Speech by Wayne “Coco” Wharton
March 24 2013
Today marks twelve months since we first come back down here, when we first put the Embassy up. Today is twelve months since we did that. The actual 24th of March is the day that we started not waiting for the government – the state government, the local government or the commonwealth government to recognise our sovereignty.
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Twelve months ago today is when we as Brisbane blackfellas and our countrymen, many of our non-Aboriginal brothers and sisters that have called this place home, started sending a message to those governments that our sovereignty, we never gave up, that our sovereign rights, we never gave up. Twelve months ago, today in this park, is when people for the first time, they couldn’t shoot us anymore for practising what we are. Twelve months ago we told them and we had the eyes of the world on them saying to them that they couldn’t shoot us for being what we are. We didn’t have to dress like them, we didn’t have to talk like them anymore, we didn’t have to have their religion the same as them anymore. And we didn’t have to call ourselves the same as them.
Being civilised doesn’t mean you have to be like them. Being civilised doesn’t mean we give up who we are to be like them. Think about it. Many of your grandparents, many of your cousins were put on the concentration camps, were put on the forced labour camps, were put into homes, were persecuted, were put in the jails, were punished for being what they were.
Twelve months ago, we said to them and the rest of the world, we don’t have to be like you to be civilised.
When they walk in here 240 at a time, with 240 guns, 240 tasers, dogs, tactical response group, gas, you ask yourself, who’s civilised? Who are the civilised people? Who are the terrorists? Who brings the tyranny? Who disrupts the peace? Who inflicts the force?
Sovereign rights and sovereignty in this country – it’s not a political question, it’s not a religious question and it’s not a colour question. Sovereignty in this country is a consciousness question. It’s a question of consciousness. It’s a question driven by such words as honour, justice, love and peace. These are the words that accompany what Aboriginal people, First Nations people call sovereign rights.
Sovereign rights to a colonial person means guns, cannons, borders, bombs, terrorism, defence, wars. That’s what sovereignty means to the powers that occupy this country at the moment. They are the words that accompany their terms of sovereign rights – there’s no mention of honour, there’s no mention of sharing, there’s no mention of justice, there’s no mention of co-occupation.
Whilst many nations and many other different societies and every other different human beings choose to call this country home and choose to emigrate and migrate here and call this country home, we the First Nations people have a responsibility to those people to tell them there’s a better way to settle in this country than by guns and wars and force and more guns. It’s a word called co-existence. The recognition of ownership. The recognition of people’s rights.
So when we look around today, and we acknowledge that these brothers and sisters that choose to come here and raise a family and share this country we say we welcome you here.
To those elements in this country that choose to occupy this country by force and by ignorance, we say to them, be ready for a long fight, for a very long fight. Because when we look at our children and we say this in all sincerity and our grandchildren – that fight does not stop. You ask us how hard we fight for our country, I’ll show you my grandkids, I’ll show you my children, my nephews, my nieces – they will never give up their birthright, never.
It doesn’t matter how many jails they fill with our mob. How many juvenile centres they fill with our mob, how many more missions, how many more bastardised laws that they design to suppress our people – we don’t give up.
The question of sovereignty has no colour, has no race, has no gender. It’s an Australian question. It’s a question that everybody in this country that calls this country home has to answer. The question of sovereign rights is a question that every government since colonisation in this country would not ask itself and would not let its people ask or answer.
That question, do First Nations people have sovereign rights in this country? That question will never be asked and will never be answered by any government – state, local or federal. It is a question that can only be answered by you – by the people who call this country home – black, white or brindle. It is only you, the people that call this country home, us the people that call this country home – we’re the only people that can answer that question.
We’ve got two years, two years to ask this government. They tried to, with the help of some gammin blackfellas, they tried to bullshit us and have us chase a question that they want in terms of the Australian constitution. We all heard it. They wanted to put in this gammin constitution points about prior ownership. Bullshit. Misleading story. We won that fight. We told em that the Australian people deserve better than being led around like sheep and fed on bullshit and told bullshit.
We won that fight. That constitution and that referendum is in the rubbish bin. What we have is two years to ask this government, to make this government ask the real question. We as an Australian people, we as Aboriginal First Nations people and the rest of the country that call this place home. We have a chance in the next two years to say and to force this government to have a proper referendum. A proper referendum – not based on lies, not based on bullshit. A proper referendum to anti-up and create a better country. That can only be done if we, people with consciousness and people with a better of understanding accept the responsibility to take that question on and get it out to the community so everybody in this country owns that question. Owns that question.
Today’s the first step. We’ve held our ground. I’m so proud of everybody. Each and every one of you that makes the effort to come along here. All our old people. Many old people, the Jaggera, the Turbul, the Yuggera people who honour us by letting us come here. The hardships that we’ve been through over the last twelve months – the spitefulness, the jails, the courts. When we went into the court room – myself, brother Boe and Hamish, that judge looked at us and he looked at the policeman and he said to the policeman “where’s your evidence?” and the policeman looked back at him and he said “we have none”, “we have none”. They have no evidence.
We’re here under the law, the First Nations people, the Jagera, the Turrbul and Yuggera people. We’re here, this ceremony – they call it a fire, it may be a fire for them. It’s our ceremony, it’s our law, it’s our tool the same as any church or any ceremony in anyone else’s religion. This is our religion. This is our law. And we expect and we hope to share that with you today. And we accept you as countrymen. And we accept your countrymen as countrymen. And when we all accept each other and we accept the responsibility to make a better place in this country for our kids and our grandkids then we will respect this park. But this park is the start. This country here is the start. When we stop practicing our ceremony here, we stop practicing our law, we stop being who we are – we stop being who we are.
And we share that with you today and we ask you to accept it and when you come through this ceremony with us you accept that responsibility, you accept the ownership of that question and responsibility to take this question forward, to heal this country, to make this country better than it already is. It’s the last question that needs to be asked in the development of this question. Do First Nations people have sovereign rights? And if they do, let them live them.