Ceremony Design

8 09 2009

[Updated 28 June 2018, after the funeral of a key Whadjuk elder today.]

A protocol ceremony [was being] imagined. A working paper [was being] prepared by myself and a key Whadjuk expert in protocols. This [would have been] shaped up further by a sub-committee of the Whadjuk elders group. Then approved by those elders. Then participated in by the families. [It might have included]:

  • a Recognition of the families & eldership so far – that’s the Whadjuk people’s initiative.
  • a Consent part – that’s us Newcomers’ initiative.
  • a Reconciliation part – for both of us, that we hope[d] to base not on legal judgement (neither aboriginal nor commonwealth) but on atonement, confession & forgiveness, on making relationships right.


Other considerations:

  • We hope[d] to avoid legal impacts on native title claims. By basing this reconciliation on relationship terms of atonement rather than legal judgement, we hope[d] to model a way forward for people of good heart. We’re not making sweeping political decisions.
  • We’re restoring a right order.
    In the time of Sovereignty, the order was:
    Spirit > Land > Whadjuk people > Outsiders, and money was hardly a thought.c
    An order of submission like this resulted in a relatively harmonious and mutual nurture.
    These days the order appears completely reversed:
    Money > us Outsiders > Whadjuk people > land > and Spirit is hardly a thought.
    An order of domination like this results in fear & abuse.
    If we can prophetically declare a new way of respectfully co-operating with those who rightly have priority over us, we declare the way forward to harmony & mutual nurture.
  • Pure-hearted participants: we want all participants to have embodied this renewed order of respect. We don’t want hypocrisy.
  • Maybe a personal ceremony first. It may be that before the wider ceremony happens, my family might be able to address our personal request for a way to show proper respect for Whadjuk sovereignty. This may be the easiest way to figure out the bigger scale ceremony & new protocols.

So… watch this space for further developments. [This idea has come to a pause with the passing of the Whadjuk elder. It may be revived if another bonafide elder picks it up.]

A New Protocol

8 09 2009


It seems the elders may have to develop a new protocol.

Back in the time of Sovereignty, a stranger to the land could have permission if he was just visiting for a specified time & task, or if he was marrying into the clan.

There was no protocol for living here permanently on their land, without becoming part of the clan!

Think about it – not only have we whites invaded, we’ve broken very fundamental aboriginal laws. There is no way in aboriginal law for Whadjuk crew to allow us to cohabit.

AND YET despite all this, there is STILL an olive branch of peace, an attitude, a willingness to work a way forward together. We HAVE to respect, appreciate, and work with this – it’s the only way to make things right.

And think about how heavy a responsibility this is for the current elders: for millennia, the ancestors law was revered. But now they may make changes to it – add a new protocol that welcomes newcomers for more than a temporary visit. Or at least a symbolic act of this. This is a BIG deal: this is a change to the shape of ancestral law.

PLUS we’re asking them to make this seismic shift in law for us – the race of people who violently transgressed that law. To say “we’re asking a lot,” is a massive understatement.

Clue for now

17 08 2009

For now, wear some colors until we sort out doing the actual protocol.

If you wish to show your support, recognition of aboriginal prior ownership, and that you would respect the consent protocol if you could, then “wear the colours.” Nyoongar crew notice if you’re wearing the colors of the generic aboriginal flag.

img_0575.jpgSo you can tell a lot by looking at my hand. I’m married, I watch the clock, I’m white, I’m Celtic, AND I’m concerned about Aboriginal justice.

Simply wearing the colors in a symbolic way means a lot. It will do for now in place of a message stick.

As one elder auntie told me, “first time I saw you, I noticed. As soon as you walked in. We all noticed. It tells us, you’re alright. You have our interests at heart.”

If you have Nyoongar interests at heart, you CAN show it.

Delay to overcome

14 08 2009

SWALSC: South-West Land and Sea Council – a body set up to represent the Nyoongar peoples’ Native Title Claim.

SWALSC is not yet issuing letters confirming lineage.

This is a delay, because:
A Native Title Claim can only proceed when Nyoongar descendants can prove their lineage back to the land in question. This can be done by public lineage records. Then once SWLASC recognises these records, they should write a letter to the claimant saying “yes we’ll represent you, because you have bonafide lineage to this land.”

The letters also provide a clear way we whitefellas can be confident of who we need to direct protocol to. Then we can proceed with the Protocol ceremony & symbol, & listening e-list.

BUT… SWLASC are not issuing the letters yet. So we can’t get on with the protocols.
That’s the delay to overcome now.

I’ve heard that SWALSC’s argument for the delay, is that by recognising lineage to ‘Whadjuk‘ lands in particular, they think that might somehow get in the way of a single claim for the Nyoongar peoples in general.

If that is SWALSC’s concern, they need to get over it, and accept nation-specific lineage: because everyone with lineage to land has to establish their link to particular specific land in a specific nation (Whadjuk is one of some 14 nations under the Nyoongar general area.) They will need to do that in order to make their single claim anyway. So in fact issuing the letters is the only way to bring SWALSC closer to the single claim anyway. It’s “both-and”, not “either-or.” (Both local lineage letters – and Single claim.)

So pray that common sense prevails asap, so that we can

  1. get the letters,
  2. have clarity on who elders are,
  3. go ahead and recognise protocols

For respect, justice, & peace


More Owners to come

12 06 2009

Do we have to wait for all the bona-fide families to be identified?

