It is an archaeological fact that Australia was inhabited by Aborigines for at least 40,000 years (Torres Strait Islands by Torres Strait Islanders) and that native title existed for Aboriginal people as ratified by the 1992 Mabo Decisions.
James Cook’s declaration of British possession in 1770 of the island now called Australia rejected Aboriginal land title relationship and imposed dominion by invasion – ‘might makes right’.
It is of historical fact that the British landed in Australia in 1788 and proceeded to invade, colonise and enter into conflict with Aborigines then numbering about 350,000.
It is also a fact that the many immigrants to Australia and their born descendants have continued with predominantly Anglo-Celtic cultural traditions under a predominantly Christian faith.
It is Australian social reality that since British colonisation of Australia, colonial descendants have grown in population to outnumber the Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders about 50:1 and have become dominant culture and mainstream Australian society – two hundred plus years on now ‘Traditional Australia’.
It is an historical fact that in 1901, colonial Australia was federated under the British Crown as the Commonwealth of Australia and Australian Constitution made the supreme law of Australia. The passage of the Australia Act in 1986 granted Australia complete independence from Britain. Australia is a sovereign nation under one national flag.
Traditional Australia since 1901 has retained its Anglo-Celtic dominant culture. Subsequent immigration has assimilated into this dominant culture with our single nation language being English, our government institutionalised on the British Westminster system, our judicial system institutionalised on British Common Law.
While attempts by recent immigrants to ‘multiculturalise’ Australia, it is only the three cultures Aboriginal Australia, Torres Strait Islanders and Traditional Australia that hold land entitlement sovereign rights enshrined in the law of the land. Any attempt to assert sovereign claim upon Australia by a new cultural group would constitute fresh invasion, armed or otherwise.
Aboriginal Australia and Torres Strait Islanders being a world of contrast from Traditional Australia, have co-existed, not assimilated, in essentially cultural pluralism – three distinct human cultures. Each is clearly distinct and widely accepted as such – as the time old adage goes – ‘birds of a feather flock together’.
Each of these three Australian cultures has an historical birth right to self-determination and by choice to live distinctly apart. None of the three entitled cultures wish to compromise their cultural rights, land rights for any sense of joint ownership and sharing.
We have ‘triculturalism entitlement’ in Australia and it should be ratified, not as an Apartheid impost like 20th Century South Africa, but on a voluntary basis. All three cultures are so different as to be unassimilable. And it is not to prevent cross-culturalisation or interculturalisation, but to grant self-determination those entitled Australians who so desire to retain their distinct intra-Australian cultural identity and heritage.
In 2009, Chief Justice of the High Court, Robert French, recognised that the Mabo Decisions and the Native Title Act recognised indigenous rights without undermining Australia’s sovereignty and could provide the basis for an agreement, a Treaty, so following the paths of New Zealand and Canada.
“Such an agreement could recognise and acknowledge traditional law and custom of indigenous communities across Australia, their historical relationship with their country, their prior occupancy of the continent and that there are those who have maintained and asserted their traditional rights to the present time,” he said.
“This is a cultural reality which can be accepted without comprising, symbolically or otherwise, Australia’s identity as a nation. Although Aboriginal notions of sovereignty would belong in a different “universe of discourse”, he said, “it would be sovereignty under traditional law and custom”.
Aboriginal Reconciliation has always been a cop out instigated by Labor’s Bob Hawke in the early 1990s to shy from a proper treaty. Keating further distracted attention in his 1993 Redfern Park massacre confession, and Rudd’s Sorry Day apology in 2008 for past government racial mistreatment and for the stolen generations, went nowhere passed rhetoric.
Triculturalism entitlement would establish two self-governing internal territories within the Australian nation, geographically distinct from Traditional Australia, adopting a model much akin to how the Australian Capital Territory with their own legislative assemblies.
Like the ACT, these two territories would administer their own directorates of Health, Community Services, Economic Development, Education and Training, Environment and Sustainable Development, Justice and Community Safety, Territory and Municipal Services and Treasury.
The Torres Strait Islands are geographically identified and so would be the easiest and first step. However, Territorial Aboriginal Australia is more complex and would likely not be geographically contiguous. The entire process is radical and would necessitate extensive debate, consultation and negotiation over many years. Yet the outcome would be just, and of course voluntary.
Establishment would require a plebiscite for appropriate Constitutional changes to be made with the guarantee of national funding.
This is a paradigm move away from the tragic welfare model of cultural dependency to a full autonomous model of cultural self-determination. It is radical honest social reform. Importantly, in the true Australian spirit, it is voluntary.