Proposal to change platform on indigenous rights

There has been an indigenous summit held in Uluru over the last week. Aboriginal leaders rejected the Constitutional recognition campaign in favour of a representative body and a Treaty. For more info go here:

Indigenous leaders call for representative body and treaties process after Uluru convention

Our platform has a lengthy statement in support of constitutional recognition, which I think will need to be changed.

In order to do this, I have started a pad with the old policy and will start putting lines through the bits I think need to be removed and replaced. Don’t rewrite the old policy where it is, suggest changes below and strike out bits you want removed.

I propose that we should alternatively have a position that we support the formation of a national indigenous body and will work in good faith to address any proposals that come out of it.

I would like for Australia to have a Treaty with the first inhabitants, but we should see what they decide they want first.


I keep hearing about this “body” but hear no details about what it is supposed to be and how it is supposed to work.

I am pro-recognition and pro-efforts that seek to reduce the appalling under-performance of indigenous people in key wellbeing statistics, but my reading of that statement is that it attempts to establish a sovereignty claim and that this Indigenous body would be essentially another legislative branch or part of the existing legislative branch of the government.

If that were the case, I would oppose this effort as it seems to me that it undermines the sovereignty of Australia and balance of power in government. Despite the many injustices inflicted upon indigenous peoples by Australian governments, I think we all need to establish a working relationship within the Australian national framework and not seek to sidestep it via some sort of first nation sovereignty claim. Avoiding US-style tribal sovereignty system would be advantageous.

Furthermore, let us remember that Indigenous Australians number about half million in a country of 24 million. Everyone in Australia could use more representation on many issues and I don’t think any 2% of population no matter how you slice it should have constitutionally enshrined legally binding say on such a high level.

Maybe I am not sufficiently informed on the objective of the proposal and am missing the point. If that is the case, please point out my omissions.

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Props to the Aboriginal leaders for rejecting the constitutional recognition campaign. It was always a meaningless gesture that won’t actually solve anything. Kinda like saying sorry.

An interesting phrase that jumps out at me from that article is “take our rightful place in our own country”. Seems a bit incongruent when 6 out of 25 MPs in the current Northern Territory Legislative Assembly identify as Aboriginal. Even in a two party system it’s hard to ignore a state/territory having 1 in 3 people as Aboriginal, I guess. But that government makeup combined with the connotations of the phrasing suggests that yes, it’s a sovereignty claim.

And that’s even worse that a meaningless gesture. Treaties and joint governing bodies are not what you give a group after your ancestors have already genocided their ancestors and you now overwhelmingly outnumber them 48 to 1. It’s a power grab taking advantage of the current group-based guilt/virtue political correctness going around, and it’s more likely to foster racial divide than actually help. To be blunt, the only reasonable response to such demands is basically “You and what army?”.

Another interesting bit is “When we have power over our destiny…” which, I think, hints at the real problems. As far as I’m aware, the Aborigines these days have about the same amount of power over their destinies as anyone else. The poor stay poor, any family in such poverty that they live in a ghetto has little chance of getting out of it, people living in remote places do poorly on many metrics regardless of ethnicity, corruption is rampant, and democratic representation is a cruel joke.

As you can tell, I’m not in favour of a treaty, nor am I in favour of constitutional recognition. What I am in favour of is more efforts to break cycles of poverty and drug use, more assistance to remote populations, and most definitely electoral reform to allow political outcomes to better reflect what the people want.

And I still wish everyone (especially the media and government) would start using “indigenous” correctly, rather than implying that I and most people I know are foreigners because we have the wrong skin colour.

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I support changing our platform. I also support treaties and not recognition because aboriginal people don’t want tokenism and who am I to argue - its not my land.

I was born here and have no family or citizenship overseas but I feel that I am a foreigner and the only way to be naturalised and belong here is to be accepted by the First Nations through treaties.


For better parliamentary representation we could always have some A/TSI positions in the House (or Senate). Like what the Kiwis do with their Maori seats - a parallel election with a parallel electoral roll. Any boundaries wouldn’t necessarily follow state lines though.

If they got the same level of over representation as the Tasmanians do, currently that’d be about the same number of MPs, I think. But the roll would be opt-in with a minimum number to take effect etc etc.

