Time to fund the "No" vote in the Australian constitution dispute


The Con in the new Constitutional Recognition Council continues - time that the case for the ‘No’ vote is equally funded

Having had successful meetings in Canberra with politicians it is very clear that Aboriginal people are being denied our sovereign inherent rights, because our people themselves have not yet grasped the full extent of their Human Rights under international law, nor have our Peoples been able to exercise the rights recognised by the High Court of Australia in Mabo (No. 2). The basic fundamentals of First Nations' sovereign governance stem from a governing system that already existed on the land, now known as Australia, and to which the British invaders were not automatically a part of. When the British arrived there already existed within Australia a set of laws; institutional spiritual/religious practices; defined territories and boundaries of the diverse tribes; external diplomatic relationships between the different Nations; and an economic and trading system.


There is also evidence that has recently come to light where coastal Aboriginal Peoples in the north and east coast of Australia had foreign relationships with the Chinese of the Ming dynasty. Furthermore, there were trade relations, and marriage relationships between the Yolngu and others in Northern Australia with the Maluku Islands (then known as Moluccas as part of the Dutch East Indies).


Given all of this history there existed a continental common law on the mainland of Australia and beyond. For millennia there existed in Australia settled laws and customs and ancient social practices, which have stood the test of time. This, under international law, confirms our ability as Aboriginal Nations and Peoples to argue the Act of State doctrine, which is now vehemently expressed when dealing with sovereign inherent rights to govern. Mabo confirms this assertion by us as First Nations Peoples, because as the majority judgement says that Aboriginal Peoples' rights to property have survived the British assertion of sovereignty and the whole of Australia knew that from this moment onwards the validity of their sovereignty and sovereignty rights has now been seriously compromised.


Documented evidence shows clearly that the colonial intruders were confronted with a real legal and political dilemma, when they were corresponding with England regarding representative government on and within the land of the new territories they had invaded. Governor Gipps at the time was in conflict with W. C. Wentworth and his patriotic movement, which was demanding self-governance within the colony of New South Wales.  They soon realised, however, that they were not the legal sovereigns of the soil and that they had supplanted themselves on and within someone else's territory.


“The state of the population in New South Wales presents many difficulties in the way of introducing representative government in that colony,' he explained, 'but I am happy to say, that from year to year the character of that population is changing, that it is becoming more wholesome, and that year by year it approximates more to the character of the population of this country, of Scotland, and of Ireland. As this change takes place, it will be more incumbent on the legislature of this country to give those representative institutions which properly belong to all colonies derived from the race which inhabits these kingdoms. My belief is that whether we introduce these institutions now, or postpone them to a riper period, we shall all unite in opinion, that finally it will be more safe to bestow on New South Wales a representative constitution.” [Melbourne, A.C.V, 1934, Early Constitutional Development in Australia, New South Wales 1788-1856, Oxford University Press, London.]


Correspondence between England, Governor Gipps and others showed that the only way in which there could be an exercise of legitimate governance was to first increase the population of British subjects on and within the colony.


The population size of the colony was their nightmare from the outset, because they were out constantly numbered by the native population, which is why Governor Phillip was reporting to England that the size and number of the Aboriginal people was greater than in size and number than they originally expected. When Phillip changed his location from Botany Bay to Port Jackson, he realised:


“The natives are far more numerous than they were supposed to be. I think they cannot be less than fifteen hundred in Botany Bay, Port Jackson and Broken Bay, including the intermediate coast. I have traced thirty miles inland and they having lately seen smoke on Landsdown Hills, which are fifty miles inland, I think leaves no doubt that there are inhabitants in the interior parts of the country.” [Governor Phillip to Under Secretary Nepean, 9 July 1788 in Historical Records of Australia, Series I. Governors Despatches to and from England, Vol. I, 1788-1798, Library Committee of the Commonwealth Parliament, 1914, p. 56.]


Then the killings started to 'clear' the land of its inhabitants.


Coupled with the size and number of the Aboriginal population and the limited number of British subjects there could be no legitimacy for forming representative government because legitimate government could only be established the 'inhabiting race' and the British subjects were the uninvited guests on this land, they had no legitimacy. Historical records show that all the legitimacy came form the British Crown itself, as it was in the Crown's name that the colonialists claimed the illegitimate rights to occupy the land as 'first discoverers', under the Christian catholic doctrine of the Pope, the Papal Bulls. This meant that there could be no bona fide legislative government established on Australian soil without Orders-in-Council, Letters Patent and Proclamations of the reigning monarchs of  England, in whose name this Country was claimed.


