Recognize the Owners Properly

12 06 2009

Question: How do you recognise Aboriginal traditional ownership of this land?
Answer: Observe the Aboriginal protocol as closely as you can.

Here in Whadjuk sovereign lands 200 years ago that meant you would…

  • ask the elders‘ consent to be here,
  • carry a message stick (or equivalent) from the elders,
  • look after the land properly


This site hopes to enable you to observe such a protocol, or at least get close to it. Would you like to do that? Look around these pages to get the basic info. 

This site also tells a story of Consent:

  • The First British Commissioned officers’ orders were to ask for consent to be here – to make a Treaty
  • These officers failed to ask consent or to make Treaty
  • To date, no consent was ever asked, or given.
  • Some of us dream of a Consent Ceremony to redress this: to ask consent, and for the rightful Aboriginal Owners of this land to give consent
  • We are hoping to develop a way for all residents to observe & respect the right protocol.

Vale my friend

28 06 2018

Today I had the honour of attending the funeral of the Whadjuk elder with whom I had my strongest connection.


His funeral was attended by his many loving family members but also by hundreds from many nations and worldviews. He embodied the ability to discern the bad and embrace the godly in all cultures. This was especially developed in his Christian Aboriginal identity. He could tell what was godly from what was bad in Western culture, and the church, and he considered Christ as the transcendent, unifying reality overcoming walls of separation between people, who can put us in right relationship with God, with each other, with everything else. Shalom.

Shalom, my friend. Shalom.

This effectively pauses my personal quest for a widely accessible protocol for consent to live on Whadjuk land, and for staying tuned in to the elders. We do have an answer – wear the red-yellow-black as a sign of respect for traditional ownership. Our hopes for a Consent Ceremony are also paused, though I remain willing to participate in that work should other Whadjuk representatives take up the task.

BGC Primary School example

9 09 2014

IMG_0993Banksia Grove Catholic Primary School does this recognition perfectly.

In the foyer of the school in a prominent place, is the message stick, with a descriptor of the occasion on which it was given.

And every assembly begins with a very simple, “Nidja Noongar Boodjar Noonook Nyininy, This is Noongar land we are sitting on.”

The words also appear on their letter head.

This is a perfect example of how to respect protocol properly, without being obtrusive or awkward.

9 09 2014

recogniseCan you believe the Australian Constitution does not even recognise Aboriginal people! It is good that a groundswell of support is rising to rectify this.

However, the Recognise campaign may appear to be working from the position that British/Australia has right to ‘recognise’ in the first place. In reality of course Britain had no right to be here at all, much less the right to determine who should be recognised. Britain had no permission from the Aboriginal people to even be here, nor to create a country or a constitution. So in that sense, the constitution that is being ‘reformed’ is a false constitution. It remains a fundamentally false foundation until or unless a treaty or similar is worked out first.

So while the rising positive sentiment about Recognise is good, the false premise is not so good. What if this were ‘recognised’ in the constitution also!

I want to see both-and: address treaty, and then do constitutional reform in the light of that treaty.


A Non-Awkward Call to Order

2 08 2013

How do we do a good acknowledgement?

aitsl_256You know the situation. Everyone arrives to talk about the new shops, or a security issue, or whatever the topic is, then someone starts off with an awkward, “I’d just like to acknowledge the traditional custodians of this land… and their contributions… and er…” Suddenly the room goes awkward, like a bad gear change, or like someone playing out of key.

That awkwardness is for some good reasons: it just wrong-footed everyone; We didn’t meet for a land-rights discussion, so why have you brought it up now? It’s out of key; What does “acknowledge” mean anyway? What are you trying to say? And why are you saying it now, here, in this context? It’s not relevant to this meeting’s purpose;

Most acknowledgement statements open unwanted questions that throw the meeting off. And if people start associating awkwardness and inappropriateness with land-rights activists, poor openings may do more harm than good.

So craft an opening that is relevant to the meeting, that simply states what it has to do with the meeting. Here’s one I made earlier:

Welcome everyone to this meeting, in this place. This is Noongar Land we are meeting on – may we respect it, and each other, while we are here.

An opening like this is clear about how it relates to this meeting: it reminds us to be respectful during this meeting, in this place. So because it relates clearly to the meeting, the acknowledgement of Noongar ownership is not out of key, but in harmony. Acknowledging Noongar ownership in a relevant way should help smooth the awkwardness.

