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Issue #1585      March 13, 2013

Opponents warn of hunger strike

Some Aboriginal people opposed to the federal government’s Act of Recognition have warned they will begin a hunger strike to protest what they say is an attack on their sovereignty.

Sovereignty campaigner Alice Haines told of drastic measures to raise awareness of their objections to the Bill.

“I oppose it because it doesn’t have the consent of Aboriginal people,” the Gomeroi woman said. She said the process was being used to nullify the effects of the Mabo decision, which recognised Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ connection to their lands.

“It is an attempt to override our sovereign status.”

In another act of defiance, members of the Sovereign Union of First Nations and Peoples in Australia disrupted parliamentary proceedings to “serve” Prime Minister Julia Gillard with their formal objections to the Act of Recognition.

Governor-General Quentin Bryce was also “served”.

Aboriginal Sovereign Union “diplomat” Graham Merritt described the Act of Recognition as a sleight of hand, which bypassed proper recognition of “our continued sovereignty”.

“Now that the Crown and Commonwealth government have the Sovereign Union’s written objections they cannot claim ignorance of the significance of our Sovereign position, nor do they have the free, prior and informed consent of Aboriginal Nations and Peoples to usurp our sovereignty,” he said.

“Even more insulting to me as a member of the Stolen Generations is that the federal government is doing this on the fifth anniversary of the Apology. Since the Apology the Commonwealth government has further stripped back our human rights.

“True ownership”

“Now they want to use the Act of Recognition to achieve the legislative equivalent of constitutional reform, usurping our sovereignty in a way that attempts to undermine our inalienable connection to country and our true ownership of the land and waterways that are so significant to us: the rocks, the hills, the rivers that will always be a part of our culture and traditions.

“Sovereignty is the most important issue today in this country they now call Australia. The Gillard government may be educated, but we as an Aboriginal sovereign peoples are smarter and are here to stay.

“Our proposed solution is the negotiation of sovereign treaties, or other instruments under international supervision such as a peace accord.”

During a forum at the Sydney Opera House last year, the subject “Does constitutional recognition negate Aboriginal sovereignty?” was discussed by a panel of Aboriginal and other experts.

Constitutional authority Professor George Williams maintained that constitutional recognition would not compromise Aboriginal sovereignty.

He said constitutional recognition and Aboriginal sovereignty were like two pieces in a larger puzzle, and argued that recognising Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the Constitution would be a stepping stone to opening up a larger conversation about sovereignty and other topics.

Aboriginal lawyer and member of the Expert Panel on Constitutional recognition Megan Davis also said recognition did not negate sovereignty.

“The legal advice that we received in the context of sovereignty was that recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the Constitution as equal citizens could not foreclose on the question of how Australia was settled,” Professor Davis said.

“Nor should Constitutional Recognition in general have any detrimental effect beyond what may already have been suffered on future projects aimed at greater place for customary law in the governance of Australia.”

Koori Mail   

Next article – Re Culture and Life – “Dumb and Dumber”

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