A new YouTube campaign, narrated by Aboriginal actress Kylie Belling and featuring a number of strong Aboriginal women, has been launched to reinvigorate the call for a treaty.
The group Concerned Australians, which is supported by people like former Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser and former Chief Justice of the Children’s Court Alastair Nicholson, launched the YouTube video today.
In it, Ms Belling, who starred in The Sapphires and The Fringe Dwellers, calls on governments to finally recognise Aboriginal control over their own lives and futures.
The video charts the beginnings of dispossession, the broken Hawke promise to sign a treaty with Aboriginal nations, and presents a harrowing portrait of the rights abuses under the Northern Territory intervention.
A number of strong Aboriginal women are seen voicing their concerns. Yolngu elder Djapirri Mununggirritj, in a powerful statement says: “We Indigenous are a people of pride. We’re not invisible. We do exist. We do live in a culture that is alive today.”
Arrente/Amatjere leader Rosalie Kunoth-Monks says: “How much longer do we have to pay the price of being blacks of this country? How much longer do we have to keep coming cap in hand?”
Bagot community leader Joy White is also filmed telling a forum of the importance of land to Aboriginal equality: “Unless we get our rights back as Aboriginal people of this land, unless we get that back, there is no hope for Aboriginal people because the government will still condemn us every way we can.”
The short video calls on a treaty, compact or agreements to be made with Aboriginal nations.
Belling says, “We are Sovereign peoples, who have never ceded our land. We want to take control over our lives and determine our futures, through legal agreements, compacts, covenants or treaties established in law and enforceable through the courts.
“The time is long overdue for governments to sit down with Aboriginal people across Australia and negotiate agreements and return to us our rights.”
The last time a treaty was seriously on the political agenda was in the late 80s and early 90s, when Labor Prime Minister Bob Hawke promised a treaty during the life of the parliament.
Hawke never delivered, just as he failed to deliver a promised national land rights model after bowing to the big mining lobby.
One of Hawke’s last acts as Prime Minister saw him was hang the Barunga Statement in Parliament, a bark painting which calls for a treaty.
Hawke cried as he did, saying he wished he had done more for Aboriginal Australia.
The Barunga Statement is still hanging in a shadowed corner of Parliament (near the main committee room), largely forgotten.
Hawke’s successor Paul Keating spearheaded the Reconciliation movement during his reign, and presided over the Native Title Act, which swept the momentum for treaty and national land rights under the table.
But Aboriginal people have continued to call for treaty ever since. Prominent Murri writer and academic Nicole Watson has written in the past she believes a treaty is inevitable, and that the majority of the intellectual heavy lifting has already been completed.
Internationally, nations like New Zealand, the United States and Canada signed treaties with their First Peoples long ago.
John Pilger’s recent documentary Utopia, which documented the current state of Aboriginal Australia, including the lies that built the Northern Territory intervention, ended with a call for treaty.