Recognition Bill to be forced on Aboriginal people against their will

Monday 4 February, 2013

On February 7 the Australian Senate will vote on the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples Recognition Bill 2012 despite overwhelming opposition to constitutional inclusion by the majority of Aboriginal people and the government’s own acknowledgement that the proposed changes to the constitution would be rejected by a referendum.

“This shows the paternalistic contempt that the Federal Government and politicians have for Aboriginal people has not changed in 112 years,” said Kooma man, Wayne Wharton, of the Brisbane Aboriginal Sovereign Embassy.

2012 Sovereignty & Land Rights Conference Aboriginal Passports - Brisbane State Library
Murris and Kooris with Aboriginal Passports


The Federal Government spent millions through organisations like the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples and You Me Unity using their hand-picked, overpaid representatives to try and sell a referendum on constitutional inclusion to Aboriginal people, but in every community they went to it was overwhelmingly rejected. The Government blamed racist attitudes amongst Non-Aboriginal people as its reason for canceling the referendum, the reality is they realised that they couldn’t con the majority of Aboriginal people to support it. They knew that this opposition would become known to the public in any referendum campaign.

“The people have already spoken – we do not want to be included in the colonisers constitution, that is not going to change no matter how many millions they pay the sell-out Bennelongs. This Bill is an empty, tokenistic distraction from the real issue, the real discussion about sovereignty, that needs to be addressed between First Nations peoples and others who now call this continent home ,” Wharton said.

In 1992 the ‘Mabo’ Case (Mabo v Queensland No 2) not only recognised the continuing connection and rights to land of Indigenous people, in rejecting Terra Nullius it recognised the illegitimacy of the assertion of sovereignty by the British Crown and in doing so recognised the illegitimacy of Federal, State and Territory governments to exercise that sovereignty on behalf of the Crown.

“We need to have a genuine discussion about sovereignty to move forward, instead the Gillard government, with support of the opposition, is attempting to create a dodgy paper trail on February 7, in complete disregard of International law, in an attempt to legitimise the colonial authorities in this country”, Wharton said.

“Any politician who supports this bill is just as rotten as any of the ‘Protectors of Aborigines’ or ‘Mission Managers’ of old,” Wharton said.

Representatives of Brisbane’s Aboriginal community will be protesting along with people from across Australia in Canberra on February 6-7.

There will be a protest on Wednesday February 6 in Brisbane at Wayne Swan’s electoral office at 8am (1162 Sandgate Rd, Nundah).

For more information phone Wayne Wharton on 0408 064 900

4 thoughts on “Recognition Bill to be forced on Aboriginal people against their will

  1. In your article “The Federal Government’s “Act of Recognition” and Aboriginal customary law” you state “Nowhere, anywhere has there ever been any colonial legislation acknowledging the existence and continuation of anything at all of Aboriginal customary law. ”

    Sorry, John, I understand what you are saying and there is considerable truth in your claim.

    However you have overlooked land at our doorstep, Musgrave Park, which, as you know, is the subject of various deeds-of grant-in-trust.

    A basis of recognition of aboriginal law exists in that Deed of Grant in Trust declared by Queen Elizabeth on 29th July 1999 over the south-eastern portion of Musgrave Park near Jagera Hall. It reads:


    Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God, Queen of Australia,
    and Her other Realms and Territories, Head of the Commonwealth:-


    “WE, with the advice of the Executive Council, under the Land Act 1994 grant in fee simple all that parcel of land described in Schedule 1 to the person described in Schedule 2, In trust,

    SUBJECT TO the trusts, reservations and conditions specified, and such other reservations and conditions as may be contained in and declared by the laws of the State.

    Schedule of Trusts –

    “The grantee is to hold the land in trust for aboriginal and for no other purpose whatsoever.”

    We have witnessed aboriginal ceremony and customary law practiced on that land and lands nearby (eg Kurilpa) for many years. I have seen corroboree, smoking ceremony, dance (Wakka Wakka), sorry business (Daniel Yock, Phil Perrier, Ruby Hunter – to name three), meetings (1982 Commonwealth Games Protests), and lighting the sacred fire by traditional owners. The fact that the dominant group in our society has not chosen to recognise this as they walk through the park and that they are blinded to it does not mean it has not been ongoing. That is the nature of the struggle, to bring aboriginal practice and observance to the attention of the dominant group so that they may recognise it. I am not holding the words on DOGIT as some magic bullet of recognition. Words are meaningless without actions that support them. That is why a traditional owner conducts a ceremony of re-lighting the sacred fire before tent embassy meetings on Wednesday nights. There are certainly caveats and flaws in the DOGIT as drafted. But it does recognise that the land be held for ‘aboriginal and no other purpose whatsoever‘. Why do you think traditional owners were so determined to see the ceremony of sacred fire go ahead on invasion day 2013? The state can drag out a hundred lawyers to say this was not the intended meaning of the words in the DOGIT. But they are on the wrong side of history, and others will desert them as has happened in every settler state (South Africa, Palestine, Chile etc). The sacred fire never goes out!

    Ian Curr
    18 Feb 2013

  2. Ian,

    What Aboriginal person or group has any authority or power or rights and interests recognised – anything at all – by way of the DOGIT?

    The DOGIT is just a mechanism to transfer control by one agency of the state to another. The state holds the park in trust for “aboriginal purposes” as defined by the state, just like the reserves. Surely you are aware of the role of DOGITs in denying reserve communities control over their land? To suggest that it somehow empowers the Musgrave mob is ridiculous.

    Also, I think you are mistaken if you think the purposes of the ceremonies in Musgrave Park was to prove anything to the dominant society.

  3. p.s. The High Court’s blanket extinguishment of customary law applies in Musgrave Park too, the fire has (until now) had no legal standing at all. The only legal avenue of defense for the embassy fire is in the area of pre-existing law and a challenge to the High Court’s blanket extinguishment of it – perhaps even in the realm of “culture, language, heritage and relationship to land” that the Act of recognition proclaims to be continuing.

Please comment down below