Post Invasion Day 2012 – where to?

Image shows Yorta Yorta land

“Decolonisation, once viewed as the formal process of handing over the instruments of government, is now recognised as a long-term process involving the bureaucratic, cultural, linguistic and psychological divesting of colonial power” — linda tuhiwai-smith

Invasion Day speeches, Brisbane 2012

There was a strong call not to cede sovereign indigenous rights  by an aboriginal woman at parliament house, Brisbane Invasion day 2012.

Her speech was followed by several non-indigenous people.

National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) Speaker

Short speech by non-indigenous woman at Invasion day rally

In the evening the dry wind blows
From the hills and across the plains
I close my eyes and I am standing
In a boat on the sea again
And I’m holding a long turtle spear
And I feel I’m close now to where it must be
My island home is waiting for me
— ‘My Island Home’ by Neil Murray

A big thankyou to the people who made Invasion Day 2012 in Brisbane a success. Aunty Jean Phillips, Aunty Alex Gator, Sam Watson (in Canberra), the fellas from Murri Watch, Mop & the dropouts (with a special call out to Angus Rabbitt) Wayne Saunders, Ricky Pascoe, Narelle and Nerita (who sang so well from the entrance to Jagara), Alf, Tina & Meredith who got the ball rolling from Parliament house, the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) and the political groups for their ongoing support of the struggle for land rights, for indigenous rights.

Invasion Day Story
At Invasion Day 2012 I was reminded of my great great grandfather, EM Curr, who  in the 1840s as a twenty year old went to Bangerang (Yorta Yorta) country in northern Victoria near the Murray and Gouldburn Rivers .

There is a story handed down in our family about Yorta Yorta men threatening our grandfather with spears. Lucky for me, the Bangerang tribe decided not to kill Edward Curr on that day. I would not be telling this story if they did! The traditional owners tolerated Edward Curr and taught him many things about respect for the land and its inhabitants.

Colonialism brought the sheep farmer who settled on the Campaspe plains. By 1851 they had built roads, bridges, houses introduced stock and built three big towns in the Murray Gouldburn region. These people were known to the Bangerang and to each other.

Yorta Yorta case
The High Courts decision on the Yorta Yorta claim for native title was wrong — the court relied (in part) on an account by one of my ancestors, Edward Curr, to say that the Yorta Yorta people had traded away and lost connection with the land.

“I not only complimented the [Aboriginal] proprietor on his estate … I offered him on the spot, with the most serious face, a stick of tobacco for the fee-simple of his patrimonial property, which, after a short consultation with his elders, was accepted and paid.”Edward M Curr as quoted in Federal Court of Australia (FCA), Members of Yorta Yorta Aboriginal Community V State of Victoria & Ors 1606, 18 December 1998.

This account and another (that the Bangerang had left their land because of smallpox) was relied upon in the federal court. It was only a part of the court’s consideration but was wrong-headed. The myth that the court took into account was based upon a memoir by my great great grandfather had written at the end of his life about his experiences with the Bangerang and other tribes (Yorta Yorta) people when he was a young man and sheep farmer in the years 1841-1851. His memoir was called Recollections of Squatting in Victoria.

In that case, the judges did not read in sufficient detail what Edward Curr described of his experience on Yorta Yorta land nor do they seem to have any real understanding of what the aboriginal first nation people have been saying for over 200 hundred years. Edward Curr still spoke of Lancashire in England as home, not the Campaspe plains near the Murray. The Yorta Yorta never ceded sovereignty over the land even when they were robbed of it by squatters like my great great grandfather.

There was never any doubt in Edward Curr’s mind who owned the land. The Bangerang people were right there at his doorstep every day to remind him of their ownership and ancient connection with the land. It was they who he relied upon to understand the land down under.  He stated in his book how many thousands of years the Bangerang must have been there in the district near Tongala on the Murray River.

Edward Curr spent a large part of his life (1820-1889) learning the languages of the tribes that he met around the Murray River (Tongala). He later published what he learnt in a book called ‘The Australian Race’. I have no doubt his mind was clouded in part by ethnocentric bias (as mine is).

Edward Curr’s limited knowledge  should never have been used to refute the Yorta Yorta claim to country. It was European-introduced-smallpox that decimated the population and drove Bangerang people from the banks of the Murray river.

One of my nieces who lived in Victoria visited Yorta Yorta elders on the Murray on several occasions.

And so I am proud to say that the connection between my family and the Yorta Yorta people of the Murray River (Tongala) is not entirely broken by the intervening 170 years since my great great grandfather went unannounced onto Aboriginal land.

On their heels of squatters in Victoria came the gold miners who dug holes in Bangerang land – the squatters called these people  ‘new chums’ but thought of them as ‘blow-ins’.

One spruicker, a tall burley good-tempered looking Scot held forth on the wharf at Tongala one morning in January 1854 inveighing against the new comers:

Why these new chums (gold miners) who have overrun the country seem to think by George! that they are the first comers here and that … (all the things we built ) … grew of themselves like gum-trees

How quickly we forget the first nation owners of the land who looked after it for centuries … the high court showed its collective amnesia in the Yorta Yorta case.

Minjerribah – Stradroke Island
Similarily the Queensland government is in denial about the Quandamooka claim on Minjerribah.

The state government and opponents of aboriginal land rights have made a big fuss about 8% of the land on Minjerriba being given back to the Quandamooka people. The government and mining companies will not permit the traditional owners to establish an economic base on their land, not even the 8%. Thus Quandamooka people’s land rights have been extinguished by the state government.