In other words, the invader colonial society did not have legal authority, nor legitimacy, to establish representative government on and within the soil of Australia because they had no legal right, as they were not the sovereigns of the soil and the Crown of England under its law were the only ones who could impose a legal right as the first discoverers, claiming absolute right.


Their illegal endeavours continue to haunt them to this day, as Dr Stephen Davis' 1997 paper to the Samuel Griffith Society of Constitutional lawyers confirmed. When giving advice to John Howard at the time when they were proposing the now infamous ten point plan amendments to the Native Title Act, Dr Davis wrote in Native Title: A Path to Sovereignty:


"The issue of domestic sovereignty is set to dominate future international discussions of indigenous rights, and decisions made by the United Nations, together with precedents in other countries, could potentially change the map of this country. Land rights and native title in Australia are examples of a very dynamic debate which is open-ended, and which can be simply linked to international conventions and trends to develop a credible basis for a range of outcomes with far reaching and irreversible consequences. Australians tend to take their sovereignty for granted. That sovereignty is now being contested. We must become more aware of the issues, the players and be prepared to defend our sovereignty if we are to maintain it."



For all these reasons (and more) we challenge the intent of the Constitutional recognition campaign and demand that the case for the ‘No’ vote is given equal funding to the case for the ‘yes’ vote, which is currently the only view funded. It takes a member of parliament to request equal funding for the case for the ‘no’ vote. The recent comments by Co-chair of the Constitutional Recognition Council, Mr Leibler, as quoted by AAP, are enough to send shudders up the spine:


Mr Leibler said changing the Constitution was in the interest of All Australians.


“We are not doing a favour here to Indigenous Australians,” he said. “This is about our self-respect and our dignity as Australians.” Winning the hearts and minds of Australians, and confronting a potential ‘no’ campaign, will be the biggest challenge for the Council, Mr Leibler said.


Our well-founded arguments for the case for the ‘no’ vote are gaining traction. We must not give up no matter the threat. We must endure and fight for the rights that we have as the sovereigns of the soil and resist being assimilated into a governing system with an intent to destroy our freedoms, our independence and self-determination as First Nations and Peoples.


Contact:  Ghillar Michael Anderson

Convenor of Sovereign Union of First Nations and Peoples in Australia

and Head of State of the Euahlayi Peoples Republic

Mogila Station, Goodooga NSW 2838




Mark Leibler: http://www.kh-uia.org.il/En/Aboutus/struct/World-Executive/Pages/Mark-Leibler-AC.aspx

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Outback Aboriginal kidsBy NACCHO Aboriginal Health News Alerts 

Photo: Aboriginal children playing at one of the town camps in Alice Springs when the intervention started in 2007. An independent report shows the strategy has failed to deliver substantial reform in any target area. Photograph: Anoek de Groot/AFP/Getty Images

"There have been some improvements to Indigenous child mortality with this target on track to be met by 2018. However, despite narrowing the gap in life expectancy, the rate of improvement is far too slow to close the gap. The situation is particularly bad for Indigenous people living in the Northern Territory, whose life expectancy is nearly 15 years shorter than non-Indigenous Australians




The Northern Territory intervention has failed to deliver substantial reform in any of the areas covered by the Close the Gap goals and has also failed to meet Australia’s international human rights obligations, an independent report has found.


Calla Wahlquist in The Guardian reports


Nearly a decade after the Northern Territory intervention, residents of Indigenous town camps in Alice Springs are fighting to regain control of their lives as they wrestle with longstanding social problems


The report, by the Castan Centre for Human Rights at Monash University, rated the intervention, which was rebadged in 2012 and now operates as the “stronger futures” policy, four out of 10 for its general human rights performance and failed it against seven other human rights measures, including the right to self-determination.


It also gave fail marks to every Close the Gap measure except education – which it scored at five out of 10 for improvements in primary school attendance – and urged the government to include incarceration rates as a new Close the Gap target, pointing to an “increasing and inordinate amount of Indigenous Australians being incarcerated”.


Malcolm Turnbull is set to deliver his first update on the Closing the Gap targets on Wednesday.


The national targets were set by the Council of Australian Governments in 2008, a year after the NT intervention began, and, according to the most recent update delivered by the then prime minister Tony Abbott in February 2015, most are not on track to be met.


The target of getting all Indigenous four-year-olds in remote communities into early childhood education was missed in 2013, with just 85% instead of the target of 95% enrolled.


The 2015 update, which Abbott described as “profoundly disappointing”, said the targets of closing the life expectancy gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians within a generation, halving the gap in literacy and numeracy by 2018, and halving the gap in employment outcomes by 2018 were not on track. Literacy and numeracy rates had not improved since 2008 and Indigenous employment had fallen.


