Blak Sovereignty Movement Brisbane meeting

Blak Sovereignty Movement Brisbane meeting
From left: Barbara Wharton, Tamara, Lisa, Uncle Wayne Wharton, Reggie, Nick, Cheryl Turpin, Harpreet, Ethan Lyons, Eddie Turpin, Chelsea, Ghillar Michael Anderson and Jono.
Media Release

14 December 2023

Professor Ghillar Michael Anderson, Convenor of the Sovereign Union, last surviving member of the founding four of the Aboriginal Embassy and Head of State of the Euahlayi Peoples Republic discusses the Blak Sovereignty Movement Meeting – Brisbane 9 & 10 December 2023.

I attended the meeting within the Jagera Nation in Brisbane at Musgrave Park, where several Nations had sent delegates to discuss the Blak Sovereignty Movement’s political and legal objectives going forward.

It was acknowledged by the meeting that for many of our First Nation people the referendum’s deceitful promise by the Labor Party and its privately selected leadership gave false hope to our grassroots membership, who were led to believe that the Voice to Parliament was the answer to all their prayers.

The loss of the referendum, however, has two effects on grassroots from my perspective: a sense of overwhelming loss of hope, which has impacted emotionally on many of our people who were led to believe a ‘No’ vote would see us lose all that we gained and would send us back into oblivion from where we would have to start all over again. The pain of the loss was felt more by the grassroots people, who had hope and belief in what was being said by the likes of Thomas Mayo, Noel Pearson, Marcia Langton, Pat Anderson, Megan Davis, Pat Dodson and Linda Burney and her First Nations Labor colleagues in the parliament. As outsiders to the system, the biggest proportion of our black population has lost any belief in what those people had said and promised.

As a Blak activist for more than 50 years I can say: All hope is not gone, in fact it is a trigger for us reset our sights on the Big Picture that we as the Blak Power youth of 1960-1970s had to set for ourselves and these key factors were resurrected at the Blak Sovereign Movement in Brisbane and forwarded to the other meetings being held at the same time in Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne.

Before we set the new agenda I asked the youth present in Brisbane – Let’s hear your Big Picture objective going forward. I was surprised and shocked that what came back was a reactionary-type movement directed at political action of civil disobedience. My response to it was – that’s one area of the Blak Sovereignty Movement, but is not the objective our people at grassroots want.

By listening to our youth the demands and campaigns that they identified were in dot point form:

▪ Land back through restitution and reparations. The Indigenous Land and Sea Corporation (ILSC) established by the Keating administration seems to have lost its purpose of redress for dispossession. What we now see is a federal government instrumentality established by statute using its corporate governance status to avoid all local government taxing; and creating a land-based monopoly that does not give land back to First Nations unencumbered, but rather creates a corporate monster with the ability to devour everything in its way. The irony of this is that the ILSC does not benefit First Nations at the grassroots as there are no form of royalties or funds back to the communities to address disadvantage – so much for reparations and restitutions. This is not Land Rights.

▪ Freedom, and I suggested on this point that the Blak Sovereignty Movement needs to conduct a study of all state and federal legislation that restricts and controls First Nations development culturally, socially and economically, if they want to be free. On the cultural side First Nations’ culture is controlled not by our people but by government ministers of the Crown who have enacted controlling legislation.

Furthermore the biodiversity laws combined with the cultural heritage statutes take away any free relationship that we have with our natural food sources, plants, fruits and berries together with the isolation and destruction of our totemic species such as kangaroos, koalas, emus, dingoes, eagles, etc. and we cannot leave out our aquatic totemic species such as sharks and stingrays in salt water, and crayfish, Murray cod and yellowbelly in the freshwater. By statutes of the Crown they are owned by the colonising power.

In terms of us having freedoms to exercise our rights, laws such as Native Title at federal and state levels control and restrict our ability to exercise any form of ownership. I might add according to the Native Title Act we still have to get permission to exercise certain rights, e.g. we are not allowed to erect permanent buildings on exclusively-owned Native Title lands, but we can erect a mobile unit that can be picked up and carried away when we are finished. There is no such right that will permit us to establish a sedentary base for ourselves now and in the future on lands that we are supposed to have exclusive ownership of against the rest of the world.

