Cabinet Papers 1988-89 The Treaty, ATSIC, Deaths in Custody

Cabinet papers 1988-89: lost in the space race; Aboriginal treaty; body searching; tax file numbersDate

SMH January 1, 2015

Damien Murphy

The treaty that never came

Bob Hawke attended the Barunga festival in the Northern Territory in June 1988 and promised an historic treaty with the Aboriginal people.

The Hawke government had been promising to improve representation of Aboriginal interests and issues, but by 1985 attempts to frame a “national model” for land rights had stalled in compromise, amid farmer and miner opposition and distrust from Aboriginal groups. So Hawke’s treaty had more than a touch of the sun about it.

In 1987 the new minister for Aboriginal affairs, Gerry Hand, had proposed the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) and the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody was established.

The commission’s workload had first been estimated as 44 reported deaths requiring investigation, but already that number had increased to 120 (99 cases were finally selected for investigation). But in February 1988, Hand and the Minister for Justice, Michael Tate, told cabinet that it would be “unacceptable” to limit the set limits to thenumber of cases to be investigated, just as it was similarly politically unwise to significantly delay the release of the commission’s findings.

The expense of additional commissioners and staff was justified by the imperative of concluding a full report as soon possible. Cabinet agreed to four commissioners; a fifth was appointed in November 1988. The terms of reference were widened.

In April 1989, when Commissioner Hal WoottonWootten had weighed whether the practices he was examining amounted to “genocide”, the cabinet was persuaded that thehandling of “public perceptions” must be a particular focus.

Whatever the prospects of a treaty, various issues were brought to the cabinet’s attention, including ranging from mining on traditional lands; the lack of any progress since the 1970s in excising “living areas” from Northern Territory stock routes; and through to the basic, entrenched and widespread social disadvantage of Aboriginal people, were brought to cabinet’s attention.

The 1988-89 budget included a 23 per cent increase in spending on within the Aboriginal affairs portfolio, with a focus on in the provision of essential services for communities.

Hand argued strenuously against the Expenditure Review Committee’s concerns that the Community Development Employment Projects scheme – by then reaching urban communities in New South Wales and Victoria – enabled recipients to “double-dip” into Family Assistance Supplements.

Hand insisted CDEP was a labour market program, not a welfare oneprogram. Though he won While winning his case on the day, Hand was on the losing side of the scheme’s longer-term assessment of the scheme.

He also Meanwhile Hand argued also for more money for ATSIC. “If ATSIC starts its life under-resourcedHand advised cabinet, we doom it to failure,” he warned the cabinet.

ATSIC finally first met the following April. John Howard closed what opponents called “the experiment with indigenous self-government” in 2004.
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Sovereign Union First Nations letter to GG, MPs, UN – Aboriginal sovereignty never ceded

Letter to the Governor-General, all MPs and the United Nations about Aboriginal sovereignty never ceded

Sovereign Union of First Nations and Peoples in Australia

Asserting Australia’s First Nations Sovereignty into Governance

13 February 2013


Dear Governor-General,

Re: Sovereign Treaty not the Act of Recognition

Please find attached Act of Sovereign Union that has been endorsed and adopted by several and various nations within Australia.

Correspondence between us, the Queen of England, Prime Minister Ian Cameron of UK and his Parliament, which was responded to by the British Foreign Office confirmed to us that there has never been any form of Treaty, Compact or arrangement that signified that Aboriginal Nations and Peoples around this nation have ever ceded their sovereignty to England during and after British invasion in 1788, nor is there any evidence that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples have ever acquiesced to the current Australian system after the establishment of the various State legislatures nor to the Federal government after Federation in 1901.

Reading of past court cases from the 1830s and the 1840s clearly demonstrates that the legal system during its formation in the colonies was at a total loss as to the legal status of Aboriginal people, in particular the jurisdiction of the courts and their ability to prosecute Aboriginal people.

In the Jack Congo Murrell case of 1837 the full Supreme Court concluded that they had legal jurisdiction because as Chief Justice Forbes states if Aborigines were to be afforded the protection of English law then they must be subject to it. In legal terms the Supreme Court erred, because any reasonable person within the legal jurisprudence knows that if there are no legal foundations or precedents and/or in the absence of legislation, then this decision is flawed. In response to the court’s conclusion Jack Congo Murrell’s lawyer, Sidney Thomas, then said that if Murrell was to be prosecuted as a British subject then surely he was entitled to bring a case against the British Crown for compensation for the lands that had now been taken from him by force.

