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Issue #1665      November 19, 2014

So much for consulting with the First Nations

Leaders angered as South Australia’s Premier refuses
to include leaders in meeting with Andrew Forrest,
Professor Marcia Langton to discuss concerns on
“Creating Parity”

So much for consulting with First Nations People over Andrew Forrest’s controversial “Creating Parity” report, says the First Nations People of South Australia. When Forrest and his assistant author of the report, Professor Marcia Langton arrived in Adelaide last month to discuss the proposal with South Australia’s Labor Premier, Jay Weatherill requests for First Nations leaders to attend also were rejected.

Rights advocate, Roxley Foley, son of Dr Gary Foley, with Chair of the Narrungga People, Tauto Sansbury at the meeting in Adelaide of community representatives to discuss their concerns with Andrew Forrest’s “Creating Parity” report. (Photo: Gerry Georgatos)

The Forrest report has been heavily criticised by First Nations People in South Australia, none of whom were adequately consulted before the Creating Parity report was being developed nor since its release but that has not stopped Premier Weatherill delivering glowing support for the reports’ recommendations.

Weatherill received a formal request that leaders of South Australia’s First Nations clans be included in the meeting with Forrest and Professor Langton but the· request was rejected. Instead, it was only Weatherill and government advisers included.

Weatherill has come out in glowing support of the report’s recommendations which has surprised and angered many First Nations communities in the State.

South Australian First Nations leaders have labelled the report’s recommendations as “reductionist, paternalistic and assimilationist”. That was why the Premier received a request to allow First Nations leaders be included so they could discuss their concerns.

Local rights advocate, Roxley Foley, son of Dr Gary Foley, was scathing of the report labelling it the “worst, most dangerous proposal” he had ever seen on Indigenous rights.

Chair of the Narrungga People, Tauto Sansbury was among those leaders nominated to attend the discussions and he was furious the Premier had denied him and other leaders the opportunity to be included.

“Jay Weatherill may be Premier but he must respect that he cannot speak for our people, or understand as we understand ourselves,” Sansbury said.

“The impacts from this report, if implemented, will stretch beyond the imagination, they will hit us hard.”

Premier Weatherill has already announced he would offer the broadest possible support to the 27 recommendations in the “Creating Parity” report including support for the controversial expansion of income management to all working age Centrelink recipients, which is potentially up to 2.5 million people.

Weatherill’s blanket endorsement of the report puts him at odds with federal Labor, which has refused to back the “Creating Parity” report in its entirety. Not even Prime Minister, Tony Abbott has completely backed the recommendations.

On the same day as Premier Weatherill held his meeting with Forrest and Professor Langton, nearby South Australia’s Parliament House, at the vast Tandanya Cultural Centre, the large Tandanya auditorium was filled with First Peoples from communities from across the state to hear the other side of the story on Forrest’s and Langton’s report. In the audience were Liberal Opposition leader, Steven Marshall and Greens parliamentarian, Tammy Franks.

“I take it not only as a slap in the face but as a slap in the face to all Aboriginal people. Premier Weatherill refused our inclusion in the meeting. So much for consultation,” Sansbury said. “Income management is a failed policy that disempowers and humiliates vulnerable members of the community.”

But Forrest’s report is not limited to income management. Many believe the report’s recommendations actually seek to support the erosion of Aboriginal land rights. Sansbury said it was clear in the report that it supports “a land grab.”

“Under the guise of purported economic rights instead of land rights, they want to effectively freehold our lands so they can grab the land,” Sansbury said. “If they monetise the land, they can buy the land. There is no reason why we can’t own our homes and enterprises on our lands without putting our land at risk by having it monetised and put at risk of default.

“What will happen is our people will be enticed with low interest loans and the most vulnerable will default and then they’ll take the land – the land that will have been used as security for the low interest loan. It will go into non-Aboriginal ownership.

“What little worth Native Title is, well, they now want Native Title and the whole Native Title process out of the way. Recommendation 26 of the report is about Traditional Owners selling our lands to interested parties effectively.

“We have to put aside small issues and unite. We have to stand together on the big picture, on who we are and move on all this before it’s too late,” Sansbury said.

Sansbury said he was concerned if the Forrest report’s recommendations were implemented they would compound and worsen extreme poverty, homelessness, arrest rates, suicide rates.

“The emotional, social wellbeing of our people, their mental health is at risk from this report that belongs to a time long gone, long outdated, to before the 1930s,” Sansbury said. “It is up to us to empower ourselves with a belief that we can stop this and to stand up in numbers, right across Adelaide, right across South Australia, right across the whole of this country.”

Advocate, Nadine Schoen said the Forrest report pushes for Aboriginal communities to change from high cultural contexts to low cultural contexts.

“We need to mobilise, we need to critically think, we need to stand in the way,” Schoen said.

Roxley Foley was also scathing in his assessment of the Forrest report, declaring delegations of First Peoples needed to go to all the communities to explain to them what is happening, what is at risk.

“In all my years, I have never seen anything worse or more dangerous than the Forrest report, it will take us backwards,” Foley said. “There has never been a more powerful opportunity to mobilise, to bring our people together, to unite in the struggle against the agendas of this government and of the Forrest report.”

The Greens Tammy Franks said she was stunned the Labor Premier, Jay Weatherill would support the Forrest report. “I am at a loss to understand why he has given so much support to this report,” Franks said.

South Australian parliamentarian, Kelly Vincent from Dignity for Disability, also condemned Premier Weatherill’s blanket endorsement of the report.

“The recommendations in the Forrest Review further restrict access to the Disability Support Pension, make it easier for payments to job seekers to be cut or suspended without warning or justification, which will increase poverty without dealing with the fundamental under-supply of jobs, especially in regional and remote communities and the many societal barriers Aboriginal people and people with disabilities in particular can face when looking for work,” Vincent said.

“The Forrest recommendations regarding land ownership have the potential to further erode Aboriginal control of their lands and communities, which will destabilise these communities and further deny them the right to self-determination.”

National Indigenous Times

For analysis of report , see Guardian, “Dispossession, disempowerment: The Forrest ‘solution’ for first Australians”, #1652, 20-08-2014.

Next article – Right wing hypocrisy on Berlin wall

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