What’s the protocol?

12 06 2009

He was stunned – this was the first time anyone had ever asked him that question.

Now it was my turned to be stunned. How could someone not have asked already! I mean, you don’t just walk into some strangers’ house and make yourself at home, raid their food, flop on their couch, sleep in their bed! Not unless you already know that you have their blessing to be there. So why would I do that to the traditional owners of this land! I wouldn’t. I wanted to say hello, and see what the protocols were. Seems obvious to me.

But… who do I ask, and what do I do?

GWpicAbThat was my question back in 2001. My wife and I were finally settling down – we had bought land to build a house to live in. So I thought about this place.

Who were the traditional owners? We went and asked at Yanchep National Park where there was an Aboriginal cultural show. We asked the fellas who was the person we should ask our protocol question to. They said, Cedric. So I called him up. He came to our house. We had tea.

I asked my question again: “If it were 200 years ago, and I walked onto this place, what would I do to show proper respect to be here?” After a long, motionless pause, he murmured, “no-one’s ever asked me that before.”

I also asked, “is there anyone else I should ask?” I didn’t want to take sides in any aboriginal politics. So I visited the Sydney Road mob, and called Bropho’s mob. Cedric had me walk the bush all day for a suitable stick for a message stick.

But no-one gave me a definitive answer, not because they didn’t know what to do, but I soon realized it was because there were disagreements between them about who had the right to speak on behalf of the others.

Cedric knew what to do, but he was stalling while groups were hammering out who the right people to talk to were. Then he had a heart-transplant. Finally he began to make progress.

With 6 other families with recorded family trees, they have been working with the South West Aboriginal Land & Sea Council (SWALSC) to recognize their family lineage back to the owners of the lands, as written by settlers records.

Now we are beginning to prove who the right elders are, to tell me the protocols we need to observe today. Soon I’ll be able to do it. Till then I wear a wristband in aboriginal colors…

But I know that for Cedric, the fact that we so desire to do it, is enough for now.



One response

12 06 2009
Recognize the Owners Properly « Whadjuk Sovereign Lands

[…] Observe the Aboriginal protocol as closely as you […]

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