Reconciliation, Close the Gap, Sovereignty and Land Rights

This Australian reconciliation mass movement may have provided an outlet to direct white Australian anxiety about the history of the country but since the rise of the reconciliation movement all of the Aboriginal gains of the 20th century have been systematically undone with a minimum of fuss. Native title has been totally washed out, ATSIC abolished, Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody recommendations ignored, Aboriginal health and poverty and housing statistics have gotten worse.

Whatever the reconciliation movement believes it has achieved, it has achieved nothing for Aboriginal Australia.

Oodgeroo Noonuccal said in 1969….

“Looking back, the only major improvement has been the 93% ‘Yes’ vote of the referendum of May 1967; but this improvement did not benefit the black Australians though it eased the guilty conscience of white Australians in this country and overseas.
It can be regarded therefore as a victory for white Australians who formed a coalition with black Australians. Black Australians must be seen as stooges for white Australians working in the interest of white Australians.’.

Whiteness and Blackness in the Koori Struggle for Self-Determination
By Gary Foley

In 1967 the Australian people voted in a referendum to count Aboriginal people in the census and empower the federal government to make policy about Aboriginal affairs.

The recognition of equality with the white person inherent in the referendum provided the momentum, and legal frameworks for Australia’s anti-discrimination laws, which guaranteed everyone including Aboriginal people all the rights of a white person.

The 1967 referendum and the anti-discrimination laws said nothing of Aboriginal rights and interests in Aboriginal sovereignty and customary law. They simply provided the legal framework for Aboriginal people to become equal subjects of Queen Elizabeth and her sovereignty over Australia, to be subject to the same laws as any white person.

It was not until 1991 when Koiki Mabo said that his block of land had belonged to his family before Captain Cook turned up, and argued his point over a ten year legal struggle to the high court who eventually agreed with him, that the institutions of Queen Elizabeth had recognised an indigenous right.

However, the high court defined Koiki’s indigenous right in terms of Queen Elizabeth’s common law and not in terms of the Sovereignty of the People of Murray Island. The high court’s ruling manifested in legislation as the native title act, which created the mechanism, under the Queen’s law, to extinguish any remaining indigenous right to land.

Although both the high court and the Australian parliament had managed to misconstrue Aboriginal land rights into the jurisdiction of the Queen and her agencies, the High Court let the cat out of the bag when it officially ruled that Terra Nullius, the doctrine that this land had no law or government prior to Cook, was a legal fiction. Terra Nullius was disproved by the evidence given by Koiki that land law existed on Murray Island before the Endeavour Voyage. This legal point, despite being both obvious and well documented in anthropology, took ten long years to prove against the opinions of the best legal teams in Australia.

Since the Mabo decision, the High court has ruled that customary law has no legal recognition under the Queen’s law, which is the only law of this country and administered equally to all citizens.

Indeed the High court’s ruling is consistent with the racial discrimination laws which would assert that any law that applies to a particular ethnic group, as Aboriginal law does to Aboriginal people, is discriminatory and illegal.

The white legal system has totally extinguished and dismissed customary law and rights inherent in Aboriginality, declaring the singular sovereignty of Elizabeth and defying the obvious and uncontrovertible conclusion that Terra Nullius is a legal fiction.

The very basis of the Queen’s sovereignty and jurisdiction in Australia is Terra Nullius. The legal system simply cannot question the legal basis of its own existence. White law has still not come to terms with the most basic of truths of history, that British law was unlawfully established in Australia.

Yet to this day, Australians have ignored the simple fact of Aboriginal sovereignty, we have congratulated ourselves for rejecting racism in the 67 referendum. We have marched across bridges in our millions proclaiming reconciliation; we have been deeply moved by Kevin Rudd’s apology. Now the new call is to “Close the Gap”,

Close the Gap, like the whole reconciliation movement has failed to address the essential causal problem of Aboriginal opression and suffereing, which is the invasion and genocide, the disposession of land and economy. It has not dealt with the issues of sovereignty and land rights.

The reconciliation movement appears to see this dispossession as a given, just the way it is, sad and there is nothing we can do about it.

The reconciliation movement seems to see salvation for Aboriginal people within the frameworks of the white mainstream and the task of reconciliation is to facilitate the movement of Aboriginal people into these mainstream paradigms of life.

