250 Shades of Black



Day 2 – Sunday 28th May, 2017

On Sunday Aunty Fay Stewart-Muir and I opted for a sleep-in and grazing breakfast that lasted two hours in between bursts of writing and newspaper reading then off to attend a panel called 250 Shades of Black, followed by a visit to the Mindil markets on Darwin foreshore, dinner on the dunes and our final show of the Yarramal festival Hot Brown Honey.


The 250 Shades of Black was a Q & A style session was the most significant event for me. This is a subject very close to my heart; Aboriginal sovereignty, recognition and treaty, which I have attempted to summarise for you from listening to the panelists. The traditional name given to the call to action process is “Makarata” Yolngu language which translates to “restoration of peace after a dispute.”

The title of the Q&A session represents the multiplicity of Aboriginal languages within Australia. There were approximately 250 Aboriginal languages pre British Settlement and sadly not even half this number remains. The 250 languages also reflects the 250 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander delegates who gathered at Uluru last weekend, a diverse group of representatives that reflects their combined intelligence, wisdom, diversity, traditional knowledge and experience, languages and cultures. The delegates were put forward by their traditional owners, Elders, land councils and Aboriginal organisations across Australia. The outcome of the three day Conference called for radical government reform as well as sovereignty. Everyone present agreed that recent statistics demonstrate that things are not working “on the ground” for their communities.

In Australia 600 Aboriginal children didn’t reach the age of 4. 27% of the Indigenous population are represented in prisons (of the 1279 prisoners in the NT, 1100 were Aboriginal). Their youth, the next generation are in jail or detention centres. Aboriginal children continue to be removed from their families at alarming rates (resembling the stolen generation, but in a different guise). Despite the government’s notion of “best interests” disadvantage in our Aboriginal communities is not being reduced it is increasing at an alarming rate!

The Uluru delegates unanimously rejected the need for recognition that focuses on the obvious fact that “they were here first”. Aboriginal peoples need practical solutions to mitigate a sense of powerlessness that has snowballed since colonisation, and at this point in history has reached crisis levels. They feel there is no longer time for the government to drag its heels…or handball problems to “the Australian people to decide” as Malcolm Turnbull recently suggested. Many of us know, that what lies at the heart of national ignorance is due to Australia’s 150 year education system; a direct export from Britain that showcases the very policies that sought to assimilate Aboriginal people. We have a one-sided historical narrative, or “single story” of our nation which is a perspective embraced by colonists and embedded unconsciously within our curricula, policies and classrooms.

The Uluru delegates, are seeking true leadership from our Government real men’s business, which takes courage to admit fault and restore equal human rights to our nation’s Aboriginal peoples. There is no time for the government to buy another couple of years and see out an election on the promise of having a referendum. Aboriginal people want to take control of their own affairs now and not on their own. They acknowledge that they need bipartisan support by working together with non- Aboriginal people, yet with sanctions to be able to ‘drive the ship’. They want elders and Aboriginal leaders to have the final say and decide what their community’s need, including what to teach their children.

They have the right to determine what is required now and will work for the future benefit of their children and families. If the charters for human rights and indigenous rights were adhered to within our nation, Aboriginal peoples would not be having to ask for what is simply a natural human right! But as Malcom Turnbull sets, ” we are a conservative nation…”

Three outstanding outcomes came out of the conference in Uluru. A statement by all delegates titled, “Statement of the Heart” is a statement of faith and a unanimous calling for a greater Aboriginal voice to be Constitutionally recognised and to have greater representation in Parliament. Furthermore, the introduction of an act that prohibits racial discrimination and which all governments have to abide by. In addition, the call for a National Framework around Treaty (to support greater understanding and education around indigenous rights, recognition and Aboriginal history pre and post Settlement. Finally, the call for a Truth & Justice style commission; a process of truth telling that seeks to rewrite the wrongs done to a Country’s First Peoples.

The African government supported South Africans who had suffered the trauma of apartheid policies and practices, having the opportunity to come together to heal and have their stories heard, set straight and validated. The African government recognised that the rest of their country was ignorant of the true history of their peoples and supported a process that provided justice and education of the masses about what actually happened, what had been deliberately kept hidden from the public. Australia also, must begin to allow these conversations and stories to be told to re-right and re-write our nation’s history, so both sides of the story are represented and told.

The panel was filmed by the ABC and Fay and I may have our mugs in the show so stay tuned. Thank you for reading…We can all be part of the truth telling process. I hope you all can too in your own way. It can contribute to making a BIG difference for our Aboriginal communities, children and families.