Jim Everett, Palawa
Australian Aboriginal First Nations need to determine precisely what it is that we believe a treaty with colonial Australia is to be. Once determined, we will need to consider how our mutual aspirations become a reality. A question we might ask ourselves is: “What sort of society do we aspire to in the 21 century?” Given that assimilation has been coerced onto our First Nation communities to a significant extent after over 200 years of being ‘conditioned’, changing our lifestyles to becoming more and more urbanite, do we aspire to re-establish ourselves in a similar mode of money, greed, and power?
I would think this is very unlikely for most of our First Nations who hold closely to traditions and cultural-spiritual pathways. Nevertheless, our traditional societies have been fragmented, and our philosophy has been tainted through interaction with the corporate-government systems, both in Australia and globally. Furthermore, given that achieving a treaty with a colonial nation that opposes Aboriginal self-determination, we can expect a quite limited domestic agreement, or treaty. Moreover, after seeing the failure of colonial-Australia concerning human rights, and domestic management of resources, creating a very negative society, it would be safe to say that our First Nations won’t want to emulate this.
So what is it we need to do to prepare? More to the point, even if a treaty is never achieved, what should we be doing about knowledge maintenance, our cultural-spiritual ceremony, and developing our First Nations education systems around our philosophy? These are daunting questions, and all the more important if we are to survive as First Nations that are quite distinct from colonial-Australia. To move ahead with our lives as Aborigines with self-determination we need to start our preparation now. From my perspective, whether a treaty is our goal or not, being Aboriginal in Australia can only be maintained through our own mob developing new ways to develop our societies as dictated by our own cultural aspirations. All of the above is open for discussion. Whatever might happen, we need to establish our programs free of government intervention.
I know from my own experience that knowledge is being lost, and understanding being Aboriginal is somewhat difficult for those of our younger generations to grasp in contemporary society. Lifestyles are changing for young Aborigines being influenced by the influx of information technology, the many ethnic identities in Australia, non-Aboriginal peers, and white-Australian society in general. For my part in preparing for the future generations is an education program to establish a school of Aboriginal philosophy on Cape Barren Island (Tasmania) in November 2017. This will be named “Kraka Neka School of Knowledge”, meaning “Sit Down Place of Knowledge, where we can sit and discuss the relevant points in our philosophy.
The Kraka Neka School of Knowledge will not be a ‘bricks and mortar’ program, and I will travel it Australia wide in coming years. There will be modules to enlist, others to take up the program in their local communities, with documented guides on how to facilitate discussions on our philosophy. The Kraka Neka School of Knowledge will not accept government funding to ensure that there can be no government interventions in the program. A major principle of the school program is that our philosophy is not taught through a teacher but rather through facilitated discussions on questions that arise in daily life of colonised First Nations peoples.
I know of other First Nations people doing likewise to me in there own communities, but these are small programs, as is mine. These small programs spread around the country provide for anything from maintaining cultural customs, ceremonies, dance, and song-lines, for instance. These sorts of programs must be established across our First Nations communities to protect our identity and knowledge, sooner than later. These are the cultural and intellectual programs we need to be establishing in all of our First Nations communities right now. Much of this already going on, but is it enough, are we building the community blocks of our potential future so as to be prepared for a treaty? Each First Nation will need to consider these things and more, and get a plan into action soon if we are not to see our future morph into a clone of the colonial-Australian mess in which we now live.
Other pressing matters are to be addressed if our First Nations’ societies are established in such a way that they are not of a white-Australian model. Given that our First nations will be a spread of communities across the country, each will need to affirm or develop societal infrastructures in each region. This may take the form of a First Nations Federation that is structured in a cultural and philosophical way. To even consider how this might be achieved leads to many more questions to be addressed. Any ‘treaty’ with colonial-Australia will not be generous, nor of goodwill. But the best idea for a domestic agreement appears to be Michael Mansell’s 7th State, which I believe he now calls the 1st State. It does seem more appropriate as the ‘first state’ on our lands.
Other considerations need to be addressed, such as a sound economy which should include a percentage of the Gross National Product, our own education systems, and if appropriate our own bank systems. Instead of maintaining the capitalist-democracy system that is dominant around the world, we should consider a socialist-environmentalist democracy with emphasis on Caring for Country and our people, and based on the premise of a fair go for everyone that has never been achieved by colonial-Australia to date. In fact, the colonial system has failed, and is regressive in terms of caring for the land, seas and waterways. Will we consider creating our own judicial systems, and what independence do we expect to achieve for our judicial systems, and policing in our First Nations? We need to consider how we honour our lost warriors, and what form our memorials of our history and losses in the colonial wars against us might take. The questions I raise here are but a small outline of the things our First Nations will need to consider right now if our future generations are to live in the safety of their Belonging Places. What will our legacy be – that is a major question I pose for us all to contemplate, and how many of us will take it on as a priority to begin developing pathways for our young people’s future?