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Aboriginal Rights Page 6

Your house is not our house 

In speeches by Australian Democrats MLC, Sandra Kanck, and Greens MLC, Mark Parnell, on the occasion of the Sesquicentenary of Responsible Government in South Australia on 24 April 2007 they read the following statement, initially presented during a smoking ceremony on the steps of Parliament  on Sunday 22 April and authorised by Marshall Freeland Carter acting for the interim chairpersons of the Aboriginal Alliance Coalition Movement.

To all politicians within their political parties within this State of South Australia:

We, the descendants of the traditional owners of our country, its lands and waters, are gathered here today under the umbrella of the Aboriginal Alliance Coalition Movement at this 150th year of this parliament for you to hear us.

First, while we acknowledge that for the Aboriginal people over the 150 years of this parliament there have been, eventually, some minimal positive achievements, these fairly can be seen as the crumbs that have fallen off another people's table.

Secondly, and in that keeping to that way, your house now freely has asked the free, self-governed and sovereign people of South Australia to commemorate today the occasion of the first assembly of their local legislature by inviting them to treat your house as their house for this one day only, to thereby celebrate 150 years of parliamentary democracy in South Australia in a constitutional state.

But we, the descendants, have never had our sovereignty faithfully represented in your house from 22 April 1857 until today, because your house was based on denying our equal collective right as a community of traditional owners to enjoy our representative voice in your house, unlike the Aboriginal voice in other lands.

We as descendants did not enter publicly and formally into the position of a free, self-governed, constitutional state, which you have enjoyed from 1857, because that was allocated only to all those non-Aboriginal people who had come into our lands and country and had failed to respect, honour, uphold and keep our rights guaranteed to us under the law that founded you, and this has in fact continued right up until today, despite your achievement of universal suffrage in 1894.

Thirdly, we descendants still, and against the intentions of the founding fathers of the province that began in 1836, are not personally responsible for the policy of a ministry of Aboriginal affairs that depends for its power and very existence upon a representative body constituted by and of the sovereignty of our people. Yet, this is what your house is openly asking to have commemorated here today.

We cannot abide by this denial of truth, justice, equity and freedom for us. We continue to demand our traditional rights as traditional owners within our own country and the land rights which were granted to us from King William the Fourth in the 1836 Letters Patent under the Great Seal of the United Kingdom. So we do not share the feelings that you seek to resurrect from 1857, and openly reported then, that: `the occasion itself affords the matter for congratulation'.

To us, the circumstances under which that tragic and unjust social change in our fortunes was effected 150 years ago have no auspicious element in them for us. On the contrary, they are a matter of humiliation to us and are a shame upon you.

We are asking you to acknowledge that your enjoyment, if not the spirit, of your commemorative congratulations, blindly overlooks the denial of our English land rights within our own country in establishing your parliament on the land of the traditional owners and on the country of their unacknowledged descendants.

Nevertheless, with some `tone of confident hopefulness' reported by those who took this land for your house, and which we also seek to have `pervade the entire community', we equally are looking to `enter upon a new political career-with a financial position sound and elastic-with a rapidly augmenting population-with commerce in a safe and improving condition', by establishing our representatives here as a free, self-governed and sovereign community equal with and among all the people of the state, irrespective of the delay there is in this just achievement.

Until we may speak this in house here, we ask that all politicians of their political parties do not become involved in race debates and with those who choose to play race cards and use race debates when it suits them for their own purposes.

Above all, we are here today to ask you to do what is right because it is right.
And by doing so you will create a positive reconciliation through which we as the leaders of both races can positively work together to address the outstanding issues that are affecting us all within our state by building on what is right for us.

Who would want, or dare, to say here today, that it is not the duty of the political parties of this state to take and build on and make improvements to what has been established in and for justice and to prevent attempts to bring on justice?

Fourthly, as you would be aware, the Hon. D.A. Dunstan (minister for aboriginal affairs) introduced an historically just bill into your house on 13 July 1966 for an act to establish an Aboriginal Lands Trust that your house justly passed.

