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Canberra New Way Summit - Day 3 Report

Working Group for Aboriginal Rights (Australia) - WGAR
Canberra, 1st February 2010

The Aboriginal assertion of sovereignty is to be put to the Federal Parliament by the Greens Senator Rachel Siewert at the request of the New Way Summit convened here.

Senator Siewert made the pledge to about 120 Aboriginal delegates from across the continent.

Sovereignty was the main issue at the gathering, convened in the Australian National University by Michael Anderson.

The summit elected a task force to examine options like international and domestic sovereignty.

Paul Coe, former barrister, and an expert who has studied the issue for decades said a lot of explaining has to be done in the communities on what sovereignty could mean.

Representatives of the Gidthabal nation of northern NSW and southern Queensland won a lot of attention with sovereignty plans that have attracted international support.

Relying on research of British documents the Gidthabal affirm their sovereignty by complete rejection of British law in Australia. "Queen Elizabeth has no writ over our country," said Mark McMurtrie.

Summit - Day 3

Barbara Shaw, a member of the taskforce and campaigner for her people in Alice Springs town camps, told the summit that their conditions have worsened since Kevin Rudd's apology. Barbara said, "Nothing is being done. All they want is the land for mining."

She also expressed deep concern about more uranium mining and the future dumping of nuclear waste on a known fault line in her country.

Marianne Mackay, also a taskforce member who spoke on WA Deaths in Custody, said that her people argue that nothing has changed in the state since the death of a respected Elder from Laverton. Marianne also expressed grave concerns for the over representation of Aboriginal people in custody - 83%. She said that was totally unfair and change has to occur immediately.

The summit demanded the resignation Aboriginal Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin and for her to be replaced by an Aboriginal person selected by Aboriginal Peoples. Advice from Les Malezer, UN advocate, confirmed that this is possible and he added that the person selected needs to find a parliamentary seat within 45 days.

"Sovereignty will be the major issue of the second New Way Summit to be held in Sydney over the Easter weekend," Michael Anderson said.

The Canberra summit has set a preliminary agenda for the taskforce to deal with:

  • Deaths in Custody
  • Over-policing of children and youth
  • Institutional racism
  • Review of child protection laws in consultation with the Aboriginal nations
  • Sustainable Aboriginal economic development
  • Respect for Aboriginal religion and spirituality
  • Cultural tourism
  • Ownership of all Aboriginal programming

Where requested the taskforce is to assist in convening state and regional meetings across the continent.

It is to publish the 'New Way' agenda through all media forms including the internet.

Summit Image The taskforce is to develop an Aboriginal Charter of Rights and establish protocols for inter-nation relations.

It is also to establish joint working plans and relationships with external organisations, such as ANTaR, Oxfam and Amnesty International.

An issue that received a lot of attention was possible need for people to be enrolled as members of their nations.

Criticism of black people in important positions who block grassroots aspirations highlighted a need to establish who owns and controls the institutions that deliver Aboriginal services.