She’s been working in this area for 40 years, really. She is really an inspiration. I think in this world of globalisation and inequality and the disenfranchising of local indigenous communities in that process, it kind of highlights a theme that I feel really passionate about.
That is, we have so much to learn about how important our local communities are, but also how important our First Nations people and how our indigenous first nations people are and how much we have to learn from them.
During Reconciliation Week in Sydney in early June, I had the pleasure of attending a function conversation with Bruce Pascoe. Charlie Arnott was in conversation with Bruce Pascoe, and Bruce is the author of Dark Emu, which, as I’ve said on many occasions, I believe is absolutely essential reading for anybody who lives in Australia.
He more recently did another book in collaboration with Bill Gammage, who wrote The World’s Biggest State (The Biggest State on Earth), another great book and worth reading, and they together penned a book called Country.
All of these books are worth reading. I mean, Dark EMU is a very accessible and easy, but more important than anything, an important read, which kind of dispels the notion that this was terra nullius, that there was nobody here before and that these the First Nations people were just hunter-gatherers, opportunistic hunters-gatherers. Far from it.
The history that Bruce outlines in his book make it very clear that there’s a long history of nations, over 250 nations that cover Australia, that there are all different languages, and there are all different laws and lore. They were songlines that allowed for communication from one end of the country to the other. Above all, if you had to summarise the Indigenous approach to life, it would have to be a connection.
Connection to the Land
Connection to the land. Inseparable from the land, and that is probably the biggest lesson we have to learn, not to mention our First Nations people have had a continuous relationship with this land for at least 65,000 years. Now, Bruce Pascoe, rather provocatively, will often say that it’s 120,000 years, and there’s certainly some evidence to suggest that it can be more than well.
He bases that on evidence, so there’s evidence for there. But 80,000 years. Whether it’s 65,000 years, 80,000 years or 120,000 years, I think even if you pick the low number, 65,000 years is incredible in human global history. I think that is something for us to be incredibly proud of.
The Uluru Statement
Interestingly, with the Uluru Statement and the change of government in Australia, the new incoming Prime Minister Anthony Albanese surprised everybody when he said on the night of accepting victory that his government was committed to full implementation of the Uluru Statement, which includes a referendum and a voice in parliament and a constitutional recognition. So that is a huge step in Australian history. And the grace, I suppose, the kindness and the grace with which Bruce spoke on this night is always something that impresses me.
There was a question from the floor about cancel culture, and cancel culture is something that has emerged in the last five years, particularly anything that is not woke is cancelled. As Charlie Arnott observed, and I thought it was a really interesting observation that if you needed an example of cancel culture going back 200 years or 230 years, the way we as a society have dealt with our indigenous people.
The First Nations people
The First Nations people are the most extreme form of cancel culture that there probably ever was. I think we need to make amends for that. We need to reconnect with that history. We need to accept it and be proud of it and learn from it. Because, as I say, the connection with country is a really important lesson for us all to learn, because the way our society functions, the way our economy functions, one of continuous growth focussed on GDP, extracting from nature and degrading the country and the environment as we go is just unsustainable.
Interestingly, relating this back to other podcasts that I’ve done on regenerative agriculture and particularly referencing the work of Allan Savory and Charlie Massy, Allan Savory has always spoken about four cycles – the solar cycle, water cycle, soil minerals cycle and biodiversity. And Charlie Massy has expanded all of those to include the human social cycle. Possibly, probably, undoubtedly.
In fact, our biggest challenge is the human social cycle. There is where we have so much to learn from our First Nations people. So the Uluru Statement of the Heart. Well, let’s just have a little listen to this.
Audio – The Uluru Statement of the Heart: [00:07:00] The Uluru Statement from the Heart is an invitation to the Australian people from First Nation Australians. It invites all Australians to work with First Nations peoples in a movement for a better future. It asks us to support a First Nations voice in the Constitution. This simply means the right to give advice on laws that affect First Nations peoples.
This First Nations voice needs to be built into the Constitution, so it can only be changed by you, the Australian people, not the whim of the government. From Australia’s heart to yours, let’s support this constitutional change and begin our journey to a better Australia.
Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:08:03] When the national convention was held in Canberra in 2017, the Uluru Statement of the Heart was what emerged from it 2017. Now I think it’s a very sad reflection on the previous government. At the time, it was led by somebody who many people in Australia had great hope for turned out to be a huge disappointment, Malcolm Turnbull.
I think he was presented with the Uluru Statement of the Heart in the morning and had rejected it by lunchtime. That is what is such a stand out the issue about the way the incoming Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has embraced it, as has the whole party in full.
I thought it would be appropriate if you haven’t heard it for the Uluru Statement of the Heart to be read by Professor Megan Davis from the University of New South Wales.