Notions such as land rights and self determination have been sidelined as secondary considerations to the urgent priority of “Closing the Gap”, an inherently assimilationist campaign that identifies the cause of Aboriginal problems to be inherent in Aboriginal society itself – ill health, not in the white society that causes and perpetuates ill health. Close the Gap is just a call for good money to be thrown after bad, to prop up the dysfunctional health care system that is simply unable to tackle issues of Aboriginal health and ill-health.

“Close the Gap” applies a bandaid to the symptoms that white society sees (usually on TV) but fails in any way to address the structural factors that cause and perpetuate illness and disadvantage.

The causal factors of Aboriginal suffering today are inherent in white colonial society itself and are invisible to white colonial society, it is the background normality.

The problems lie in such things as institutional modes of health care, police and prison deterrence modes of maintaining law and order, white legal title to Aboriginal land, mining, European modes of farming, dysfunctional government policies, welfare dependence, etc. All these things that are the front line of the continued dispossession, impoverishment, ill health and deaths in custody in Aboriginal society and are taken for granted by the colonial society. They are the morally righteous agencies of democracy, market economy and the great Australian dream. These things that bring death, disease and dispossession to Aboriginal Australia bring health and prosperity to colonial society.

It is not easy to identify our own sociology and law as a causal factor in Aboriginal trauma and crisis but until white Australia can come to terms with this reality then reconciliation and government policies will just be shallow, white-washed, tokenistic commentary while things get worse and worse for Aboriginal Australia.

Without a serious recognition and respect for Aboriginal sovereignty and customary law and without a serious attempt at returning stolen property, the economic and spiritual base of Aboriginality, then the rhetoric of reconciliation is no more than an analgesic for white Australia.


10 responses to “Reconciliation, Close the Gap, Sovereignty and Land Rights

  1. By Nigel R. Morris

    The product of 10 years of research by the author into original documentation held in libraries and archives, Rodney Liddell’s “Cape York – The Savage Frontier”, the book that the Commonwealth parliament tried to censor, purports to portray history as it really happened.

    In researching the history of Cape York Liddell found it necessary to re-trace the origins of man on the Australian Continent. It soon became apparent that the latest anthropological evidence shows very clearly that the “First Australians” were not the dark skinned natives seen by Captain Cook in 1770.

    The story that few Australians have been taught starts with a natural land bridge connecting Australia and New Guinea said to be 100 miles wide and [160 km] consisting of vast lowlands and undulating hills which was generally believed to have been breached by rising sea levels between 6500 – 8000 years ago creating 200 islands within a shallow sea now known as the Torres Strait. Prior to the separation the Paupans had access to the whole continent including Tasmania.

    Liddell’s draws on research carried out by eminent anthropologists E. R. Gribble and Professors Haddon and Elkin in the late 19th and mid 20th centuries to present a compelling case for his prehistory of Australia.

    According to Gribble in “A DESPISED RACE”:

    “The first inhabitants [of Australia] were a negroid race being curly haired. Later came the [Pre] “Dravidians“ A straight haired race driven from Egypt, through the north of India.”

    The author points to indications of the use of the boomerang in South India and Ceylon and the discovery of two model boomerangs wrought in silver in King Tutankahamen’s tomb. He suggests the dingo, which is said to originate in India, was brought to the Australian mainland by the invaders. On the other hand, in Tasmania, which was closed off by the formation of Bass Strait, only evidence of the curly haired Paupuan race has been found, and no dingoes. The Native almond or Sea almond (also known as the Indian Almond), which can be found growing all over Northern Australia, was probably a vital food source carried by the Pre-Dravidians in their canoes on their long sea journey to Australia.

    Liddell rejects the “False Aboriginality” of the 40,000 year myth and makes the startling claim that considering the dingo has been carbon dated at only 4,000 years, taking into account the inaccuracy of carbon dating which is rapidly being rejected as unreliable worldwide, then it is very possible that Aborigines may have been in occupation of the Australian continent for less than 1,000 years.

    Liddell’s expose reveals the raw savagery that existed amongst the native tribes of Cape York and the Torres Strait Islands with Aborigines exterminating up to 150,000 Paupans in what would be classified in today’s world as genocide and tens of thousands of their own people in their savage tribal conflicts in which the weaker tribes were totally annihilated, by the time the first Europeans had arrived. He catalogs accounts of numerous shipwrecks around the Australian coastline, with the castaways from these vessels set upon by hordes of savages as they rowed ashore with hundreds of helpless men, women and children were brutally slaughtered by club and spear. Rejecting claims by modern academics that Aborigines were not cannibals as absolutely false, he asserts that many were eaten, whilst others were beheaded in Northern Australia and the nearby Torres Strait Islands and still others more were kept as slaves and slowly worked to death, whilst subsisting on starvation diets.

