9 10 2010

Reynolds, Henry. This Whispering in our Hearts, Allen & Unwin, St Leonards, 1998

Stanner, W.E.H. After the Dreaming The Boyer lectures 1968. ABC, Australia, 1969

Kinnane, Stephen. Shadow Lines, Fremantle Arts Centre Press, Fremantle, 2003


Ceremony Design

8 09 2009

A protocol ceremony is currently under construction.

A working paper is being prepared by myself and a key Whadjuk expert in protocols.
This will be shaped up further by a sub-committee of the Whadjuk elders group.
Then approved by those elders.
Then participated in by the families.

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


Other considerations:

  • We hope to avoid legal impacts on native title claims. By basing this reconciliation on relationship terms of atonement rather than legal judgement, we hope to model a way forward between 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.
    An order of submission to the former, and the result was 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 over the latter, resulting 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 to be accused of hypocrisy.
  • Maybe a personal ceremony first. It may be that before the wider ceremony happens, my family get to address our personal quest 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.

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 – that you’d do the respect / consent protocol if you could – then Nyoongar crew notice if you’re wearing the colors of the generic aboriginal flag.

IMG_0575You 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 now have another chance to seek “the consent of the natives.” 

A Consent Ceremony will finally ask for that consent, and recognize the traditional owners properly. It will observe protocol. It will mean we can finally say that consent was asked and received. It will be prophetic – because there will remain much to do, but it will speak of the necessary respect and recognition required to go forward. 

The 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 be quite different to this.  

Imagine this:

A ceremony near the South Perth Mill

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

–   State name
–   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 people, for disregarding your people, and all the painful episodes this did set in motion.
–   Today we respectfully ask your forgiveness.
–   Today we respectfully ask for your consent & blessing, for us to live on this land. We commit ourselves to seek to bless you and your lands.” 

  • 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,
    Repeat: “we wish to remove the curses we have caused your people & your land.” 
    Lay hands towards the elders – “we now place the blessings of our people on 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 their curses, and give their blessings
  • Reconciliation dance: Aboriginal dance group dances the reconciliation dance, and invites a non-Aboriginal dance group to join them. Dance the reconciliation / mutual blessing dance 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.