The idea that the first people to ever set foot on some land have a perpetual claim over what is allowed to happen to it extending to all their descendants, regardless of who actually possesses the land later, sounds suspiciously like some form of intellectual property.

So affirmative action aka institutionalised racism? That’s possibly one of the worst things we could copy from NZ.

I’d rather we just had a proportional parliament with lower barriers to entry, then someone could start an A/TSI party, they’d get their seats, and on we all go.


NZ has a much better relationship with their First Nations than Australia does. If affirmative action is off the table, what are the better things we could copy from them?

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I think I will try and reply in reverse order so my post makes some sort of logical sense. [Edit: Its all over the shop, due to more posts while I was at work]

The various aboriginal people’s of Australia, making up many nations, languages and cultures have been here for at least 50,000 years. It is the oldest continuous civilisation on Earth. I was arrested in 2002 repeatedly (but never charged) defending a 7,000 year old burial site of a Kuradji (sort of like a Holy man) who was still talked about in local dream-time stories. That is continuous culture that is as about as old as writing itself. The British didn’t invade until 1788. 50,000 years to 229 years, I think they have a pretty good claim to be called indigenous.

There are a few main reasons a Treaty is preferable to Constitutional recognition, firstly it recognises indigenous sovereignty pre-dating invasion. Secondly, it is not another case of the invaders doing something without the consent of the original inhabitants. Thirdly you sign Treaties when you end wars. I will deal with each in turn.


When Britain first invaded Australia, the land was declared Terra Nulius, or uninhabited land because it, according to British definitions had never been subjected to soverignty by any state. This was overturned by the Mabo ruling in 1992, when the High Court declared Terra Nulius a fiction. The British argument was that aborigines didn’t cultivate the land and therefore it wasn’t theirs. However, between land management practices, most notably fire-stick farming, areas which farmed fish and yams, there was agriculture, it just wasn’t recognisable to the colonists. A brief article covers examples of land management here.

The Mabo ruling recognised for the first time that indigenous sovereignty pre-dated invasion. This is an important change in the relationship between the colonisers and the aboriginal peoples.


By undoing Terra Nulius, land rights were recognised for the first time. Yet it is another case of the colonists deciding for the aborigines, just like the 1967 referendum and the Wave Hill land grant by the Whitlam government.

Rather than just continuing the practice of deciding for and on behalf of indigenous Australians, a negotiation for a Treaty would recognise aborigines as equals in the project of Australia.

Ending the War

Colonisation is a brutal process. By the time Australia was colonised, the British had this down to a fine art and had built up the ideological mind-set where they believed they were bringing civilisation to the darkest corners of the globe. From the time of Lachlan Macquarie onwards there was a genocidal campaign against the indigenous population.

Many aborigines alive today have been taken from their families, continuing the cultural genocide long after the last official shots were fired. The last of the official “Stolen Generations” are about my age, and I have a friend who was taken from his parents and raised by a foster carer. This seems to be ongoing too, with reports of a higher rate of family separation today than during the years of the Stolen Generations (the stats are linked in the article).

Incarceration rates are shocking, with some states having rates worse than anywhere else in the democratic world. Life expectancy is dramatically shorter too. The war needs to stop. When you end wars, you sign Treaties.

Every other country colonised by Britain, where Europeans came to dominate demographically has signed Treaties with the indigenous populations, no-where have they managed to wrest an inordinate amount of power from the colonisers.

What they request is not up to us, it will be up to the indigenous body to determine. What gets decided in the negotiations will be up to the government of the day, not us as a Party (unless we are somehow the government). Personally I would be happy with some seats in the Senate or similar, but again it isn’t for us to determine.

The convention in Uluru put together a working group to determine how a representative body would be formed. We will hear about it in the next six months to a year I suppose. As long as its democratic and doesn’t disadvantage any groups within the indigenous population, it will be fine IMO.

I don’t think they would want to add a layer to the government. It is hard to know exactly how it would work because this is the beginning of the process and there are too many questions that have yet to be decided, and it is not up to us to decide their negotiating positions.

To be clear, the idea for our policy is to help facilitate an act of self-determination by the indigenous population of Australia. The details will come after they go and determine what they want.


The MMP voting system, for starters, although there are still details that could be improved. Probably unicameralism too, since proportional lower houses eliminates much of the need for the upper ones. Nothing directly related to the topic at hand.