    He questions the image of the Ancient Aborigine as a timid native who lived in harmony with the environment with evidence which shows that many birds and animals were hunted to extinction before the arrival of Europeans, and that thousands of square miles of forest was deliberately burnt out to attract game to open grassland that replaced the forest. Even today in many areas of Northern Australia, turtles are ruthlessly hunted down by the Aborigines and cut open whilst still alive.

    On what he calls the “greatest academic cover up the world has ever witnessed”, aided and abetted by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Liddell states:

    “It is no coincidence that many anthropologists involved in promoting this false aboriginality are the most highly paid academics in Australia…In recent years the Australian public have been subjected to a massive indoctrination campaign, designed to “Mentally Program” Australians, into accepting a mass of false and misleading information relative to the occupation of Australia by aborigines.

    Almost daily the public are swamped with this false advertising through television, newspapers, radio and magazines.

    Even school children cannot escape this web of academic deception, for the Education Department is controlled by the very people who promote it.

    All the evidence clearly identifies the Papuan as being the original Australian. Numerous anthropologists have acknowledged that fact, but are ignored by Universities who are paid millions of dollars to force feed the public with a false pre-history of Australia.”

    Published by the author Cape York – The Savage Frontier is a thoroughly researched 288 page hard cover which chronicles the history of this fascinating area, jam packed with 32 colour plates and numerous black and white photographs with numerous historical references and provides the unvarnished facts about an Australian frontier of which so little is known. Now in its 5th print run Liddell’s monumental work is now more popular than ever.

    A must read for all those interested in Australian history.


    Readers review:

    “I found this book’s contents and claims to be fascinating – it was a “can’t put down” type of book. If nothing else, it should warrant the historical academics to actually validate their own publications. A truly good book to read which opens the readers mind that “truth is sometimes more worrying than fiction”.

    George Woodley


    Copies of this title are available from Copyright Publishing:

  2. Ah Nigel, at last you have come up with a post with at least some substance to it. I shall leave this post up.

    I assume that since you have just copied and pasted a review of the book, you have still not read it, so perhaps you are not yet able to answer the following question.

    Can you give just one bit of archaeological evidence to back up this concoction of racist opinion and fairy tale?

    – why does not trade with Asia explain the Dingoe?

    – there was never a land bridge between Australia and Asia during the time of human occupation (if at all).

    -There was a land bridge to Tasmania only 13000 years ago. What evidence is there to suggest that there is a significant difference (beyond standard variability) in the genetics of Tasmanian Aborigines and mainland Aborigines?

    if Liddell’s fictional writing is going to be used in an anthropological and archaelogical debate, especially if it challenges what all the other anthropologists and archaeologists say, then it needs to have at least a shred of evidence to support the hypothesis.

    can you suggest a shred of evidence?

    Without evidence, this book is simply racist propaganda to pursue an ideological line and has nothing to do with understanding this country, except to understand the nature of those people such as Liddel and yourself who deny the holocausts in Europe and Australia and religiously believe in the superiority of the white race.

  3. Look mate you don’t know anything about me.

    I wrote that book review. I think there might be something to Liddell’s prehistory of Australia. It’s plausible. His timescale fits in with biblical chronology and the creation account in genesis.

    If nothing else it is not everyday I take delivery of a book the Commonwealth parliament tried to censor.

    Apparently it was donated to Newcastle University library and went missing. Standard procedure of that institution when a book is not returned or misplaced is to keep a record of it in the system.

    Ring up that library and ask them if they have any record of Cape York – The Savage Frontier being donated. I understand it goes missing from every library it had been donated to.

    Back before the advent political correctness scientists were pretty sure Ancient Aborigines were part of the second wave of immigration to these islands.

    I’m a futurist. The truth will be known even if it takes decades.

    Aboriginality will not survive. Not as we know it. The exogamy rate will see to that.

    Most people who self identify as indigenous these days have only a wee bit in them. Like me.

    Your the one who lives in a fantasy land of treaties and sovereign Aboriginal states carved out of Australian territory mate.

  4. Nigel,

    I am afraid I find the book of Genesis and a short story in an entertainment website unconvincing anthropological and archaelogical evidence of the claims the book makes. If you have read the book, what evidence does Liddell give for his claims?

