Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islanders call for Royal Commission into Native Title debacle
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We need all brothers and sisters, Black, Brown and White, to come together and call for a Royal Commission into the debacle of Native Title and to prevent a betrayal by Government of the opportunity to repair Native Title. This is about life and death. This is about our humanity. We must act if only for the many of our children who take their lives.
Despite exclusive and non-exclusive rights, Native Title was created as a compensatory mechanism for all our peoples but has degenerated as a benefit to the few.
Native Title is in urgent need of repair. The opportunity to improve the Native Title Act and help our most vulnerable, to improve and save lives, was presented to all of us when on February 2, 2017 when four Noongars (Margaret Culbong, Mingli McGlade, Mervyn Eades, Naomi Smith) won in the Federal Court a unanimous decision from the three Federal Court judges to invalidate the Indigenous Land Use Agreements that would have authorised the extinguishing of Noongar native title rights in return for a one-off compensation package. Native Title was not created for any one generation to extinguish the rights it vests and that belong to every generation of our peoples - of generations unborn.
The Federal Court ruled that all the authorised claimants of a Country are required to sign off an ILUA. If a house is being sold, settlement requires all the owners to sign off. This ruling was a powerful never-before-seen opportunity for all our peoples and for the legislators to improve the bargaining powers of our peoples - to ensure rightful levels of compensation are provided for our peoples to address the impacts that the majority of our peoples endure today - the dirt-poor poverty of many of our peoples, the degraded communities so many of our people are neglected in, the hopelessness that so many of our people feel and that railroads them into jail. As Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples we endure among the world's highest arrest, jail and suicide rates.
Native Title has fractured our communities, turned our people against each other, given to some of our people but denied to the rest. Native Title was meant to be much more than was decided after the Mabo 2 victory. After the then hysteria by the big end of town Native Title was watered down by the Keating Government (1993) and in 1996 was butchered by the Howard Government.
Following the February 2 Federal Court win all our peoples right across the continent were presented an opportunity not known to us in the last quarter century. But the Federal Government buckled to lobbyists and rushed through an outrageous proposal into Parliament to undermine the Federal Court decision and to deny us the opportunity to benefit from the Federal Court ruling and negotiate improved benefits and opportunities for our peoples. We went into the "White Man's Court" and went by their rule book. We won and because we won the Government now wants to change the rules. All our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples but also all Australians must call upon all political parties to prevent these regressive amendments. The Noongar peoples are also at immediate threat of having Native Title rights extinguished altogether - this will mean half Western Australia's peoples will be without native title rights. If this happens to our Noongar peoples then it will happen again and again to other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders peoples.
Please sign this petition calling for any proposed amendments to be stopped and instead insist for the galvanising of the opportunity presented in our Federal Court win to repair and improve Native Title bargaining powers - that our peoples, especially those living dirt-poor, those denied opportunities other Australians aren't denied, those filling the prisons, those who contemplate each day to end their lives that they are helped more than ever. Governments will never fund adequately what it takes to 'Close the Gaps' but a repaired and preferably improved Native Title Act can make more significant difference to our people, to our children, to the unborn, than can Governments.
It is 25 years since the Mabo decision, let us come together now to fix Native Title and for it to be the so much more that the late Eddie Mabo had dedicated his life to. Our children should not be dying so young and of suicide at the world's highest rates.
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