Speaker: [00:09:00] We are delighted to have her as our keynote speaker Professor Megan Davis. I’m thinking that she’s online, but can you please make her feel welcome? She’s got an extraordinarily long CV, but I’ll have a crack at summarising the most salient parts for today.
Speaker: [00:09:21] So Professor Davis is a Cobble Cobble woman from Queensland. She’s the Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Indigenous and Bell Knives Chair in constitutional law at the University of New South Wales. She’s currently an acting commissioner of the New South Wales Land and Environment Court and an expert member of the United Nations Human Rights Council’s Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Speaker: [00:09:43] Professor Davis is formerly Chair and Expert Member of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous issues from 2011 to 2016. She was a member of the Referendum Council and the expert panel on Recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the Constitution. She is a fellow of the Australian Academy of Law and the Australian Academy of Social Sciences and a Commissioner on the Australian Rugby League Commission.
Speaker: [00:10:09] Professor Davis supports the North Queensland Cowboys and the Queensland Maroons, and despite her preference for Rugby League over AFL, the true code by Amy’s code, she’s also an old and very dear friend of mine.
Speaker: [00:10:25] Now, just before Professor Davis speaks, I’d like to take the opportunity to play you a recording of her reading the Uluru Statement from the Heart on the floor of the First Nations Convention on the 26th of May 2017, which is going play the audio. Feel free to close your eyes, but we’ll also have a loop of some photos from that event from my personal library, no less. So thank you.
Prof Megan Davis: [00:10:49] The Uluru Statement from the Heart.
The Uluru Statement from the Heart: [00:10:51] We, gathered here at the 2017 National Constitutional Convention, coming from all points of the southern sky, make this statement from the heart.
The Uluru Statement from the Heart: [00:11:02] Our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander tribes were the first sovereign Nations of the Australian continent and its adjacent islands and possessed it under our own laws and customs. This our ancestors did, according to the reckoning of our culture, from the Creation, according to the common law from ‘time immemorial’, and according to science more than 60,000 years ago.
The Uluru Statement from the Heart: [00:11:26] This sovereignty is a spiritual notion: the ancestral tie between the land or ‘Mother Nature’ and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples who were born therefrom, remain attached thereto, and must one day return thither to be united with our ancestors. This link is the basis of the ownership of the soil, or better, of sovereignty. It has never been ceded or extinguished and co-exists with the sovereignty of the Crown.
The Uluru Statement from the Heart: [00:11:56] How could it be otherwise? That peoples possessed a land for six millennia, and this sacred link disappears from world history in merely the last 200 years?
With substantive constitutional change and structural reform, we believe this ancient sovereign sovereignty can shine through as a fuller expression of Australia’s nationhood.
The Uluru Statement from the Heart: [00:12:19] Proportionally, we are the most incarcerated people on the planet. We are not in a nightly criminal people. Our children are aliened from their families at unprecedented rates. This cannot be because we have no love for them. And our youth languish in detention in obscene numbers. They should be our hope for the future.
These dimensions of our crisis tell plainly the structural nature of our problem. This is the torment of our powerlessness.
The Uluru Statement from the Heart: [00:12:54] We seek constitutional reforms to empower our people and take a rightful place in our own country. When we have power over our destiny, our children will flourish. They will walk in two worlds, and their culture will be a gift to their country.
The Uluru Statement from the Heart: [00:13:15] We call for the establishment of a First Nations Voice enshrined in the Constitution.
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.
The Uluru Statement from the Heart: [00:13:39] We seek a Makarrata Commission to supervise a process of agreement-making between governments and First Nations and truth-telling about our history.
In 1967, we were counted. In 2017, we seek to be heard. We leave base camp and start our trek across this vast country. We invite you to walk with us in a movement of the Australian people for a better future.
Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:14:04] Now it’s worth remembering the conversation I had with Tyson Yunkaporta a few months ago. He outlined the protocol with which Indigenous people approach complex issues and its very definite step by step process. It starts with respect. Then one connects, then one reflects, and then one directs and then moves on to action. I think it’s so inspiring.
In terms of World Localisation Day, I think it is an opportunity for us to reflect and remind ourselves, as though we needed reminding after the pandemic, of how important contact with people is and local communities are where it’s at. Now, it has been in the past. It continues to be part of our human experience. Local Futures of where it’s at. I’m very grateful to be connected with Helena Norberg-Hodge.
Dr Ron Ehrlich: [00:15:02] In the coming weeks, we’re going to be exploring that human social cycle. When I have Jeremy Lent on, and he has written some wonderful books, The Patterning Instinct and The Web of Meaning, and this is about connecting with indigenous knowledge as well.
So it’s a theme that I’m hoping to explore more in the coming weeks and months, and I hope to have certainly I will love to have Bruce Pascoe on to discuss this, but there are many other Indigenous leaders that I would love to invite on to talk about this and bring this to the forefront of all of our minds as we move forward. I hope this finds you well. Until next time.
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