    You said ….

    “Back before the advent political correctness scientists were pretty sure Ancient Aborigines were part of the second wave of immigration to these islands.”

    Can you suggest who these scientists were? What work are you refering to?

  5. I was just noting Liddell’s timescale fits in with biblical chronology. Most modern urban Aborigines are nominally Chritian. A thousand years is a long, long time.

    Quoting Liddell from chapter 1 of his book:

    In 1930 a book titled ‘ARTISTS IN STRINGS” was published. The author was Kathleen Haddon [Rishbeth]. She was the daughter of one of the worlds most highly acclaimed anthropologists in his day Alfred Cort Haddon].

    She had travelled the world with her famous father and in reference to the Australian Aborigines she stated:

    “Long headed, broad nosed people of ‘Pre-Dravidian ‘stock, they are connected racially with the ‘Veddah ‘and certain jungle tribes of South India, rather than the neiqhbouring Papuans and Melanesians.

    These ‘Pre-Dravidians ‘appear to have displaced an earlier, woolly haired people, who had come into Australia via New-Guinea and who survived until recent times only in Tasmania.”

    This statement is but a portion of a mass of evidence which proves that the original Australains were “Papuans”, who were brutally massacred by the Pre-Dravidian invaders, whom we now erroneously refer to as the Aborigines of Australia”, but who in fact were the “Aborigines of South India and Ceylon”.

    In April 1898, Professor Haddon led the Cambridge Anthropological Expedition to the Torres Strait, and later carried out further research in Australia.

    He clearly identified the Australian aborigine as being of the same Pre-Dravidian race as the following:

    INDIA Gond, Bhil, Kurumba, Irula, Veddah.
    CEYLON Veddah.
    MALAYA Sakai.
    CELEBES Toala.

    In 1909 Haddon published “THE RACES OF MAN” and exposed the invasion of Australia by the aborigines [Pre-Dravidians].

    He states:

    “Australia was originally inhabited by Paupans or Negritoes, who wandered on foot to the extreme south of that continent. When Bass Strait was formed, those who were cut off from the mainland formed the ancestors of the Tasmanians. Later a Pre-Dravidian race migrated into Australia and overran the continent and absorbed the sparse aboriginal population. The latter being driven off “EXTERMINATED” or even partially assimilated, but the formation of Bass Strait prevented the entry of the Australians [Pre-Dravidians] into Tasmania.”
    Further evidence that the aborigines invaded Australia comes from Professor A. P. Elkin, Emeritus Professor of Anthropology, University of Sydney, during the 1950’s.

    Professor Elkin was said to be the leading authority in his day on this vital subject.

    He also claimed that the aborigines were the early aborigines of South India and classified all the Pre-Dravidians as “Australoids”.

    In his book ‘THE AUSTRALIAN ABORIGINES”, he states:

    “Was there a preceding race in Australia, namely the Tasmanians? The latter were a Negroid group related to the Melanesians and Papuans.

    If the Tasmanians were living in parts of Australia at the time the aborigines commenced their invasion, they must have been either conquered and absorbed, or extinguished.

    It is also possible that the Tasmanians were already in their island home as well as on the mainland at the time of the Australoid invasion.”

    Still further evidence comes from E. R. Gribble who wrote “A DESPISED RACE”.

    He states:

    “The first inhabitants were a negroid race being curly haired. Later came the “Dravidians“ [Pre] A straight haired race driven from Egypt, through the north of India.

    In both these places indications of the use of the boomerang have been found.

    In Tutankahamen’s tomb [The boy king of Egypt] there were two model boomeranqs wrought in silver.

    These “Dravidians“ [Pre] were huntsmen and brought the dog with them. They conquered the “Negroids” and intermarried. These two types of hair were found as far as the southern portions of Australia, showing the intermixture of the two races. On the other hand, in Tasmania, only the curly haired were found, and no dingoes.

    Another difference was the status of the women in a tribe. In Tasmania they were well treated, but on the mainland they were merely regarded as goods and chattels, i.e. slaves.”

    When the invaders left India, in their canoes and rafts small groups dropped off along the way and settled in Malaya and the Celebes where they arc known as the “Sakai” and “Toala.“ The main groups are believed to have landed on Cape York Peninsula and other areas of Northern Australia.

