Restoring social order? Treaty with Alyawarr people first!


p2313-Richard-DownsLETTER TO THE EDITOR
Sir – I am an Alyawarr traditional custodian and I am calling for a treaty on the back of Dr Dennis Jensen MP’s controversial speech in Parliament last week regarding Aborigines.
Dr Jensen said: “I recall going on a trip to Broome, where we were driven around by the local Chamber of Commerce. We were driven past a region where there were lean-tos and a whole lot of smashed beer bottle, alcohol bottles and so on. And the leader of the delegation said ‘you know, the indigenous elders are extremely disgusted with this’.
“And he said ‘we can’t do anything about it because it’s native title land; we can only do something about it with caravanning and camping legislation, so after three days, we can get them to move on but they just cross to the other side of the road which is also native title land’.
“Now here was the problem and here was the question that I asked: if the indigenous elders are disgusted by this, and it is their land, it’s native title land, why aren’t they doing something about it? I mean one hand we’re saying we shouldn’t be paternalistic, but on the other hand, we are trying to be paternalistic by saying ‘we will fix it; we will get the council to do it rather than the owners of that land to do something about it’.”
Dr Jensen had identified the essence problem in many remote Aboriginal communities. He is right when he says that Aboriginal elders should be playing a greater role in restoring social order. But this can only be achieved if governments recognise the authority of the elders that is associated with native title. We can’t continue to have elder authority undermined by government paternalism.
The traditional lands of the Alyawarr people extend over 50,000 square kilometres of the Barkly region in the Northern Territory. Much of this land pastoral lease, which is covered by native title. I led a protest following the introduction of the Northern Territory Emergency Response into the Ampilatwatja community from 2008.
The Northern Territory Emergency Response and the Closing The Gap measures have been an abject failure and it’s time to give us our land back so that we can become more self-sufficient and entrepreneurial.
The Canadian and British Columbian governments have been entering into modern treaties with some of its First Nations peoples and its time that the Australian government did so with us.
Dr Jensen needs to understand that the problem is caused by governments through their policies and systems at all levels by their own bureaucrats, public servants and advisors.
He needs to realise the NTER measures were brought on by the governments and Aboriginal people, which created a migration of our people from remote areas into townships. Across NT and WA under these government measures people are now worse off.
The current discussion and proposal by the Prime Minister to Close the Gap is another sham, which will only create jobs for government bureaucrats, public servants, NGOs.
The Remote Job Creation Program TAFE Training programs has been another sham; our trainees are given certificate at the end of their programs, but they remain largely unemployable. We have been patient for far too long now and I feel we need to take more control and involvement within our Alyawarr region.
Greater autonomy within Aboriginal communities is necessary to address these issues and the way to achieve this is through treaties, and I call for one between the Commonwealth Government and the Alyawarr people.
Richard Downs (pictured)
Alyawarr region north of Alice Springs



  1. It is very hard to handle this sort of crap where people refuse to move on from the 1700s or pre 1700s to the current year of 2016. Native title is one of the most destructive things ever done – dividing peoples of a nation permanently.
    It is usually a tactic by certain people to divide and conquer and you bet it is power based not based on concerns for individual people.
    It is cultish behaviour which to the uninitiated cannot be seen as they don’t know what to look for.

  2. It is very hard to handle this sort of crap where people refuse to move on from a 1700s mentality that sees indigenous people having no rights to their lands or to have equal rights as citizens.
    This nation is permanently divided until we own our history and try to make some recompense for the past wrongs that non indigenous peoples are benefiting from today.

  3. It is very hard to handle this sort of crap being dished out toward an Alyawarr man’s considered and legitimate statement without indicating there is support for negotiating treaties with the traditional custodians of the lands among non-Indigenous Australians.
    The first response in the comments section is at best a demonstration of ignorance, at worst an indication of meanness.
    Perhaps a treaty with the Alyawarr custodians should be put on table as part of the discussions around Indigenous recognition in the Australian Constitution. Richard, you have my respect and my attention.

  4. @ Bev: The long and difficult path to Native Title is, like classical Greek diplomacy, replete with tragedy.
    Terra Nullius, the doctrine that this land belonged to no one before 1788, has been overturned and Aboriginal people have a platform on which to stand in the forthcoming referendum for constitutional recognition. It will, hopefully, improve the way our nation governs for all the people.
    Noel Pearson has defined it as a “long sought after right to take responsibility and leadership in our affairs.” Richard Downs is saying the same thing.

  5. Re: Russell Guy Posted March 13, 2016 at 5:07 pm
    For the Constitution to be amended to recognize one ancestral or racial tree of Australians shall diminish or deny the rest.
    This demand for Australians to recognize only one part from our history as Australians in the Constitution shall demean us all, requiring we measure and value each part of our ancestral tree.
    Only racists require one part of our ancestry to be identified as more important than any other.

  6. @ Paul Parker. The Constitution already has a race clause that enables government to make laws for Indigenous Australians.
    It’s proposed that it be removed. The difficulty is in what, if any, clause be inserted along the lines suggested in my earlier post by Noel Pearson.
    For those who live with racism on a daily basis, it’s more to do with cultural recognition and the right for it to exist under the still prevailing Terra Nullius assumptions.
    Are you suggesting that Richard Downs is somehow racist in bringing his cultural concerns to the table?

  7. Re: Russell Guy Posted March 14, 2016 at 9:36 am
    The Commonwealth claimed NO authority to qualify rights and responsibilities of Australians who were “Aborigines” prior to 1967, yet clearly Commonwealth did and still does exactly that.
    Claiming Commonwealth authority the Central Land Council and unknown “Traditional Owners” maintain their segregation of our family, and other qualifications of our rights as Australians.
    Commonwealth Attorney-General(s) refuse our family legal assistance to test Commonwealth’s interpretation of Constitution sections 128 and 51(xxvi).
    Constitution s.128 reserves authority to amend Australia’s Constitution to Australian voters.
    Australian voters in 1967 Referenda amended s.51(xxvi) to extinguish use of racial identification to qualify our legal rights and responsibilities as Australians.
    Since Australian’s overwhelming vote in 1967 Referenda ALL legislation claiming authority for racial discrimination of Australians is invalid. (IMHO this does NOT invalidate all the ALR(NT) only certain parts of it.)
    We seek the High Court to determine legality of Commonwealth’s claim it lawfully alters our rights and responsibilities as Australians using racial identification as their measure.
    We seek the High Court to legality of Commonwealth’s claim it lawfully orders our segregation, including our separation from our relations, using racial identification as their measure.
    We seek the High Court to legality of Commonwealth’s claim it lawfully orders alters our legal rights and responsibilities as Australians, using racial identification as their measure.
    We do NOT challenge Commonwealth’s claim of Constitutional authority using s.51(xxvi) to qualify rights and responsibilities of persons NOT Australian, using race as their measure.
    The NTSC maintains a “stay order” on the matters, as we are still denied legal representation.
    All the parties acknowledged necessity for High Court to resolve Constitutional issues.
    So over two decades Commonwealth Attorney-General(s) refusal of legal assistance prevents these Constitutional issues from being determined.
    Commonwealth authorities deny legal assistance to maintain their racist, apartheid policies.


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