Wednesday, 25 July 2018

A Rightful Place: A Road Map to Recognition edited by Shireen Morris

A Rightful Place: A Road Map to Recognition evolved out of last year's Uluru Statement from the Heart. It includes a foreward by Galarrwuy Yunupingu, a long essay by Noel Pearson which gives the book its title, as well as pieces by Megan Davis, Jackie Huggins & Rod Little, Damien Freeman & Nolan Hunter, Warren Mundine, Shireen Morris, and Stan Grant.


I learnt a lot and have much to mull over thanks to the ideas presented in this book. The written response below is MY journey to understand these important ideas.

I will be quoting and noting stuff that struck me, linking to the places it took me - a book journaling experience more than a critique or review. A resource post more than a response at this point.


Galarrwuy Yunupingu - Foreward

  • 1978 Australian of the Year. His younger brother Mandawuy, his younger brother and founding member of Yothu Yindi, was named Australian of the Year in 1992. Helped his father, Mungurrawuy Yunupingu draft the Bark Petition of 1963.
  • Discusses the background ideas behind the Uluru Statement - how it is seen in the 'spirit of makarrata' - a way for 'disputing parties' to come together, 'led by their elders', to speak 'carefully and calmly about the dispute', to 'seek a full understanding' about what has happened, where responsibility lies and how to achieve a peaceful settlement. 
  • This settlement then leads to a 'symbolic reckoning' that shows that the 'dispute no longer exists; it is finished'. 
  • He stresses 'unity and togetherness' 'peace and harmony' and our 'shared future'.
  • 'The essays in this book also form part of the process - these words are a gift to us all'.



  • 26th May 2017
  • Called for the 'establishment of a First Nations Voice' in the Constitution as well as a Makarrata Commission 'to supervise a process of agreement-making between governments and First Nations and truth-telling about our history.'
  • 'In 1967 we were counted, in 2017 we seek to be heard.'

Uluru Statement - Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair 2017: Photo by Lea McInerney


Noel Pearson - A Rightful Place

  • Refers to Yunupingu's essay in The Monthly December 2008, Tradition, Truth and Tomorrow. He calls it a powerful, personal 'existential prayer'.  I was intrigued & found an online copy (link above).
  • I learnt a lot and urge you to read a copy when you get a chance. 
  • There were beautiful things like:
My parents gave me the name Galarrwuy, which means ‘the area on the horizon where the sea merges with the sky'.
  • A succinct, clearly defined statement about Indigenous culture:
The clans of east Arnhem Land join me in acknowledging no king, no queen, no church and no state. Our allegiance is to each other, to our land and to the ceremonies that define us. It is through the ceremonies that our lives are created. These ceremonies record and pass on the laws that give us ownership of the land and of the seas, and the rules by which we live. Our ceremonial grounds are our universities, where we gain the knowledge that we need.
  • Local knowledge:
My inner life is that of the Yolngu song cycles, the ceremonies, the knowledge, the law and the land. This is yothu yindi. Balance. Wholeness. Completeness.
  • A cry from the heart:
I have maintained the traditions, kept the law, performed my role - yet the Yolngu world is in crisis; we have stood still. I look around me and I feel the powerlessness of all our leaders. All around me are do-gooders and no-hopers - can I say this? Whitefellas. Balanda. They all seem to be one and the same sometimes: talking, talking, talking - smothering us - but with no vision to guide them; holding all the power, all the money, all the knowledge for what to do and how to work the white world. Only on the ceremonial ground do our leaders still lead - everywhere else we are simply paid lip service. Or bound up in red tape.
  • Back to Noel Pearson:
Is there a proper and rightful place for the original peoples of Australia in the nation created from their ancestral lands?
  • H.G. Wells' idea for The War of the Worlds came from a conversation with his brother about the invasion of Tasmania by European settlers. Considered them an 'inferior race'.
  • Anthony Trollope in his 2 volume memoir, Australia and New Zealand wrote,
of the Australian black man we may say certainly that he has to go. That he should perish without unnecessary suffering should be the aim of all who are concerned in this matter.
when civilised nations come into contact with barbarians the struggle is short
  •  Charles Dickens wrote in June 1853:
if we have anything to learn from the Noble Savage, it is what to avoid. His virtues are a fable; his happiness is a delusion; his nobility nonsense....the world will be all the better when his place knows him no more.
the destruction of the Tasmanians occurred in a British colony governed by the British Crown....frontier destruction and protection served the same colonial logic. A logic that envisioned no future for the native peoples.
the progressives reinforced victimhood of the indigenes while their opponents denied their victimisation.
  • Multiculturalism - 'the illusion of culture as a singular identity'.
  • Identity fundamentalism vs layered identities
  • Biculturalism:
We see our future as living in two worlds and moving between each: the Aboriginal world and the wider world.
  • The democratic problem - the question of race, indigeneity, minority (3% of population).
more recently we have seen a proliferation of well-intentioned positive discrimination - benign in intent, but still harmful to our individual liberty and thus to our personal responsibility.
  • integration and/or assimilation
  • development, social & economic success and/or the Noble Savage preserving culture
In Australia, Indigenous peoples have not been allowed to make their own choices about how to reconcile their cultures with the demands of development.
  • Race:
Today we understand there are no distinctions to be made among peoples on the basis of race. We are a human race. While we do not share a uniform culture, language, religion and ethnicity, we do share one characteristic: we are members of a single race
  • 'our ancient heritage, our British inheritance and our multicultural triumph' pg 91 
  • oikophilia - love of home - Roger Scruton - 'nations are defined not by kinship or religion but by a homeland'.