    Professor Elkin states:

    “We may picture them reaching Australia finally by raft or canoe, bringing with them the dog (dingo) which is not indigenous and had to rely on man for its transport to its new home. The aborigines landed in Northern Australia, probably on Cape York Peninsula.”

    Throughout Australia’s 200 years of European civilisation, various academics had tried to speak out against the false “Aboriginality of Australia”.

    The fact is you and me weren’t there so we will never know for sure.

    Perhaps you can tender me evidence for the claim that Ancient Aborigines are the first known inhabitants of these islands?

  6. And pehaps you can provide me with a list of political parties and notable Australians who support a treaty and sovereign Aborginal states carved out of Australian territory?

    I’m not convinced it is not a fringe discussion.

  7. Nigel,

    A simple assertion is not scientific at all unless there is some evidence for the assertion.

    If you assert something and back it up by anothers assertion then you are just gossiping.

    What evidence to any of these people offer to back up their assertions?

    archaeological and anthropological science has come a long way since your sources were written, and I suggest the perceptions of Kathleen Haddon shed little light on the matter except that Aboriginal people appeared different to New Guineans.

    Genetic science has on the one hand offered much new information and on the other raised many controversies. Same with dating technologies.

    You are correct when you say “The fact is you and me weren’t there so we will never know for sure.” In the world of science there are many hypotheses and theories. The academic industry thrives on the debates between the theories. – but this is within the interpretation of evidence, not the simple proclaimation of opinion as you and your sources do.

    One of the academic theories is “out of Africa” which I say is flawed but it is accepted as truth just as the fantastic big bang theory is. It is just the flavour of the month opinion based on inadequate information and interpreting evidence through pre-conceived notions. There are many however who disppute the interpretations and propose different theories, one being “out of Asia” and the more popular one that humans had several genesis points, not just one.

    There are however other ways to look at the situation, including the biblical framework which you have clumsily alluded to. This is the framework of stories of the ancestors and the great events that explain today’s reality. Of the stories that I have heard, people arrived here from out of the earth itself, like Adam made from the dust, or people came from outer space and colonised Australia. As I understand it, all other pacific cultures have stories of ancestors arriving on boats.

    However, within the scientific framework you may be interested in the following

    It assumes the out of Africa theory to be correct and, like you and Liddell’s dingo theory, cannot see the possibility of trade routes explaining genetic diversity and connections to the people of the region or as far as Africa. Migrant colonisation is just one theory and I suggest it is a much more unlikely possibility that gradual genetic cross-pollination along trade routes, in particular travellers from other places who may have married into a local family or just impregnated a local woman on the journey.

    However, Aboriginality is not about DNA. It is about bloodline, about family.

    It is of course about culture too but a significant part of the culture is family relationships – relationships that extend laterally to to other extended families and vertically, to extend to previous generations – the ancestors and indeed to future generations. The land that the old people are buried into generation after generation after generation is the same land that gives birth to and sustains new generations.

    The family relationships are existentially connected to the land itself.

    Even a fair skinned, blue eyed, red headed person who is born into an Aboriginal family, by one or two parents, they have an ancient link to their country. They are no less related to the country through their blooodline than they are to Adam himself, what ever their genetic make up.

    The soil that our home grown vegies are grown in is thousands of generations of decomposed ancestors of Aboriginal people today.

    As for treaty,

    The Whitlam government set up a treaty committee to negotiate a treaty.

    Bob Hawke promised a treaty.

    The Greens have a treaty policy.

    The High court has said Terra Nullius is a legal fiction

  8. Good luck with the treaty mate. As an english speaking white I find it a bit much to cop for the sake of the 50,000 remaining full blooded Aborigines. Breaking up our territory and all. At best only 25% of eligible voters turned out for ATSIC elections. Are ordinary black people themselves really going to fall into line behind this fantasy?

    What does Kevin Rudd think of a treaty in 2008?

    The documents Liddell relied on to make his claims have been widely dispersed and made hard to find. It is my intention to look at a few of them one day.

    As I am the convenor of the Rodney Liddell fan club and all:

    What evidence convinced you that Ancient Aborigines were the first inhabitants of these islands?

    Are you aware off any comprehensive rebuttal of his work like “Whitewash” that was offered up to Keith Windshuttle’s “Fabrication of Aboriginal history”?

    How would the prior occupation of this continent be Paupans be relevant to the issues at hand in the Mabo judgement?

  9. Pingback: “Living on Aboriginal Land” workshop - background links « unlearning the problem

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