"All the World's a Stage We Pass Through" R. Ayana

Thursday, 6 November 2008

Indigenous Sovereigns: Towards Koompartoo - Compact and Treaty?

Indigenous Sovereigns
Towards Koompartoo -  Compact and Treaty?

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By Burnum Burnum
Whereas the Universal Declaration of Human Rights affirms that all people have the right to self determination; and whereas we the Aboriginal peoples and nations of the land mass now known as ‘Australia’ have since 1788 been denied this right by the belligerent and illegal occupation of our territories by the British Crown and its successors – we affirm our continuing sovereign title to all our lands and territory, waters, resources, which title is derived from our spirit mother the Earth, who binds us her people through our law and customs to our land.

And whereas we the Aboriginal peoples and nations have always owned and occupied and used our land in accordance with our institutions, culture and law; and

Considering that the international law of the 18th century required a colonizing power to obtain new territory by treaty and/or cession from the inhabitants of that territory; and

Considering that Captain James Cook, by British Admiralty instructions dated 30th July 1768, was ordered to take possession of part of the abovementioned land with the consent of the natives and that no such consent was obtained; and

Considering that the proclamation of British sovereignty made by Captain James Cook over the East Coast of Australia was made in breach of his letters of instruction so that such proclamation was an illegal act; and

Further considering that since 1770 there has been no act of treaty, cession, nor acquiescence to the illegal invasion of our territories – and that the British occupation has been continually disturbed by wars and civil acts of resistance mounted by our ancestors – which acts we, their descendants, to this day do continue; and

Taking into account the illegal seizure of our land and territory, we the Aboriginal peoples and nations have suffered the following grievous acts for which no compensation nor redress has ever been made, namely;

- Trespass and land theft, past and continuing
- Genocide and ethnocide – partial and whole
- Continuous violations of human rights to work, raise a family, practice religion and language;
- To freedom of movement and association, and natural justice and the right to life

We Hereby Affirm 

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We the Aboriginal peoples and nations affirm our sovereign rights and ways established and provided by our ancestors and our supreme creator, Baiame, and all other totemic spirits through the Dreaming to this day. Our sacred dreaming flows from our mother the Earth, and from our ancestors who lived before the time of King George III of England and his servants Captain James Cook and Arthur Phillip. *

This sacred dreaming continues in all our people today.

We hereby call upon all the peoples of the world to recognise our sovereign rights to our land and territories, waters and other resources contained therein together with our sacred cultural and religious rights.

We further call upon all the peoples of the world to condemn the attempts to steal and destroy our territories and culture and we ask for their support for our historic struggle for an act of decolonization so that we can freely determine our political, cultural and economic future.

- B.B.

This affirmation of Aboriginal Sovereignty over the land and territory of Australia came as an Aboriginal response to the 1988 national bicentennial celebrations – a call for a fresh start, or Koompartoo. A swift generation has passed since that time and the Aboriginal people still wait with extraordinary patience for the world to take note of their ongoing ordeal, and for the laws of their dispossessors to redress these illegalities and injustices.

Natural justice may not appear to act swiftly, but within the compass of an Aboriginal Dreaming which has continued to evolve on and with the great southern island continent for at least 100,000 years, the last twenty-two decades represent little more than the blink of an eye – while the dust-mote of Western civilization creates its own far more temporary dreams.

The Magna Carta is the basis for the constitutional law of most modern democratic nations; it prepared the ground for human rights as we know them today. It emphasises that people should not be dispossessed of their land, that they have a right to trial by jury and to freedom.

Although it was forced upon King John by land-grabbers and robber barons, the Magna Carta is remarkably contemporary in its emphasis on land rights, liberty and justice. To quote from the document;

“If anyone has been disseised [sic] or  deprived by us without lawful judgement of his peers of lands, castles, liberties or his rights we will restore them to him at once… No free man shall be taken and imprisoned or disseised or outlawed or exiled or in any way ruined, nor shall we send against him, except by the lawful judgement of his peers or by the law of the land. To no one will we sell, to no one will we deny or delay the right to justice.”

- R.A.

* First governor of the first British Colony in Sydney.
This affirmation was first published in NEXUS New Times Magazine, Vol. 1 No. 5, 1988

Video (3:37)  - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=teUoLmMU9Xg

Images - R.A.

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