There are 12 clans still living on Minjerriba. The Native title process set up by the Keating labor government in the early 1990s and followed by subsequent governments of all persuasions has managed to whittle away the historic claims using anthropology so that only 1 clan of the 12 has established ongoing connection with the land of Minjerriba, 2 of the 12 have established connection with Moreton and the other 9 have been said to have only an ‘historic’ connection with the land. The same treatment was given to the Yorta Yorta people when the word of my great grandfather,  Edward M. Curr was used by the judges to reject their claim in the High Court of Australia.**

Community Workers
We should organise and fight these injustices through community groups and establish practical ongoing links between these groups. This is my hope post invasion day 2012.

Ian Curr
27 Jan 2012

4 thoughts on “Post Invasion Day 2012 – where to?

  1. Red Cinema says:

    Red Cinema presents:

    Chronicles the clash between the Aboriginal people, the world’s oldest living culture, and an invading British empire. Explores the struggles of Aboriginal people to defendtheir land and their rights. Selection from pathbreaking SBS series.

    Plus, film and discussion about the 40th anniversary of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy.

    SAT FEB 4, 7pm. Brisbane Activist Centre, 74B Wickham St, Fortitude Valley.
    Meal available from 6.30pm. Tickets: $10/$7 concession. Phone 3831 2644/0423 741 734 for more info.

  2. MUA solidarity with Tent Embassy says:

    Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) members have commented on Tent Embassy bashing by media and Politicians in Canberra

    Motion passed unanimously by the monthly Sydney MUA branch all-members meeting, 31 January 2012.

    The Maritime Union of Australia Sydney monthly meeting expresses its complete solidarity and support for the struggle of Aboriginal people for sovereignty and land rights. We congratulate and support the comrades at the 40th anniversary of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy and the peaceful action …they took to highlight the abysmal neglect of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

    We condemn the vicious right wing media attack upon both the Aboriginal Tent Embassy and the peaceful demonstration on January 26, 2012. This media criticism is aimed at curtailing democratic rights and further marginalising Aboriginal people when social attention should be paid to ending the racist Northern Territory Intervention, preventing further deaths in custody, stopping the potential nuclear waste dump at Muckaty and eradicating the extreme poverty and health issues and institutionalised racism faced by Aboriginal people.

    (Thanks Viola)

  3. that the media lies is not new. that politicians lie is also not new. that the police lie is definitely not true (sic) and has been happening for quite some time.

    it is also not new that all three entities lie collectively to protect themselves and the police especially. the cover-up and white-wash of the death of tj hickey examples that most easily.

    the blame for the rangarella incident shows very clearly that they fear us. they fear our presence in both small and large numbers of those who will not accept their assimilation policies. they are also arrogantly stupid. the cafe is virtually on the edge of the embassy. both gillard and abbot have been disgustingly venal in their attitudes towards aboriginal problems. gillard not only kept howards nt intervention based on the most dastardly of lies but she is expanding it. this upsets a lot of aboriginal people. on that very day abbot made his usual disparaging and dismissive remark that if and when he became pm then the tent embassy would go. this certainly upset those at our embassy.

    so they both attend a medal giving function right on our border. what the hell did they expect? bouquets and kisses? respect? turn the other cheek? not bloody likely.

    one of gillard’s minders had informed the embassy where abbot was going to be whilst apparently forgetting that we were no more fond of his boss that we were of abbot. he is now moving to, perhaps, greener pastures.

    of course we moved to the cafe and why wouldn’t we.

    a disclaimer. i was not there as i was watching an excellent video called ‘keep our campfires burning.’ a most impressive video on youth suicide and the stolen generations that was shown at the national library by robert eggington. i highly recommend it.

    but i have read the lies and i have read the truths. i have watched as much video footage as i can find. i have sought the opinions of those who were there. whilst our people from the embassy, both black and white, male and female, young and old, even aunty pat eatock in her motorised chair was there.

    yes they shouted as loud as possible, yes they banged on the reinforced glass windows of the cafe and yes some moved to the front of the cafe as gillard’s police and security detail unceremoniously bundled her out and caused her to lose her blue suede shoe that somehow finished up at the embassy where it was protected from any further abuse. it was later, i believe, handed back to her via her appointed delegate.

    gillard showed concern for abbott’s safety and security but she was assured that he was well looked after. no apologies are due to either politician and nor to any one else. one could quite easily suspect that the whole thing was a political set-up. it certainly smells like it.

    below are several articles and videos that clearly show where the fault lies and it is not with those at the embassy.

    politicians need to learn respect to others also.

    even those they fear.


    ray jackson
    indigenous social justice association
    (m) 0450 651 063
    (p) 02 9318 0947
    address 1303/200 pitt street waterloo 2017

    we live and work on the stolen lands of the gadigal people.

    sovereignty treaty social justice

    The media lies about the Aboriginal Embassy

    Tent Embassy statements: Aboriginal Provisional Government statement 25th January | Declaration of Independence for a Sovereign Union of First Nations | Tent Embassy press conference 26th Jan Solidarity actions: Solidarity Billboard in Melbourne | Solidarity banner drop Canberra | Comment: Aboriginal Tent Embassy: more relevant than ever | I see no riot or attack. How about you? | Media paints black as white and might as right at Tent Embassy | Tent Embassy protest speaks for itself | The Tent Embassy Protest – A Lesson in Over Reaction and Social Context | First hand accounts: From field notes and footnotes | “You shoe’da come!” | Video | Photo essay by Green Left Weekly (what the media didn’t show)

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