Indeed they do. The problem is not about the Aborigines being indigenous, because they certainly are. The problem is that the descriptor is far too broad. Everyone who was born in this country, grew up in this country, and is characteristic of this country is indigenous.

Almost all of the rest I’m already familiar with, so let’s look at this bit:

The part you’re missing is that you sign treaties when there’s a separate group to sign them with. A good example being NZ with the Treaty of Waitangi. In Australia on the other hand, as you’ve pointed out, the British invaded, colonised and genocided instead. Today there is no Aboriginal nation here, and the remnants are Australians with (in theory) the same rights as any other citizen in a (in theory) democratic country.

They even have representation in the same governing parliamentary bodies as everyone else does. (Although care should be taken to remember that we are allegedly a democracy, not a demarchy.)

The need for rooting out corruption, making reparations, and ending discrimination is still very uncomfortably present. Again, as you’ve pointed out. But the time for a treaty has long since passed. At best it would be a meaningless gesture. At worst it would be akin to trying to legally roll the clock back so we can politically negotiate with a nation that no longer exists for integration that has already (forcefully, unjustly) happened. A distraction from righting the wrongs that are still being felt.

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I would then put this issue on ice until we have more info about the inner workings. If this is an advisory body which would give the government indigenous people’s view on any bill and source input from the indigenous communities, I’d be in support.

But if this body had a legally binding say on issues (essentially the ability to halt or hinder what they don’t like) then I’d be opposed to it.

In the same way, I’m willing to support any language which recognises past statehood of indigenous tribes as sovereign nations pre-federation but in my view that statehood was absorbed into Australian sovereignty when the country federated (much like British sovereign claim over Australian colonies was absorbed into Australian sovereignty claim). Indigenous Australians are first Australians, and their culture is the bedrock that this country was built on. They’re essential part of who Australia is and they should be part of it and not self-segregate into a different nation or legislative framework.


I think that the self-determination should come in the form of organised political action (A/TSI party/ies) that works within the same system PPAU does to push issues that are important to A/TSI community.

In turn, PPAU’s policy should be to be friendly and supportive of those efforts.


First of all, I encourage everyone to watch QandA from last night (29/5/2017) which was all about the Uluru Statement from the Heart.

This clarified a lot of what indigenous people are asking for. Having been involved in the struggle for reconciliation for about 20 years, I will try and explain what they are asking for and why.

Firstly they want a Constitutionally enshrined equivalent of ATSIC (Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander Commission). For those of you not old enough to remember, ATSIC was a body set up by the Hawke Labor government to give aboriginal people a say over how their affairs were managed. The Liberals were always opposed and the Howard government abolished it with the support of the ALP after a corruption scandal. Whilst there were failures in ATSIC, the need for representation is still there.

They want a voice enshrined into the Constitution so a hostile government doesn’t abolish it at the first opportunity, they however do want parliament to determine how it is governed and what responsibilities it has (obviously in consultation with indigenous representatives).

Once they have a recognised voice, they want to work towards a makarrata, which from my understanding is a bit different to a Treaty. From the Statement:

Makarrata is the culmination of our agenda: the coming together after a struggle. It captures our aspirations for a fair and truthful relationship with the people of Australia and a better future for our children based on justice and self-determination. We seek a Makarrata Commission to supervise a process of agreement-making between governments and First Nations and truth-telling about our history.

This goal seems to have more in common with the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission than a Treaty, but this is multiple moves ahead of where the discussion is now. The discussion now is specifically about a Constitutionally protected voice, so I will address why I think there is a need for it and why I disagree with other suggestions in the thread.

Actually Australia was built on the destruction of indigenous Australians culture, not with it. It took the Referendum in 1967 for them to be recognised as a part of the nation.

They aren’t ‘self-segregating’ they are already segregated. See all of the statistics, imprisonment rates, life expectancy, children being removed from parents etc… In country towns there are indigenous neighbourhoods, separate from the rest of the population, there is even an area in Wollongong, although it isn’t as segregated as smaller towns (all of the Koories I know live outside of the area). Obviously aboriginal people are targeted for policing because of how they look, because they stand out to Police. Many maintain their own languages, culture and relationship to the land despite the efforts to destroy them. There are people alive today who don’t speak English or any other colonist language. Pretending that they are integrated requires some fancy squinting indeed.

