlines blog contact:

Bruce (Japaljari) Reyburn