STATEMENT BY LES MALEZER
NATIONAL CONGRESS OF AUSTRALIA’S FIRST PEOPLES
19 April 2011
I pay my respects to the Gadigal peoples and the Eora nation on whose land we stand today.
I also pledge my absolute loyalty to the Aboriginal peoples of Australia and the Torres Strait Islander peoples of Australia, whom I will always love and serve without reservation.
They are my life.
I am very deeply honoured to have been elected as the national Co-
Chair for the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples.
I congratulate Jody Broun for her election also as the national Co-
Chair and look forward to working with her within a strong partnership in the Congress.
This is a truly historical occasion where, for the first time since colonisation began, our people have exercised the right to unreservedly elect their own national leaders in their own national organisation.
As such it is the very first step towards self-determination, which is our political right, our human right, our inherent right and our right to equality with all other peoples of the world including the peoples of the Australian nation.
The Congress is about to begin its voyage, a voyage to unite our peoples, to end systemic racism and injustices against us, and to wrench control of our lives and the future for our succeeding generations back into the hands of people themselves.
Our next step is to convince the National Congress in June, at the meeting of the 120 delegates in the three chambers, to take instructions for unity and purpose, and to elect the six leaders who will represent the interests of those three chambers.
Together, our elected leadership in the Congress will implement the agenda of the peoples, in a manner that is transparent and accountable to the peoples.
I look forward to this next step when Jody Broun and myself will have the chance to meet with all the delegates attending the National Congress in a few weeks time.
I remind all our peoples that the Congress is their Congress, and it stands ready to take instruction. But to be an active and contributing partner you must be a member. I have taken that step, to be a member of the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples. It is time for you to also take that step, if you have not already done so.
Let me tell you something about myself.
For nearly 40 years I have been a defender of human rights.
I have worked and fought for our rights at the highest levels, in the Government of Australia, in the Government of Queensland, in the National Aboriginal Conference, in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission.
But most important to me is that I have worked extensively in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations, and I have worked closely and collaboratively with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
I have learned how our people and their communities make their decisions and how they fight to retain control over their lives and their country.
All of these experiences have been part of my training as a human rights defender.
I have worked alongside activists, pacifists, lawyers, priests, politicians, researchers and entrepreneurs. I have plied my trade and learnt about development, decision-making, change, engagement, law- making, administration of justice, dispute resolution and governance.
In this process I have fought against the evils of racism and hatred, oppression and lies, greed and thuggery.
In 2008 I received the Australian Human Rights Award. It was one of the greatest gifts I could ever receive.
Perhaps an even greater moment was on 13 September 2007 when I addressed the United Nations General Assembly, speaking on behalf of the 350 million Indigenous Peoples of the world, at the moment the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was adopted.
My message to the General Assembly was a simple one. The Declaration was a huge achievement because it was a universal standard adopted not only by the representatives of the States but also by agreement with the Indigenous Peoples.
The adoption of the Declaration sent a very clear signal around the world. It was time for States to enter into partnerships with the Indigenous Peoples to bring the right of self-determination to realisation.
We can be very pleased the Government of Australia pledged on 3 April 2009 support for the Declaration and the rights contained in that Declaration.
We can be pleased the Government of Australia pledged financial support to the establishment of the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples.
However it is time for the Government of Australia to show the signs of policy change that we expect.
I am going to be up front about those changes. Tomorrow, in my capacity as Chairperson of FAIRA, I fly to Tasmania to join the protestors at the Jordan River, in Brighton, to fight for Aboriginal cultural heritage to be protected in this country.
I cannot accept that our people are in this day and age being locked up because they are fighting for their inherent rights to their culture and identity in Australia.
My personal commitment is also to end the emergency intrusion into the Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory.
The available evidence exposes the political fiction used to justify the intervention. This emergency is not about protecting the women and children. It is about race politics and the lack of political accountability by government.
The $2 billion wasted on this supposedly ’emergency’ measure could have and should have been paid as compensation to the women and children whose lives were destroyed under the ‘Stolen Generation’ policies.
If these changes are not forthcoming then we should ask, is the Government’s prepared to accept its mistakes and is it prepared take a partnership approach with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples?
That is the question for the future wellbeing of our people.