Another salient point here is that a Constitutionally enshrined voice would provide a democratic framework for negotiating native title. Native title exists, it needs to be administered and there is no set process to ensure representatives democratically represent the people or nation that they claim to represent. This would provide a democratic and transparent way for negotiations to go forward.

Aborigines have different interests in land usage than other Australians, they have sacred sites that the rest of us either don’t know or don’t care about. They have a relationship to the land that can be underestimated or overlooked when they don’t have separate representation. Not taking into account these separate interests may lead to the continuation of cultural genocide.

To get into the Australian Senate you need 14.3% of the vote. The indigenous population is at about 2%. This is no path to representation. What are we going to do? Dissolve PPAU into their Party? Where do their votes come from? How is this not just a tricky way to keep them marginalised? (I’m not implying that is the intent of the proposal, but the outcome due to the shitty nature of Australian parliamentary democracy).


I agree with these quotes ^

Are you implying that only indigenous people will vote for indigenous candidates?

I don’t agree with minority quotas in any context. Creating new seats in parliament that can only be filled by indigenous candidates is the wrong answer. I know our current parliament is mostly rich white men - which is horrible - but the composition is gradually changing as more women and people of minority background become interested in politics and put their hand up to compete in fair elections. I would gladly vote for an indigenous candidate who has the right policies and .

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Intention of the statement I made, and you quoted, is to make the recognition that our ancestors didn’t. With my statement I am standing against failures of the past.

Besides, I think Aboriginal people mad huge contributions to Australian culture before the 1967 referendum. They were great Anzacs, great sportpeople, great poets and writers and great everyday Australians way before 1967, despite all the uphill fights they had to fight every day.

I acknowledged all of that suffering multiple times. I never said that the work when it comes to closing the gap is done, but that it should continue vigorously but within the existing legal framework.

The point about segregation I tried to make is that instead of putting them aside in a separate system, they should be equal and important part of our system.[quote=“Frew, post:12, topic:1215”]
To get into the Australian Senate you need 14.3% of the vote. The indigenous population is at about 2%. This is no path to representation.

I have to say, it is very defeating to hear those words from you as the leader of this party. We don’t have a senator, what are we even doing here? Does that mean our platform is not being represented?

I believe that both issues facing Indigenous Australians and issues listed in PPAU platform can be represented by people who are willing to politically organise to champion them. The question is how to, using an oft abused term, capture the hearts and mind of the populace when the election comes around.

I think that average Australian cares about Aboriginal wellbeing and related issues and will vote for parties that champion them. Thus, Aboriginal Australians would seize and shape their own destiny as part of modern Australia instead of being, once again, given what somebody else think they need.

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I think this is getting to the core of the disagreement here. You’re both acknowledging that Australian democracy is incredibly broken and then suggesting that efforts be made to partially fix it but only in an unbalanced way for a specific ethnic group. I want all Australians to have a fair voice in how their affairs are managed. The Aborigines are a subset of the Australian people.

The Aboriginal population is a lot more significant as a percentage in the Northern Territory, by the way. So if Aboriginal issues are not getting properly represented there then that’s quite damning of our government.

I didn’t comment on this before because there hasn’t been enough information presented. And there still isn’t.

Take children being removed from parents, for example. That’s a legitimate function of child protective services, but can also be done for discriminatory and cultural genocidal reasons. As far as I’m aware, amongst the Aboriginal population there is a higher amount of poverty and substance abuse as compared to the general population, so you’d expect that the incidence of family breakdown would also be higher. Target the issues independent of race, and the problem should go away.

Yet there’s also government officers acting contrary to policy and not placing Aboriginal children with family members where possible. This is quite clearly wrong even if it’s mere incompetence and should be stopped. But the given statistics in the article you referenced are insufficient to determine what proportion is due to what.

There are also Aboriginal people in various places in society up to and including members of parliament. Pretending that they aren’t integrated requires some equally fancy squinting. Either the definition of Aborigine is off, or the truth lies somewhere in the middle.

This whole issue is reminiscent of politically correct tendancies towards affirmative action, segregation, expecting equal outcomes, and collective guilt over wrongs done by individuals. All things I abhor. Which in retrospect seems to be colouring my comments as more combative in tone than they should be. So I apologise for that.

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I agree with the sentiment. Both in how the issue seems to be framed and how my response is probably more aggressive than it needs to be.

