BCA plan: “a new architecture for Aboriginal affairs”
A Maori representative once told Narungga Elder Tauto Sansbury, “If you're not at the table, you're the menu.
“Right now,” Tauto says, “we're being chopped up into little pieces.”
Terry Mason, Awabakal Elder and NTEU representative, speaking with Tauto and others at a 'Men for Treaty' event in Sydney recently, described the 500 Aboriginal people who descended on a Victorian Government meeting, and voted unanimously for Treaty.
“They wanted to break us into four groups and give us focus questions set by the government, ” he said.
The participants took over. “We'll do this Aboriginal way. Focus groups mean you have us heading somewhere you want us to head. We'll stay together and we will talk about what we want to talk about. It'll be open and everyone will hear it, and when we come to a conclusion, it'll be our conclusion,” Uncle Terry reported.
Tony McAvoy Australia's first Indigenous Senior Council said the Victorian meeting called for unity, “a collective voice”. Sovereign Peoples across the continent echo this call.
Calling Treaty “a winner” Uncle Tauto said, “We are a grass roots campaign. We don't get dollars or cents for this. Some of us borrow money to fly over here...Recognise is a multimillion dollar campaign.”
Uncle Tony added,“It shouldn't be those who can afford to go, those with a vested interest, who represent certain organisations.”
Awash with money and power
In 1988 Sovereign peoples were united and powerful, while aggressive policies had isolated corporations and undermined their profits. It's not so now.
Brenda Croft, a Gurindji Elder spoke with strong feeling at an earlier Women For Treaty gathering, “It's theft upon theft upon theft! … I want action!”
Bunurong author, Bruce Pascoe, writes in 'Bread', “Imagine that the culture so wilfully ignored was your own. Try and describe the magnitude of your anger, and don't hold back, because anger and sorrow of themselves are not criminal acts.”
Facing despair, it's small wonder that when corporations, awash with money and power, with governments at their beck and call, promise order imposed on chaos, employment, education, high order skills and money to solve problems, some choose cooperation.
Talking about 'settlement'
The Business Council of Australia (BCA) is the ruling class's executive. It sets agendas and systematically applies the vast resources of its 100 plus corporate members to implement them. For the BCA 'Indigenous Engagement' is a priority issue.
Its members are integral to Reconciliation Australia (RA), and its offshoot, Recognise. Recognise has twenty BCA members sprinkled amongst hundreds of community organisations on its Campaign Partners Network.
Giant legal firm, Allens-Linklater, is a key BCA player in the development of Recognise. Partner Ian McGill speaks of “explicit recognition … of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples' occupation of this continent before European settlement.” (Not invasion!)
In December PM Turnbull appointed Allens' former Chief Executive Partner, Michael Rose, to the Referendum Council on Constitutional Recognition.
Then there's Melinda Cilento, simultaneously on the boards of RA and Woodside Petroleum through the entire Walmadan (James Price Point) dispute that left the region's Jabirr Jabirr and Goolarabooloo peoples bitterly divided. Both Ms Cilento (a former BCA Deputy Chief Executive) and KPMG's Peter Nash remain on RA's board.
As the BCA sees fit
Building a new Aboriginal leadership that the BCA deems fit is paramount.
Eight BCA companies are part of the Australian Indigenous Leadership Centre, while BHP Billiton helped create the Indigenous Governance Awards.
Michael Rose is also chair of the the Advisory Board of Empowered Communities, which Allens describes as “a new architecture for Indigenous Affairs”, where communities “with proven and legitimate governance” get “more power to determine priorities and funding.”
But there are those who think the lives and futures of Sovereign Peoples is not for corporations to decide. They're fighting back.