It was at this point in time that the court examined how land can be acquired and the court concluded that land could only be acquired if the occupiers of the land were conquered as a result of a declared war; voluntary cession on the part of the original inhabitants; or the country was barren and therefore unoccupied by people which made it terra nullius. We know the court in the Murrell case decided that the Aboriginal people were in no way in a state of civility that they could be regarded as an organised society governed by their own, capable of believing in the higher order of the Supreme Being e.g. God, thus they were without religion of any form which categorised them into a state that could be likened to a civil sovereign society of people and as a consequence the country was not peopled by a civilised society and therefore terra nullius. It was from this position that Australia maintained the lie of terra nullius, that is, until the High Court Mabo 1992 decision. Since this date all we have seen are newly imposed injustices through legislation at the Federal and State levels that continue the perpetration of a lie, creating laws that prevents them from having to pay just compensation for land and our resources being illegally removed from our Peoples. Therefore maintaining the tyranny of dictatorship over our Peoples and thereby maintaining our Peoples’ state of poverty, having to rely on government and welfarism for our continued survival.

In respect to this proposed Act of Recognition we recommend this matter be referred to the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs to look at its possible legal impacts on Aboriginal Peoples’ continuing sovereignty. Aboriginal people do not want to be involved or engaged in deceitful legal deceptions. We are tired of being dictated to and remind you that Senator Aiden presented a petition to Senate declaring Aboriginal Nations and Peoples have never ceded our sovereignty.

We have looked at the Bill for the Act of Recognition and the words chosen are so deceptive that the legislative draughtsmen have chosen words ‘first inhabitants’. The wording does not give recognition to any legal title First Nations and Peoples have as owners of this land under OUR law and custom. The words chosen in respect of our status as First Nations and Peoples is equivalent to that of a kangaroo or wallaby who also occupy this land under their customs, whereas as we humans have no title proclaimed as the original owners of this land under our law and customs. We are always classified as guardians or custodians, which is a clever legal play on words, that fails to give recognition to our title as the true land owners.

In conclusion it is more appropriate at this time for the Federal Government to be considering a plebiscite amongst Aboriginal Nations and Peoples as to whether they want to become part of an assimilated multicultural society. But it appears that all political parties continue to pursue their own political agenda as defined in the 1930s and 1960s that Aboriginal Peoples must be assimilated into a single Australian society observing the same customs and beliefs as all other Australians. But this is absolutely contradictory when we consider the Jews, Catholics, Anglicans etc. who have their own private schools. Moreover, they have their own churches, mosques synagogues and temples where they pray and observe their own religion. As Aboriginal Peoples we are not afforded the same courtesies and respect.


Michael Anderson


Sovereign Union of First Nations and Peoples in Australia

1 Attachment:

Act of Sovereign Union between First Nations and Peoples in Australia

Whereas in the course of human events and history there are times when it becomes absolutely necessary for one Nation or People to dissolve the political and legal bonds which have connected them with another;

Whereas we now call upon the powers of the Creators of the DREAMING to enforce the natural authority that establishes a decent respect of humankind. It is required that we should declare the causes which impel us to the separation from our oppressor and to now declare our unity under our DREAMING and songlines, as we have since time immemorial;

Whereas we hold the Law of the Dreaming, as evidence of authority that all people are born equal, and that they were granted by the Creator certain sovereign inalienable rights; among these are the right to life, liberty, the right to maintain the Law of the DREAMING and the pursuit of spiritual wholeness and personal wellbeing;

Whereas to secure these rights in the modern world, governments are instituted among different Nations and Peoples, deriving their just powers from the consent of the people and the spiritual authority of the Dreaming. Whenever any form of government becomes destructive, it is the right of the Peoples to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, ensuring that at the very foundation of this process are principles based upon the rule of Law of the Peoples and organising its powers to ensure the most pleasing of outcomes for peaceful existence, safety of the Peoples’ happiness and wellbeing;

Whereas prudence will dictate that governments long established should, without prejudice, support the objective of the Peoples who choose to exercise their inalienable sovereign right to be governed by their own peers in accordance with their Laws and under their authority;

Whereas all experience has shown that humankind is more disposed to suffer, while the wrongs are sufferable, than to correct them by abolishing the entrenched subjugation. But, when a long train of abuses and usurpations derides the rights of Peoples, which reduces them to absolute despotism, it is the right of the oppressed, it is their sacred duty, to reject and throw off such tyrannical governance and to provide new guards for their future security and to pursue their own goals and objectives. Such has been the patient sufferance of First Nations Peoples of this island continent now known as Australia; and such is now the necessity which requires us to dispel the existing destructive systems that oppress us; and to reinforce our own systems of governance, in accordance with our Law of the DREAMING;

We resolve to adopt and adhere to the following Statement of Principles:

Our Peoples are equal in dignity and rights to all other Peoples, while recognising the rights of all other Peoples to be different and to be respected as such.