Megan Davis - Self-Determination & the Right to be Heard

  • a Cobble Cobble woman from Queensland, a pro vice chancellor & professor of law at Uni NSW.
  • discussion about international law & self-determination.
  • Voice, Treaty & Truth.
  • failure of politicians to 'pause and reflect' and do the 'slow work of listening' after the Uluru Statement from the Heart - it 'illustrated the institutional failure to hear'.
  • another example of the 'history of Aboriginal Australia' being 'silenced'.


Jackie Huggins & Rod Little - A Rightful Place at the Table

  • Fred Maynard NSW 1927 wrote to the premier to end the era of protection & control
  • King Burraga 1933 called for representation in national parliament
  • William Cooper 1937 petitioned King George V
  • Pastor Sir Doug Nicholls 1949 wrote to PM Ben Chifley for reserved seats in parliament
  • Yirrkala bark petitions 1963 called for better consultation
  • Federal Council for the Advancement of Aborigines & Torres Strait Islanders (FCAATSI) 1957 pushed for constitutional change & national advocacy
  • referendum 1967
  • Larrakia people 1972 petitioned Queen Elizabeth II for treaties, land rights & political representation
  • Aboriginal Tent Embassy
  • National Aboriginal Consultative Committee (NACC) 1973 established by PM Gough Whitlam  as an advisory body
  • NACC abolished 1977 when government changed & National Aboriginal Conference (NAC) created to enable broader representation
  • NAC dismantled 1985 by PM Bob Hawke
  • Barunga Statement 1988 presented to Hawke
  • Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) 1989
  • ATSIC abolished by PM John Howard 'should have been improved rather than abolished'.
There has been no treaty, though our people have repeatedly asked for one. Mutual goals have never been articualted. A shared vision for our country and the place of Indigenous peoples within it has never been agreed.

  • National Apology to the Stolen Generation 2008 by PM Kevin Rudd
  • Congress 2009
  • Redfern Statement 2016 delivered by Congress
We don't seek to harm Australia: we seek to make a better country for all of us.


Damien Freeman & Nolan Hunter - When Two Rivers Become One 

Historical: agreed historical account, acknowledgements, and a Crown apology;
Cultural redress: site vesting, co-governance, protocols, dual place names, statutory recognition; and
Financial redress; cash and Crown assets.