▪ Sovereignty, and I made the point that sovereignty is not Land Rights. Sovereignty is about exercising governance in accordance with our Law and culture, not a hybrid type consisting of Western political and legal ideology and our Old Ways.

This requires a Think Tank. I strongly urge our First Nations people to study the state and federal reports by the Law Reform Commissions which have focused on these matters. These reports do discuss the hardships and complications in making it possible for recognition and implementation of First Nations Laws and cultural practices. When studying these reports, it will be noticed that the reports stumble when they try to incorporate First Nations’ Law and customary practices into a Western framework. Then there is the additional problem of enforcement when First Nations Peoples choose to practice their own Laws and customs on and within their own territories. The conflict then becomes whose law can be enforced at that time and how do we, as First Nations Peoples, protect ourselves against those with guns, when we exercise our own rights on our own Country.

▪ Treaties - but in order for treaties to be successfully negotiated funding must be found so that each Nation can be taught about negotiations and how to negotiate and what is involved in treaty-making with Sovereign Nations. The most important thing with treaties is that all the cards must be put on the table. This includes the British monarchy’s claim to sovereignty over our lands and waters. If this is not on the table, then the treaty process is a farce and a scam.

Don’t let yourselves be rushed or conned by black or white lawyers into believing that the British monarch’s claim to sovereignty is not up for discussion in the treaty process. If this topic is not on the table, then I highly recommend you walk out of every meeting, The monarch’s claim to sovereignty over our Country is the noose around our neck. Always remember that the federal, state and territory governments govern in right of the Crown of Britain and no legislation passed by any of these governments within Australia can become law without the Crown’s representative approving it.

▪ There is no justice, and they gave some subheadings as an example:

What are the governments doing about:

  1. Bringing Them Home Report, e.g. Connecting survivors to proper Country and family reunions and counselling
  2. Royal Commission into Deaths in Custody Recommendations. This requires the need to establish a national caucus body to oversight the implementation of ALL recommendations made in these reports. Let us not forget that the federal governments have on more occasions than one either ignored the recommendations or cherry-picked what they considered to be the easy ones. As First Nations people we must always remember this government is about governing as an occupying power and we, as the occupied who are governed, are the ghosts of the past, present and future, and they cannot find a solution to govern the ghosts and we are not going anywhere.
  3. to fully examine the Don Dale Report of abuse and to demand similar enquiries to be carried out in all juvenile detention centre in Australia, and that we negotiate to obtain sufficient funding for an First Nations board of Inquiry and not leave it to non-First Nations people, who always fail the objectivity test;
  4. Liberation and bringing an end to the scourge of colonialism.

The Brisbane meeting of the Blak Sovereignty Movement has called for an national Blak Sovereignty Movement conference and have called for volunteers to make this happen.

It comes down to who and what group has the commitment and dedication to make this happen for all First Nations, and it is acknowledged that to rely on one body of people to fund such a conference in reality can only boil to them being able to offer a location and provide meals during the conference. Each Nation must provide the resources for their delegated to attend. In short of we are serious about changing the Course of history from here on in, each Nation will commit to getting their people to such an important conference.

The issue that cannot be dealt with by the occupying power is that Australia continues to be a crime scene, something the Uncle Tom’s, Jacky Jackies and Aunty Marys cannot protect the colonial power from.

The next step is taking back control of our own affairs and getting rid of the “Indigenous industry”.

Background from Ghillar’s personal involvement, lived experiences and understandings:

Because of the period of change in the last 50 years, I became very aware of the impacts of Western ideology and education that has now influenced the mindset of our youth and I am speaking particularly about those families who were forcibly removed from Country by small offerings of government to relocate our people into hub communities. I can only speak for New South Wales, when in the early 1970s the Commonwealth and State ministers for Aboriginal Affairs and Housing, without ever uttering the word ‘assimilation’, moved our people from our communities in northwest and far western New South Wales into centralised hub centres such as Bathurst, Orange, Wagga Wagga, Albury, Newcastle and Western Sydney under the promise that your children will have better access to Western education; your Elders will have better access to appropriate doctors for their chronic health issues and there will be job opportunities which are not available in your local communities.