We recognise that the diversity of Nations and other Peoples contributes to cultures and civilisations, which constitute the heritage of all humankind.

As First Nations and Peoples we assert the right to freely exercise our basic human rights free from discrimination of any kind.

It is recognised and accepted that we as First Nations Peoples have been deprived of our basic human rights and fundamental freedoms, which resulted from British colonisation and dispossession.

The colonial usurpation of our lands, waters, and natural resources has prevented us from exercising our right to development in accordance with our sovereign inherent cultural, socio-economic and spiritual interest in these modern times.

As First Nations and Peoples it is our sovereign inherent right to have control of our lands, including our natural resources, our environment, our waters, which is derived from our ancient political, economic, religious and social structures in accordance with our culture, Law and philosophies.

It is our inherent sovereign right to declare and advance our interests in all lands, waters, natural resources, subsurface and airspace as decreed by our DREAMINGS and songlines, through our obligation to Mother Earth and Creation.

We have an ancient inherent obligation to protect our heritage and to control and regulate its use.

It is recognised and accepted that we have an ancient sovereign inherent right to protect, control and regulate our ancient practices that ensure their sustainability and thereby establishes equity in development and management of our natural environment and ecosystems.

We recognise and accept that our Nations and Peoples have a sovereign inherent right to freely determine our future and way of life, with each other and with other sovereign nation states, in a spirit of co-existence and co-operation, thereby ensuring mutual benefit and respect.

Any and all such agreements, arrangements, ‘treaties’ shall be consistent with all international laws that govern human rights and human interaction.
We have a right to engage all human rights covenants and conventions in order to promote our hopes and aspirations as Nations and Peoples.

Nothing in this set of principles may be used to deny any Nations or Peoples their sovereign inherent rights to freely pursue their right of self-determination while asserting sovereignty.

This statement of principles is a step forward for the recognition, promotion and protection of our sovereign inherent rights and freedoms in respect to our future development and wellbeing.

Signed this ………..… of ……………….2013 At:………………………………………………………

Name: Nation: Signature:


Treaty, constitutional recognition – U.N. terminology – First Nations Peoples

Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
Seventy-seventh session
2 –27 August 2010
Consideration of reports submitted by States parties under article 9 of the convention
Concluding observations of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

Distr.: General
27 August 2010
Original: English
Advance unedited version


“Drawing the attention of the State party to the Committee’s general recommendation 23 (1997) on the rights of indigenous peoples, the Committee reiterates its recommendation that the State party increase efforts to ensure a meaningful reconciliation with Indigenous peoples and that any measures to amend the Australian Constitution include the recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders as First Nations Peoples. In this regard, the Committee recommends that the State party consider the negotiation of a treaty agreement to build a constructive and sustained relationship with Indigenous peoples. The Committee also recommends that the State party provide the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples with the adequate resources to become fully operational by January 2011 and support its development.” (emphasis added – songlines).

full document:

Thanks to WGAR news
WGAR: Working Group for Aboriginal Rights (Australia)

WGAR Website:

Aotearoa New Zealand continues to lead the way.

“East Coast iwi weighs up $110m cash offer

East Coast iwi Ngati Porou has been offered one of the biggest Treaty of Waitangi settlement packages, comprising $110 million in cash plus assets including forestry, carbon credits, 5869ha of conservation reserves and parks and the option to purchase schools and police stations.

The settlement comprises five elements – reconciliation, land and resources, culture, an accord between the Crown and Ngati Porou, and further financial and commercial redress.

Reconciliation includes an apology from the Crown, and a cash payment of $20 million “towards all of Ngati Porou’s historical, cultural and social redress aspirations”. ”

full story:

Aotearoa-New Zealand Treaty Resource Centre

Treaty Resource Centre – He Puna Matauranga o Te Tiriti

FREE Applying the Treaty of Waitangi Course for community organisations. This course will be run again in 2010.

If you have an RSS reader you can make a link to the home page to be informed of new courses as they are posted. You will then be notified automatically when a new course is listed.