Two more targets, to halve the gap in child mortality rates by 2018 and to halve the gap in year 12 completion rates by 2020, were listed as on track.


However, the author of the Castan Centre report said it appeared unlikely that any of the targets would be met in the Territory.


Close the Gap and Closing the Gap – what’s the difference?


Two similarly named programs are working towards the same goal of reducing inequality between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians


“The intervention was meant to improve the lives of Indigenous people in the Northern Territory, but at this rate the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people may never close in many areas,” Dr Stephen Gray said.


He urged the government to adopt a new target of reducing Indigenous incarceration rates, as was recommended by the Close the Gap steering committee in 2014.


According to the latest Australian Bureau of Statistics data, Indigenous people made up 3% of the population but 27% of the prison population, and 52% of all young people in detention. In the NT, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples make up 86% of the adult prisoner population and 96.9% of young people in detention. Incarceration rates are up 41% since the start of the intervention.


In November, the Australian Medical Association called rates of Indigenous imprisonment a “health and justice crisis”.


“I think there’s a perception that because family violence is such a crisis, because assault rates and child abuse are at such a crisis, we should not be always going on about Aboriginal imprisonment rates,” Gray said. “That sense that you can’t improve one without worsening the other is false.”


Amnesty International agreed, telling Guardian Australia that “any efforts at Closing the Gap cannot ignore these areas of massive inequality and the role that law and justice policy play in disadvantage.”


Reports of child abuse in the NT have decreased since 2010, but there has been a 500% increase in reports of self harm or suicide by Indigenous children and a sharp rise in the number of Indigenous children in care.


Gray said it was difficult to unpick the complicated mass of policy that governed the lives of Indigenous people in the NT, and that made it difficult to evaluate.


The intervention began with bipartisan support under the Howard government in 2007 as a response to a report about horrific levels of child sexual abuse in some Aboriginal communities, and was delivered as a complex suite of laws that altered everything from welfare payments to land tenure.


There was this presumption of rampant child sexual abuse in Aboriginal communities,” Gray told Guardian Australia. “It has been the excuse for a large number of other reforms that don’t really relate to child sexual abuse or family violence at all, like land reforms. It’s got very little to do with the original goals of the intervention.”


In 2008, the Rudd government reshaped it to focus on the new Closing the Gap targets but punitive measures remained, including more police, the removal of customary law and cultural practices from consideration in sentencing, quarantining welfare payments of those judged to have “neglected” their children, and tough penalties for possessing alcohol or pornography, as did the suspension of the Racial Discrimination Act.


The Northern Territory National Emergency Response Act expired in 2012 and was extended by the Gillard government until 2022, under the new name of the Stronger Futures in the Northern Territory Act. The Racial Discrimination Act was reintroduced but the percentage of an individual’s welfare payments that could be quarantined under the BasicsCard increased to 70%, and penalties for possessing porn or alcohol in dry communities, including a single can of beer, increased to six months’ jail.


By then the government had produced 98 reports and seven parliamentary inquiries into the intervention, a weight of information Gray said obscured its negative effects, particularly the impact on human rights.


“There’s a danger that things get out of check because of the swift pace of apparent change,” he said. “Because wheels keep turning, another policy gets rebadged, funding gets moved, but the real pace of life in Aboriginal communities remains the same.”


The result, the report said, was that many of Australia’s international human rights obligations, including the right of Indigenous peoples to self-determination, continued to be “directly and knowingly violated or ignored”.


Prof Jon Altman, from the Alfred Deakin Centre for Citizenship and Globalisation, said the Castan Centre’s evaluation of the intervention was too generous. The government deserved a zero out of 10, he said, for its attempts to improve education, and a negative score on employment rates which had gone backwards since the decision to abolish the community development employment projects (CDEP) program, which employed about 33,000 Indigenous people, particularly in remote communities.


Altman, who has spent 40 years working in Aboriginal communities in the NT in particular, said the services previously delivered by community-led CDEP organisations were now being done by non-Indigenous organisations, while many who had worked under CDEP remained on “passive welfare”.


Aboriginal people are exceptional. When we can all acknowledge that, the gap will close


Chris Sarra

Despite the dire outcomes of the Closing the Gap report, there is great potential in Indigenous communities. Our greatest challenge might be in believing that


“The state needs to admit that it’s actually doing worse than Aboriginal community-based organisations,” he said


Altman argued the Close the Gap program should be abolished, saying it was assimilationist, had alienated Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and had produced no significant benefits.


“It’s all based on a policy, an ideology, that progress in closing the gap will require people to adopt western norms,” he told Guardian Australia. “And that’s a pretty hard line. It really doesn’t leave people much wiggle room if they don’t want to be changed.