Australia passes indigenous recognition bill

13 02 2013

Better late than never!!!

Australia passes indigenous recognition bill

Candles laid out to read sorry glow outside of Parliament House on 11 February 2008 in Canberra, Australia

Australia’s lower house has unanimously passed a bill recognising Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander peoples as the country’s first inhabitants.

The move came on the fifth anniversary of the historic apology to indigenous Australians for past injustices.

It is seen as a interim move before a referendum is held to include the recognition in the constitution. The plebiscite was meant to take place this year but had been postponed by the government to build up support.

Indigenous Australians watching from the public galleries met the passage of the bill, which enjoyed bipartisan support, with applause.

“I do believe the community is willing to embrace the justice of this campaign because Australians understand that indigenous culture and history are a source of pride for us all,” Ms Gillard said. “This bill seeks to foster momentum for a referendum for constitutional recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.” She said that a review will be held to gauge public support for a referendum, which is needed to make any change to the constitution in Australia.

Opposition leader Tony Abbott said that constitutional recognition for the indigenous peoples was long overdue. “We need to atone for the omissions and for the hardness of heart of our forebears, to enable us all to embrace the future as a united people,” he said.

In 2008, former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd formally apologised to the indigenous population for laws and policies that “inflicted profound grief, suffering and loss”. In his apology, he singled out the “stolen generations” of thousands of children forcibly removed from their families.

Now if they can just get some kind of treaty momentum in the constitution.

National Act of Recognition

26 08 2012

There are plans to hold a national act of recognition (not reconciliation) a public action to publicly recognize the wrongful foundation of white Australia. That is seen as step one – revisit and name ground zero. Then the next step will be up to the people to decide once we’ve made step one.

This is from a kindred group on the east coast…

… plans to hold A National Act of Recognition of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
Very briefly, under this venture our intention is to invite the Australian public to assemble at one place, Botany Bay, where together we will do three things:
Publicly disown the forced entry at Kurnell on 28 April 1770
Publicly disown any false notion of “…a land belonging to no one…” in the declaration spoken over the land near Cape York on 22 August 1770
Hold A National Act of Recognition of Aboriginal/Torres Strait Islander people


The information pack includes things like:

(1) A Vision for A National Act of Recognition. This takes us into the very first minutes of the concept coming into existence through prayer

(2) A Message (green sheet)…an “at a glance” outline of aims and objectives of this Act of Recognition as it developed over time, including underlying reasons

(3) A copy of a letter from a La Perouse Local Aboriginal Land Council Members Meeting showing the support of that community. This document brought Stage 1 to a successful conclusion, and gave permission to begin Stage 2. The letter invites other communities across Australia to become involved in this walk together, and to share in giving permission and authority for A National Act of Recognition to be brought to fulfillment

The next two are entries recorded in the log book from the HM Bark Endeavour mastered by Lieutenant James Cook in 1770. These entries explain so much in terms of events that caused us to be a divided people right from day one. Very few of even the most concerned Australians are aware of these specific events. These entries have become a fundamental part of shaping the coming Act of Recognition.

(4) The entry dated 28 April 1770 details the forced entry at Botany Bay

(5) The entry dated 22 August 1770 details taking possession near Cape York

If you have time I do suggest you visit our website below (very undeveloped at this stage), particularly the link pages Introduction and Origins. They are both quite short. I also recommend viewing the rather long Info Pack link because it gives an account of the whole Recognition Story in chronological order. It is a bit dated and requires some work.


Mandurah Example

23 06 2011

How good is this! I dream of having something like this in a prime place in Whadjuk land.

Last week I saw this on the Mandurah foreshore. It stands in front of a casuarina tree, planted on the same occasion in 2006. This art represents the presentation of a message stick to the city (at the 2006 Stretch Festival). In exchange the city mayor presented the seedling to the Noongar Community “as a symbol of the 2 communities working together.” The tree was planted at this site by the Mayor. A Noongar inscription reads “Message Stick, Together, Peace, Growth, Future.”

This symbolically undoes the symbol of destruction on Foundation Day. Instead of invasion, it asks permission to be here. Instead of chopping down a tree, it plants one. This small monument stands in my mind as a toweringly significant marker of a new and better way to walk together into the future.

Can we do likewise in Whadjuk Sovereign lands?