  • June 2015 Colin Barnett, premier of W.A. formally reached six agreements with the South West Aboriginal Land & Sea Council - the Noongar Native Title Agreement Groups.
  • Noongar (Koorah, Nitja, Boordahwan) (Past, Present, Future) Recognition Act 2016.
  • 'emotional resolution as much as a legal or political resolution.'
  • 'unresolved anxiety is carried by non-Indigenous Australians, as well as by Indigenous.'


Warren Mundine - Recognising the First Nations

It's a two-way mirror, we acknowledge you, you acknowledge us, we become one.

  • Bill Shorten's speech for the 2015 RECOGNISE Gala Dinner.
  • conservative opposition is not about indifference or injustice, but more about concern about the 'consequences of the proposed changes'.
  • Uphold and Recognise proposal - 'complement the operation of the Constitution, not direct it.'
  • The Forgotten People: Liberal and Conservative Approaches to Recognising Indigenous Peoples edited by Damien Freeman and Shireen Morris with a chapter by Tim Wilson, proposing An Australian Declaration of Unity. 
With this pledge we recognise we are all Australians,
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples,
Whose heritage, culture and language we cherish
and enduring connection to land and waters we respect,
The first European settlers that followed
Whose institutions and traditions we preserve,
The generations of migrants from across the seas
Who come to contribute to our shared future,
Built on a liberal democracy that binds us as equals,
With mutual respect and responsibility for each other
For a free, fair, just and united Australia for all.
We pledge our loyalty to Australia.

  • A FULLER DECLARATION of AUSTRALIA’S NATIONHOOD: Options for Discussion is available as a PDF to read online.
  • shared nationhood - common national story


Shireen Morris - False Equality

  • objections to the Uluru Statement fall under four main objections:
  1. equality politics (Institute of Public Affairs) - any reforms would 'create division, disunity and inequality' but is based on the assumption that 'all Australians are equal' and that it is a constitutional fact. It is not, it is in the US constitution, but not ours. We have the Racial Discrimination Act 1975.
  2. identity politics (IPA, Greg Sheridan, Andrew Bolt, Rowan Dean) - negative nationalism (racism) - positive nationalism (patriotism 'the shared love of citizens for their country.') 'Australia is a nation of three parts: its ancient pre-colonial heritage, its inherited British institutions and its multicultural achievement.'
  3. personal responsibility (Greg Sheridan, Andrew Bolt) - or 'irresponsibility'. Disadvantage and disempowerment. Responsibility requires 2 things 'that people are willing to take charge of their problems, and that government structures allow and empower them to take charge.'
  4. all heart and no head (Rowan Dean) - emotional not practical
  5. secret, separatist sovereignty (Keith Windschuttle). There IS a public separatist movement, but they are a 'minority and they don't support constitutional recognition.'


Stan Grant - A Makarrata Declaration: A Declaration of Our Country

  • the power of story
While story grapples with timelessness, with ambivalence and ambiguity, we live in a land of laws, and the law demands certainty. If the First Peoples are to have justice, it must truly be acknowledged at law....But I would argue that we seek something more, that we write a declaration of our nation...that speaks beyond race or history....A nation is not just a set of laws. Above all, it is a story: a never-ending story of us....It should speak to our sense of place: our home. It should be a work of poets. It should stand alone, apart from the Constitution....should speak to who we have been and allow for who we may become....should be a song to our country.

I read this book for Lisa @ANZLitLovers Indigenous Literature Week.


Book 12 of #20BooksofSummer (Winter)
I finished reading this book last Thursday when it was
20℃ in Sydney
19℃ in Northern Ireland

No comments:

Post a Comment

I love hearing from you but I understand that blogger can be a frustrating experience for many.

Make sure you're logged into your account before writing your comment, otherwise blogger will eat it. I have occasionally found lost comments by hitting the back arrow button. All anonymous comments will be deleted.

If all else fails, you can contact me on my fb page or twitter.
Thanks for stopping by.