In doing so for our rights, the Hon. D.A. Dunstan justified the creation of this Aboriginal Lands Trust Act upon the basis of the unfulfilled Letters Patent of 1836. He said: "I intend to trace the history of Aboriginal lands rights in South Australia, because on examination it is clear that Aborigines were wrongfully deprived of their just dues. We must, as far as we can, right the wrongs done by our forefathers. The Letters Patent Under the Great Seal of the United Kingdom erecting and establishing the province of South Australia and fixing the boundaries thereof, dated February 19, 1836, contained the following proviso: provided always that nothing in these our Letters Patent contained shall affect or be construed to affect the rights of any Aboriginal natives of the said province to the actual occupation or enjoyment in their own persons or in the persons of their descendants of any lands therein now actually occupied or enjoyed by such natives."

What the Hon. D.A. Dunstan acknowledged in this statement to your house was the wrong that was committed in the ongoing colonisation of the original British Province of South Australia as that specifically was continued in the Constitution of this state of South Australia by the establishment of this house, and which created so very much pain, suffering, confusion, anger and segregation, and is why he also said on the record of the house: "It is clear that Aborigines were wrongfully deprived of their just dues. We must right the wrongs."

Fifthly, the Hon. Jay Weatherill, your Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, made a like acknowledgment of the Letters Patent of 1836 on Proclamation Day at Glenelg on 28 December last year. Minister Weatherill publicly recognised that the failure of South Australia to have met and to continue to meet the promise in the Letters Patent has `been the cause of much loss and suffering for Aboriginal people'.

Like the former minister for Aboriginal affairs the Hon. D.A. Dunstan, he said on behalf of your constitutional state to us all: "we must also recommit ourselves to the promise made to Aboriginal South Australians. . . 170 years ago.

This is an overdue awakening amongst a representative and minister in your house, to which we, as assembled descendants, have awakened in return.

There is now the task of seeing that we each come up from the pillow of the past genocide and denial in your house, and the pain and suffering in ours, and walk together in a new direction that sets our voice in your house to set things right.

Finally, we the Aboriginal descendants do not want to see a wrongful, negative colonisation history of South Australia become entrenched in the sovereignty of the population of South Australia and passed on through our future generations. For as long as your house solely asserts the constitutional state of the free self governed and sovereign people of South Australia, it is up to you to develop that fair process where we, as the descendants of the original inhabitants of this state, can obtain the truth, justice, equity and freedom which is our right and which has been denied in the establishment of the popular sovereignty of the free self governed constitutional state, by which another people and not us have all the representatives in your house and our representative sovereignty is denied. This process requires a discussion with us for an agreement to support our voice.

In closing, therefore, we are acting to ensure that the issue is placed squarely at your feet. You have the resources to do this. You have the knowledge to make things right. You have the power to create a just healing in this state of ours. It is timely to reflect that just as in fact justice delayed is truly justice denied, your future actions would speak more loudly from now on than any more words to us.

Future directions

In 2015 all Australians continue to face challenges left over from the colonialism and racism of the past. The impact of 200 years of removal from land, culture and family have left a legacy of disadvantage that communities, state and commonwealth governments must address. Aboriginal communities are forming organisations such as Nunkuwarrin Yunti , Reconciliation SA , Link Up , and Tandanya to heal the wounds of the past and address the needs of the future.

A major consideration for all Australians in the future is the recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the preamble of the Australian Constitution. Any change to the Constitution will require a national referendum and there is a growing acknowledment within governments and among most Australians that this should occur soon. For more information see the Australian Human Rights Commission website. 

2007 Reconciliation march
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Aboriginal flag
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Aboriginal soldier at Swan Reach.
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Aborigines celebrate national day
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Crowd at Sorry Day Celebrations in Elder Park.
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Don Dunstan and Aboriginal leaders
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Finding common ground : First Indigenous Women's Confer
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Finding Common Ground. First International Indigenous W
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Hon. Mike Rann, Premier of South Australia and Nerida S
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Jamie, a tiny hero is dead
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John Stanley, Willy Rankine and Leonard Campbell of Poi
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March for human rights and justice
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