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NSW Greens take stand for First Peoples’ justice
(Photo: Lidia Thorpe, Lynda-June Coe and Dominic Wy-Kanak at the NSW Greens' policy launch.)
When Greens NSW speak of Treaty, they mean fundamental change. Their January 24 policy launch in Redfern made this clear.
Wiradjuri, Badu Islander woman Lynda-June Coe, Greens NSW candidate in the upcoming state election, introduced the launch saying, “We want equality, not tokenistic gestures of how to fix the problems they’ve created.”
“Invasion is a structure, not an event.”
Aunty Jennie Munro, a Wiradjuri leader said ongoing invasion “keeps us captive in poverty and mismanagement of Country.”
She said change “needs to be all community, not just part.”
“We’ve had a voice for 230 years,” she said. “It hasn’t been listened to.”
“We will not be told by the majority of white Australia, which will decide the coming referendum.”
“That’s our laws, that’s our culture, that’s our way of life. I live in hope. I’m still fighting,” Aunty Jennie said.
A long history
NSW Greens’ Policy Initiative for First Nations Justice has three main thrusts – establishment of a Truth & Justice Commission; an Independent Treaty Commission run by First Peoples; and starting a referendum process creating dedicated seats for First Nations people, elected by them, in the NSW Parliament.
The policy also calls for raising the age of criminal responsibility to 14 years of age, with no person under 16 years of age in NSW in prison.
It says Blak deaths in custody, can be ended by keeping First Nations people out of prison. As the Initiative explains, “In 2021, NSW reported the highest number of First Nations deaths in custody since recording began.”
Last year, UN Rapporteurs on Torture, were refused access to NSW prisons.
Alongside this, NSW Greens and many others call for justice reinvestment programs; community courts controlled by First Nations people; plus a new prison oversight mechanism to prevent torture and degrading treatment of people in custody, to hold institutions to account.
The Greens initiative has a long history. First Peoples consider Australian Greens senator and former NSW MP David Shoebridge a staunch ally. He knows well the limitations of parliament, calling it “part of the problem”.
“A bad process”
Gunditjmara, Gunnai, Djab Wurrung Greens senator, Lidia Thorpe said, “All we know is how to fight to assert our sovereignty. 22,000 children are in out of home care. It’s an act of genocide.
“We are part of the land. We are part of our Totem. We are part of the air we breathe.”
Lidia Thorpe called Treaty “a negotiation of those who own this country, and those who say they do.”
She said the Victorian process was hijacked by the Victorian ALP government. Several hundred First Peoples voted no to constitutional recognition when it was initially introduced in 2015.
Later, while Daniel Andrews “negotiated” a treaty, he authorised a crown lands’ fire sale, unfettered logging and destruction of birthing trees.
Lidia Thorpe called the Victorian treaty negotiations “a really bad process” with “lots of money spent” but only 11 Traditional Owners of 38 nations registered as “recognised parties … The rest get no say”.
All the time in the world
Lidia Thorpe calls Treaty “a negotiation between those who own their Country and those who say they do.” It requires “free, prior, formal consent.”
“We know treaties have been broken,” she said.
Treaties between First Peoples’ clans are a prerequisite for treaties with governments.
They won’t compromise, and are prepared to wait. “We’ve got all the time in the world. We’ve been here for a long time,” Aunty Jenny said about Treaty.
Lynda-June Coe agreed, saying First Peoples from NSW are learning from negative examples elsewhere.
She ridiculed the $5 million set aside by NSW Opposition leader Chris Minns for “negotiations”. “There’s 60 nations!” she exclaimed.
The 2016 Census makes the Minns’ tokenism clear. 265,685 First Peoples lived in NSW, making up a third of all Aboriginal residents in Australia. The numbers have grown since. Fifty three percent were aged under 24 years.
Lynda-June Coe said, “It takes years to establish robust processes.”
She spoke of Treaty uniting and benefiting all peoples, not only First Peoples.
Lidia Thorpe said Treaty means peace. “To be a Blakfella is so hard, so hard! Our People are dying, our men are locked up. They’re killing our children.”
“Our women,” she stated, “are left standing.”
All speakers emphasised the importance of truth telling.
Lidia Thorpe said of the Voice to parliament, “To become an advisory body after 250 years? It’s a slap in the face.”
“If you believe in climate action, you have to believe in Blakfella justice,” Lidia Thorpe told the audience.
She said, “Who’s backing the Yulara Statement (1)? It’s the mining companies.”
Torres Strait and South Sea Islander man and Waverly Councillor Dominic-Wy-Kanak said the Statement from the Heart talks about sovereignty co-existing with British sovereignty, but that “a lot of Blackfellas can’t even get on the electoral roll”.
Lidia Thorpe stated, “Even the racists have been lied to. Truth telling is ‘You’re on stolen lands. Pay the rent’.”
We need to share that truth telling load.
“When Blakfellas benefit, you’ll benefit too,” she concluded.
Lynda-June Coe agreed, “It’s about mutual recognition.”
(1)The Yulara Statement is the name given by First Peoples who opposed the name more commonly called “Uluru Statement”, as the resort town was where the negotiations actually took place.