For those of us who grew up in tin shacks on riverbanks and reserves on the outskirts of the local towns we understood what family unity was, we experienced the unity and love of growing up in communities where Respect was the dominating factor. For us who grew up in 1950s and 1960s in these ‘tin towns’ as they called them, we had no idea what poverty was. That was because our people have strong commitment to ensuring our survival, and the people shared and cared for all within that community. No-one went without. Alcohol was in those communities, yes, but all able-bodied men and women found what little work there was, and the Elders played a twofold role: they were the teachers of the Stories of our ancient past (selective, as they were), and the Grannies were the backbone of that community making sure that all the children had somewhere to sleep and something to eat. It is also acknowledged that some wrong things went down in these communities, but the Old Ones maintained a practice of attempting to heal any pain. The good thing about this existence as well was that we were not always eating sugar and spice, our diet consisted of traditional bushtucker and the sweets that could be afforded once a week. Admittedly alcohol and nicotine were the evils that penetrated our communities.

The resettlement program of the 1960s in New South Wales fractured this unity by coercing us to leave behind the principles of the We-culture for the I-culture.

The lessons I learned growing up on the riverbank in those tin shacks was that in order to be secure in your endeavours one must maintain family unity first and community unity second, all understanding the need to rise together and support each other.

My personal commitment to the Blak Sovereignty Movement commenced back then as a child, because I learnt by observing and listening to the Old Ones who spoke of loss and the destructive impacts of being denied the right to be on your own Country, which meant that the white man’s law of private property denied us of our cultural and ceremonial education. Our Old People thought that our language was no longer important and to fight against that was to fight against people who had guns. So I learned that the Old People, knowing the power of the gun and being locked away behind steel bars, did not challenge if you want to stay alive and free.

My education in the white world opened up a new path because we had to become smart. Thus the ease with which I committed myself to fighting for the cause that we had established through the Blak Power Movement of the late 1960s and 1970s. Our Big Picture was Land Rights, self-determination, and the right to govern ourselves a sovereign independent Peoples. We were about not just political and legal fighting for Land Rights. It was about taking ownership of industries and business that serve our People’s needs at the grassroots, self-determination and self-governance.

The Whitlam regime, through his constant meetings with us during the first three months of the Aboriginal Embassy’s existence, found common ground and worked with us to lay a foundation for change. This became a program that saw the immergence of First Nations-owned legal services to protect us against police abuse of power, to mention one; to create our own medical services to service our people with chronic ill-health; our own housing companies to cater for the needs of our people living in overcrowded houses throughout our communities, which in some cases caused additional illness within our families because of the overcrowding. (I might just add that it is worse now than ever.)

The icing on the cake for the Whitlam regime to meet our demands was to establish a Black Parliament by way of elections following, of course, the British ideals of democratic representation, which saw the emerge of the National Aboriginal Consultative Committee (NACC). But the NACC was severely altered and impacted upon by a dissenting group within the NACC led by Lois O’Donoghue who, with the assistance of the newly-elected Fraser government and the sympathetic ear of the newly appointed Minister for Aboriginal Affairs under the Liberal coalition, Fred Chaney (formerly principle lawyer for the Aboriginal Legal Service in Perth), together with a senior bureaucrat named Jeremy Long, changed the terms of reference and renamed the NACC the National Aboriginal Conference (NAC) to limit what the NAC was to advise the government on. Most importantly it was the policy changes brought about by the Fraser Liberal coalition that changed the course of history for First Nations Peoples, when they decided that self-determination was no longer an issue that should become reality. Instead, it changed to a right of self-management and the senior bureaucrats, who held the key to funding grassroots programs and could shut down any and all funded programs for grassroots if they impacted on the economic and social fabric of the white communities where these organisations were operating. A classic example of discounting Aboriginal self-determination is to examine how they shut down and took away the housing companies in both Moree and Walgett, because these housing companies had become the biggest owners of real estate in those towns.

- by Professor Ghillar Michael Anderson

Ghillar, Michael AndersonContact: Ghillar Michael Anderson
Convenor of the Sovereign Union,
Head of State of the Euahlayi Peoples Republic
Contact Details here