Growing pains of self-determination

Media Release

3 March 2022

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 provides an insight into the early attempts of self-determination that prompted the colonisers to persist in divide-and-conquer tactics.

The ghosts of the past in Black Power movement of the very late 1960s and 70s continue to pervade the politics of Aboriginal/First Nations Affairs and a lot of grassroots people are now asking: Whatever happened to all those good things that we at the grassroots felt emancipated by?

An example that is often given is: Whatever happened to all the housing companies we had? And all the homes and vacant town blocks that were owned by these housing companies?

Whatever happened to the Legal Services that were started, which are now owned and controlled, essentially, by the Commonwealth and Attorney-General & Crown Solicitors?

Whatever happened to those social welfare organisations that we started all those years ago?

Everything it seems is now in the hands of government-controlled agencies and/or special white entities that now provide services for First Nations e.g. Mission Australia, St Vincent de Paul and the Red Cross. These people ease their conscience by having a Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) that employs Aboriginal people and this is supposed to meet their role as service delivery organisations.

So, the question that is then asked is: How did all this fall apart?

The truth is there are those organisations, which did not have appropriate accounting and reporting mechanisms in place, that were looted and public funds were misappropriated and, instead of the government working with the communities to fix the governance problem, they sent in administrators at great cost, shut down the organisations and sold off the assets. Communities call this ‘set up to fail’. When these discussions take place at the grassroots, the people are quick to identify the leaders of the various factions within their communities, informing us that this factionalism is almost impossible to now correct. Unfortunately, the impacts of this factionalism and in-fighting within communities was, has, and will continue to be, encouraged and nurtured by the government sector. Progressively, government funding has been withdrawn from potentially self-determining organisations, e.g. when PM Howard came into power he withdrew $400 000 from emerging self-determining organisations.

This begs the question: Why?

The answer is a simple one: Keep the people divided; foster the mindset of the people to create mistrust and distrust and encourage as much discussion at the grassroots as possible to character assassinate strong grassroots leadership, in order to prevent unity of common purpose. More divide-and-conquer at work.

The recent divide at the 50th Anniversary of the Aboriginal Embassy identified a continuing chasm and the depth of the divide. In this regard, it resonates with divisions in the 1970s Black Power movement. Yes, there was a lot of unity and common purpose in respect of Land Rights which was the central theme, but Black Power push then grew into proactive development at the city level without corresponding development at the grassroots on Country. There was then competition for the control of the organisations that were becoming mini empires as people asserted their right to self-determination, while hanging onto a new-found sense of power and, in cases, access to ‘free money’ without the corresponding accountability back to the people at grassroots. These organisations eventually collapsed because they were not inclusive. This divide caused much damage and it grew into a self-destructive movement that continues to plague almost every aspect of Aboriginal endeavours to right the wrongs of colonialism and to assure our right to be self-determining under our Law and culture.

It is most unfortunate that the media focuses its very negative deficit-based reporting on the city-based dysfunction within what is classified as the ‘Aboriginal Movement’. Mainstream media focuses on ‘disadvantage’ and they do not report to the public on some of the very successful grassroots developments, where people are beginning to achieve extraordinary things in establishing their local governance under their Law and culture as they see fit and the wonderful and powerful Nation Plans for Nation Building that many Nations have now achieved and published for their Nation and Peoples.

Many of our people at the grassroots no longer want anything to do with the city-based dysfunctional political movements. They don’t want the likes of Tom Calma, Noel Pearson and others to be put into position at the Federal level, falsely pretending that they are the brains trust for Aboriginal progress and development.

Recently, the greatest critical complaint against these so-called Aboriginal government-appointed planners and advisors was (as people have said to me) to see Pat Turner rolled out and Minister Ken Wyatt before the media telling Australia that they had a very well-planned program under the guidance and advice of NACCHO (National Aboriginal Community Controlle Health Organisation) to deal with the CoVid-19 situation. But our communities like Walgett, Goodooga and the Barkindji People of Wilcannia will tell you that everything happened AFTER the disease got into their communities. There were no preventative measures in place and some say that the concentration was more focused in Western Australia, Northern Territory and Far North Queensland, while the ‘southerners’ were left to fend for themselves. Even in bureaucracy at the Federal and State levels there appears to be two pathways.

History now shows that the politically radicalised First Nations youth of today are continually shaking the proverbial tree of politics. This is fine now, because in the 1970s there was no-one to pick up the pieces that fell from the tree to make them into something that was workable and acceptable. Now the people themselves at the grassroots and are taking ownership of their own destiny, but they need a lot of help and assistance because we are attempting to do the impossible and that is to mould the oldest and most ancient continuing culture and its Peoples into a position of maintaining that ancient knowledge and practice while trying to fit it into a very confusing modern western framework.

Many of our people are now reluctant to take money from government but the fostering of hopelessness and despair is a method by which governments in Australia force our people into accepting their crumbs and to be subjects to the government’s caveatable interest through the equity of money, through grants. In other words, when governments acquire assets on behalf of a community, the First Nation does not own it because the government maintains an interest in it. It is on loan only and can be reclaimed at any time. We call this the politics of poverty.

One significant thing that has emerged since the Embassy 50th Anniversary is the statement that was relayed to me by some of my Elders and that is: “You are educated culturally and whitefella way and you knew when to come Home.” I went back Home to make things happen. It is from being on Country that I have been able to progress the rebuilding of the Euahlayi Nation and encourage and tutor others to do the same.

So, my call now is for those at the Embassy who received over $250 000 for the 50th Anniversary to be under as much scrutiny as I am under. In other words, have the donations been acquitted and to whom? Much could now be done with the remainder of the donations from the Pay The Rent and GST collective etc. to work with Nations who are themselves in the process of establishing their governance in accordance with their Law and culture. I question the wisdom of the organisers of the 50th Anniversary to promote division against accepting what the 1972 Embassy achieved and its flow-on effects to change the course of history. Our people need the proper story. In my opinion that much money should have been used to unify and educate our people and not be used to create further division and separate my role in founding the Embassy with the other three.

It is easy to shout Land Rights Now; Self-determination and Sovereign Never Ceded – it is much harder when you have nothing to develop your Nation’s governance, development and advancement if you have no money.

I ask of those who have taken ‘control’ of the Embassy, claiming it as their own: What do you think the Embassy stands for today?

Independence and self-determination come at great cost for some families, but determination and commitment will prevail despite the challenges.

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