By the time the Consent Ceremony comes around, SWALSC may not have identified all of the descendants of aboriginal land owners in the time of Sovereignty.

But to wait to be sure all 218 families have been finally processed, and all disputes resolved, would take so long that we would lose some of those who can truly represent the ancestors now. In fact not many of the young know the ancestral ways. 

So those elders who finally do play a role in the Consent Ceremony will be seen to be also representing others who in the future may be also recognized as having the bona-fide claim to native Title. 

All we need now, is enough elders with the bona-fides, for them to feel confident that they are representative. And then we can finally observe the protocol.

Consent Ceremony

12 06 2009

Now that it is starting to become clear who the elders are, we can finally observe protocol. We could soon have another chance to seek “the consent of the natives.

A Consent Ceremony would:
– finally ask for that consent, and recognize the traditional owners properly. It would observe their protocol. It
– mean we could finally say that consent was asked and received.
– be prophetic because there will remain much to do, but it would announce the necessary respect and recognition required to move forward together.

The elder families have not yet made their plans for such a ceremony, so this is simply an example – something Cedric and I have spoken of. The final Ceremony may well be quite different to this.  


A ceremony near the South Perth Mill (or some place of Nyoongar choosing)

  • Nyoongar people recognize Elders as bona-fide representatives of the traditional owners, and
  • Elders affirm their commitments to lead in ways that are good, & wholesome for all
  • Elders welcome all attending, (and to whoever will offer the same respect in future via the symbol.) Elders invite all who wish, to ask consent.
  • All who wish, ask consent. The Governor must participate in this.
    Say something like:

–   I, (State name)
–   wish to live on Nyoongar land, to (State reason for living on this land (eg. Resident, work, interest.)
–   “We are here to right the wrong done by colonial commissioned officers, who failed in their duty to ask for the “the consent of the native people” to settle here.
–   We apologize for the failures of our forebears, for disregarding your people, and all the painful episodes this set in motion.
–   Today we humbly ask your forgiveness.
–   And Today we respectfully ask your consent & blessing, for us and our descendants to live here on this land. We also seek to bless you and your lands as best we can.” 

  • Governor plants a tree. (Foundation Day was commemorated by chopping down a tree, as the land was wrongfully “claimed” in breach of their Commission. Environmental disaster has followed. Planting a tree would be a highly significant statement for the future!)
  • Church representatives approach the elders, saying something like: “we seek to remove the problems we/our forebears have caused your people & your land.” Lay hands towards the elders – “we seek to bless you and your land.” 
  • Elders rise: accept the apology, & welcome the people to live on the land with their blessing.
  • Elders also confess the destructive reactions, lift curses, and give blessings.
  • Reconciliation dance: Aboriginal dance group dances a reconciliation dance, and invites a non-Aboriginal dance group to join them. Dance a reconciliation & mutual blessing- together.
  • Eat together: Bread, made with bush-ingredients, ground by the South Perth Mill
    (George Shenton first made bread here, but explicitly refused to give it to aboriginal people. Now we grind healthier bush food, a symbol of mutual improvement, & give to all.)

Since it was the commissioned representatives of the Monarch who breached the commission, including Governor Stirling, it seems only fitting that the Governor as the commissioned officer of the Crown, should finally redress the injustice – to finally ask consent.

Church involvement

12 06 2009

Leaders of churches would have a role in a Consent Ceremony, even though the consent should ultimately have been sought by the representatives of the State. Our Western Law and Australian Federation were explicitly forged from the Judaeo-Christian worldview. Spiritually, it was predominantly Christianity that came with British occupation.

For the Church there’s some confessing to do. “The Church,” more specifically the Anglican Church was tied historically and organisationally to the State, and benefited from State land donations over the years. And church organisations participated in colonisation, some in the harm done, while others remained too ignorant or silent. These days, virtually every denomination has a statement of apology about that, which is good.

Also, participating in the Consent Ceremony would be a profound prophetic act. Not only confessing in accord with the justice of the prophets, but declaring a new future, a way forward that’s more in line with the way God wants. A way of respect and cooperation, prayerfully under God. Christians are supposed to be the ones who most walk in this Way for all nations.

There should certainly be a spiritual dimension to the Consent Ceremony. Neglecting the spiritual would be to unjustifiably impose a secularist worldview upon the proceedings. Pre-British Aboriginal spirituality entailed a mix of ancestor veneration, polytheistic spirits, totems and dreamtime stories, and a Great Spirit Creator beyond the dreamtime.

In this respect there is significant overlap with Judaeo-Christian spirituality – The Great Creator Spirit, the reality of other spirit beings, certain Messianic prefigures. This (I’d say God-ordained) overlap has made it possible for some to identify as both fully Christian and fully Aboriginal, seeing the one as fulfilling the best of the other. It has also been important for many Anglo-Christians to see the connections between Aboriginal motifs and Christ.

In fact this ability to discern the evil and embrace the godly within both Christian and Aboriginal cultures has enabled good people of both cultures to identify with each other, break down the walls of separation and move forward together. Without this transcendent, unifying reality, human nature on both sides too easily retracts into polarisation based on social-group alone.

I expect that Christians would want to participate in the spiritual aspects of a Consent Ceremony, expressly not as complicit representatives of the State, but this time as godly representatives of Christ, seeing where he is already at work here, and prayerfully blessing and benefiting the land and its inhabitants.