This is the first time since the abolition of ATSIC that Australia’s indigenous population have spoken with one voice about anything. What they propose is IMO both modest and sensible and assuming it doesn’t get derailed, a clear path to real reconciliation.

This shows that you haven’t read, or perhaps understood what the Uluru Statement from the Heart requests. There is no request for minority quotas or new seats in parliament. The Statement requests an elected advisory body to work towards reconciliation. They will have no power over parliament whatsoever.

Constitutional experts have stated as much, even in the conservative broadsheet, The Australian:

No racial division risk: constitutional experts back Pearson model

The idea is to have a consultative body to represent aboriginal interests when parliament wants to make laws effecting indigenous people and to work towards the Makarrata.

They aren’t though, see statistics. No amount of arm waving and wishing equality will make it happen, it requires conscious work and they are asking for us to work together.

Well yeah, again see statistics. The hurdles indigenous people have to clear are more numerous than any other part of Australian society. The ongoing effects of cultural and actual genocide, the psychological trauma of being taken from parents, from culture all leaves psychological damage, so when wondering what proportion comes from actual racism, the answer is most of it (Some comes from geographical isolation too). Parents suffering PTSD aren’t as good as raising children as parents that are not psychologically damaged (again, statistically). Children taken from parents are more prone to have mental health issues. It all contributes to the problems faced by aboriginal Australians, excluding outright discrimination.

I abhor racism more than any of those issues. All of those things except segregation may be annoying but they don’t kill people. Racism does kill people, both directly and indirectly through the difficulties of being on the receiving end of discrimination.

It is not about guilt, it about addressing past injustices so we can move forward as a nation. Pretending that discrimination doesn’t happen and hoping to goes away, which seems to be the position of everyone opposed to the declaration, is just perpetuating it.

Wow, talk about taking a quote out of context.

The vast majority, if not all of the population uses the Internet, are affected by intellectual property laws and benefit from civil liberties. We have a potential core constituency of 100%.

How many people put indigenous rights as a first order issue? Two percent definitely. Whilst I support indigenous rights, civil liberties, climate change, digital rights, drug reform and basic income are all higher order issues for me. I assume this is the same for most of the population. It would certainly be difficult for an indigenous party to reach 14.3% of the vote (taking into account that the NT is a territory and gets 2 Senate seats).

There was the Australian First Nations political party that was deregistered in 2015 due to a lack of members. The indigenous population is usually quite fragmented, which is what made the Uluru statement such an important development. There would be the same divergence of opinions within the aboriginal population as within any subsection of society. No minority is as homogenous as it’s opponents like to imagine.


Fix Australian democracy and such a thing won’t be necessary. I refer back to my earlier statement about this disagreement where you’re advocating that efforts be made to partially fix our system in an unbalanced way for a specific ethnic group. Or rather, not fixing it at all.

You do realise that affirmative action in this context is racism, right?

Making strawmen of your opponents doesn’t do you any favours. My position in this thread has always been that we should focus on ending discrimination, representing all Australians’ interests fairly, and treating the problems people face (poverty, PTSD, substance abuse, remoteness, etc) independent of race.

As compared to this proposal, which involves implicit segregation and giving special treatment based on race.

We seem to be talking past each other at this point.

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Support for the Uluru statement from the Heart will be going to Congress. I will not lead a Party on the wrong side of history on this issue. I am well prepared to stake my leadership on it. Bring it on.

Fixing Australian democracy is a much bigger issue that requires far more change than what is being proposed by anyone at this stage.

I don’t think it is racist, but it is a side issue as it isn’t even being proposed.

Aborigines will get a vote in parliament like everyone else. That isn’t segregation.

Native title is both confirmed by the High Court and legislated. It needs to be administered democratically which is currently not happening. Having an indigenous voice that is democratically elected clears up this issue.

Moving past issues like the stolen generation, dispossession and destruction of culture requires a dialogue. Attacking the symptoms of these problems is not going to provide that dialogue, nor fix the problem.


Right then. I’ve now gone and read the complete text of the Uluru Statement From the Heart. Something I admittedly should have done much earlier.

I can now say that it is explicitly a claim of sovereignty, it is explicitly a statement of segregation, and that supporting it appears to go against our party constitution clause 5.2(3) with respect to the “social equality” phrase in the first sentence of part 1.