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.