“My advice to the prime minister is to stop talking about closing the gap and start talking about improving people’s wellbeing and livelihoods, because those things are taking a hammering.”

Invitation to host travelling Close the Health Gap photographic exhibition

The National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) in partnership with Wayne Quilliam Photography has developed a visual narrative that has been created to foster awareness, exploration and understanding of Aboriginal health in Aboriginal hands.

Our exhibition of 20 + photographic images, melded with a series of video interviews embedded within the images will stimulate individual thinking and dialogue relating to the 10th anniversary of ‘Close the Gap’ campaign celebrated in March 2016. Application to host the exhibition


Indigenous Closing the Gap mortality rates ‘need closer look’

An examination of last year’s Closing the Gap report has found unreliable data underpins findings that indigenous mortality rates declined 16 per cent in ­recent years. As reported in the Australian      2015 Report here    Richard Madden, director of the Sydney Centre for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island Statistics, led an examination that says the next Closing the Gap report should aim to give a truer picture by disregarding figures from 1998 and should include mortality data only from Western Australia, South Australia and the Northern Territory. These states were far more reliable sources than Queensland and NSW in identifying Aboriginal people on death records.



Two energy drinks a day could send you to a hospital bay

A new University of Adelaide study has found that drinking more than two energy drinks per day is associated with adverse heart reactions, including a fast heartbeat, heart palpitations and chest pain.



Australian Medical Association says stop the cuts - time for strong investment in health

The AMA recognises the early progress that is being made to close the gap, particularly in reducing early childhood mortality rates, and in addressing major risk factors for chronic disease, such as smoking. However, to maintain this momentum for the long term, the Government must improve resourcing for culturally appropriate primary health care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and the health workforce. From the AMA Pre-Budget Submission 2016-17 Download here

The AMA recognises the early progress that is being made to close the gap, particularly in reducing early childhood mortality rates, and in addressing major risk factors for chronic disease, such as smoking. However, to maintain this momentum for the long term, the Government must improve resourcing for culturally appropriate primary health care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and the health workforce. From the AMA Pre-Budget Submission 2016-17 Download here



Indigenous paramedic science student is wanted worldwide.

Indigenous student Josh Harmer is becoming one of the nation's most sought-after paramedic science undergraduates, yet he was once a victim of racist and homophobic bullying and was told to drop out of high school. Mr Harmer, 20, lives in Tweed Heads in northern New South Wales, but travels to the Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane to study. From ABC North Coast 



Australians spent an estimated A$8 billion on mental health related services  

New data released by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) shows that Australians spent an estimated A$8 billion on mental health related services in 2013-14. The direct financial impact on Australian business is in the vicinity of $11 billion every year, largely due to absenteeism ($4.7 billion) and reduced productivity ($6.1 billion) from unwell workers still attempting to work. Report by Professor Alan Fels



Resources aim to help reduce the incidence of preventable blindness in Aboriginal people

 Diabetes along with cataract, refractive error and trachoma accounts for 94% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people vision loss and represents up to 11% of the health gap. Despite national guidelines recommending that all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with diabetes have a YEARLY eye check, only 20% have done so. Of those requiring treatment for diabetic retinopathy only 37% have received it. Developing the 'Check Today, See Tomorrow' Resources

500 Black leaders unanimously oppose constitutional recognition

The cracks are starting to appear in the $15 million federal government-sponsored Recognise campaign, with a room of up to 500 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people last week delivering a stunning rejection of constitutional recognition. 

'The concept of constitutional recognition was immediately challenged’

Interview with Victorian minister for Aboriginal affairs

Radio Skid Row interview: "This would be the annihilation of Aboriginal people"

WGAR News archive

The cosy bipartisanship surrounding most aspects of the top-down federal policy-making for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, including the annual response to Closing the Gap, conceals Australia’s endemic failure to its first peoples. It is a failure that in some parts of Australia now warrants nothing less than an international aid delivery-style response.

We'll never Close the Gap until we start again with Indigenous policy


A report by the Reconciliation Australia organisation finds that while almost all Australians (86%) believe the relationship between Indigenous and other Australians is “important”, only 30% of the general community socialise with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.


Trust between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians remains unacceptably low.
"As a nation of peoples, we don’t always agree on the impacts of the past, and what we can do to change this in the future. Today’s Report provides a clear blueprint for a reconciled Australia in which we can all equally participate."
The Report includes a series of recommendations including zero tolerance for racism, renewed focus on Closing the Gap, and reaffirmed recognition and respect for the rights of First Australians.
An executive summary is at http://www.reconciliation.org.au.