For almost two decades, Country Arts WA has been working in partnership with First Nation Peoples from around Western Australia, creating a strong and sustainable environment for the preservation and development of First Nations culture.
To mark the significance of the 50th anniversary of the 1967 Referendum, we asked Debbie Carmody, CEO of Tjuma Pulka Original Nations Media Corporation, to provide her reflection on Reconciliation.
“Reconciliation is the re-establishment of friendly relations. This implies that at some stage in the history of black and white relations in Australia, it was friendly. The term therefore contributes to the myth of white settlement. History tells us differently however – this Country was declared terra nullius under English law, despite Captain Cook recording a number of interactions with First Nation People. The awful truth is, this Country was invaded and colonised. The foundation of white Australia was built upon wars, massacres, rape, pillaging, plundering, slavery, dispossession and loss of First Nation People’s social, political, economic, religious and cultural practices. Government policies of genocide, annihilation institutionalisation, segregation, assimilation, and self-determination disempowered and devalued First Nation People. It was hardly friendly relations. So, who is reconciling what?
We should be talking about Conciliation.
Conciliation is the action of bringing peace and harmony, the action of ending strife and disputes.
‘The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.’ Martin Luther King Jr.
We need to take action by getting rid of the divisive term Reconciliation and its meaning, and be proactive in setting up a National Truth and Conciliation Conversation. Every individual and group can contribute to an open, honest Conversation on: What is the Story of a Nation? – a story that begins well before European Invasion and continues right up to the present time.
Public education and advocacy strategies will ensure the Conversation is ongoing while high-profile supporters foster the continuing work of public education and dialogue. Representing accomplished and influential leaders from all walks of life, the high-profile supporters serve as Ambassadors to educate and encourage the broader Australian public to do what they have done: learn and be transformed in understanding, and commitment to societal change.
It is important that, The Story of a Nation educates people on the truth of the founding of white Australia and the impact that it has had on black and white generations, in order to understand the way in which we look, think and talk to each other today. Eyewitness accounts and experiences are vital in telling the Story of a Nation. Together as a Nation we should be able to imagine a new future in partnership with each other where leadership must be aspirational. Symbolism is not to be accepted as a substitute.
Conciliation will allow the voice of First Nation People to be heard in a conciliatory environment that ends in acknowledgement – that First Nation People never ceded Sovereignty – and Change. Tjukulpa – First Nation Highest Law must sit above the Australian Constitution. The Australian Constitution must constantly refer back to First Nation’s Highest Law in every matter, social, cultural, religious, political and economic. A First Nation Bill of Rights must be written and if a Treaty is to be drawn up it must be based on our current social, economic, political, and environmental issues. A Treaty is usually drawn up when a nation cedes defeat. First Nation People have never ceded defeat. First Nation People and Australians will hold an educated understanding of each other based on truth, not myths and will bring a sense of peace and harmony within the national community and enable social justice, equality and equity for First Nation People.
A Conciled Australia – 25 years from now.
Our Country’s ‘way of life’ and ‘fair go’ will be diverse and inclusive, with acknowledgement and acceptance of the special place First Nation People hold. Australian Laws will be based on Tjukulpa where values will be redefined and based on having a concern for the interests and welfare of others, emphasising social inclusion and justice where human dignity, worth and capacity is highly valued. This will be a strong foundation upon which to build – it will be progressive, allowing First Nation People and Australians to mature as a nation together.”