Wednesday, 22 March 2017, 5.30 pm for 6.00 pm start,
Redfern Community Centre, 29-53 Hugo Street Redfern

On Wednesday, 22 March in Redfern, Stop the Intervention Collective Sydney (STICS) will host a public forum – ‘Young Women Speak out for Treaty’ – featuring the voices of powerful First Nations People from the Northern Territory and Eastern States. The Treaty Forum will be held to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

There are currently great discussions around the recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Australia’s constitution. Within and outside these forums there are strong calls for the recognition of First Nations Peoples’ sovereignty, the right to self-determination and treaty/ies. Australia has never been legitimately settled and is the only Commonwealth country in the world not to have a treaty/ies with its first peoples. Great strength has been added to the voice and calls for treaty/ies over many and more recent years.

The Yolŋu of Arnhem Land have long called to treaty and last August elected their senior Elder and spokesperson, Yingiya Mark Guyula - also former speaker at our STICS forum - as their member for Nhulunbuy NT on the platform of Treaty Now. Yolŋu calls are more urgent under increasing controls and coerced polices of the NT Intervention which have denied the Yolŋu their voice, structures and imposed massive changes to Aboriginal land tenure in the NT. Ian Viner has spoken of the dismantling of the Aboriginal land rights act (NT) under the Intervention and its continuing adverse impacts. Since then we have seen the increasing failures of the neo-colonial project of the 2007 NT Intervention and its more punitive and controlling reincarnation in 2012 - the ironically named – ‘Stronger Futures’ (and 3 related bills). 

Canberra led solutions, ignore Aboriginal solutions, and are rolling like-polices out across Australia. ‘Stronger Futures’ is failing, as is the ‘close the gap’ policy as we recently saw. Of grave concern and not counted in these statistics is the skyrocketing rate of Indigenous incarceration under policies which continue to exclude First Nations peoples’ input and the authority of their structures; the latter held the people and their countries in harmony over thousands of generations.

Rosalie Kunoth-Monks’ granddaughter and Eastern Arrernte woman, Amelia will travel from the NT to speak. She has grown up under ten years of the Intervention and understands too well the harsh realities of its controls. She states, “We are an occupied country. We never ceded our sovereignty. We need to stand united rather than divided.”
But, in the absence of treaty, the rolling out of imposed intervention like-policies across Australia with the threats to close WA homelands, the wind back of Heritage acts and other land rights acts, threats to Native Title, and denial of First Nations People’s authority and structures, these calls are not in isolation.

Lynda-June Coe, Wiradjuri woman and representative of the group ‘Fighting In Solidarity Towards Treaties’ (FISTT), working with and seeking to liberate Australia’s First Nations people adds, “There has been an undeclared war in this country for over 200 years.. no treaty agreement has been negotiated between us as Sovereign First Nations and the colonial state. We have never ceded our Sovereignty, a Treaty is a starting point to redress unresolved, unfinished business.”

First Nations people are denied their own solutions, sovereign rights, elected structures and right of diplomatic dialogue. There are strong moves to treaty/ies in other states but the process must allow for continuing sovereign structures to be respected and involved.

Early last year a meeting of 500 First Nations leaders in Victoria unanimously passed a motion demanding that the State “resources a treaty process, including a framework for treaties, with complete collaboration with all Sovereign Peoples and Nations”.  Victoria is undergoing a state led treaty process and we have seen similar moves since in South Australia and Tasmania.

In Victoria the process is well underway and not without its difficulties.  Lidia Thorpe of the Gunditjmara and Gunnai Nations will remind us ”We need a proper respectful process which includes all clans of Victoria. You cannot have Treaty discussions without free informed prior consent of the clans.”  What will treaty mean?

Gamilaraay woman Natalie Cromb adds “Treaty is the mechanism in which we can hold the government to account for past and present atrocities, it is our means of asserting our sovereignty and ensuring the structures which will see our communities flourish are funded. We ... know it is the answer for our people in spite of governmental attempts to split us down the middle with the campaign for constitutional recognition - this is white noise to distract and detract from our voices. We need to come together now - unity for our children and children’s children, but most of all - for our ancestors that paid for this land with their blood - we need to think, speak and act collectively for our people. Treaty will not cure all that ails our people, but it starts a new chapter…”

Treaty/ies are inevitable.

Following on from STICS’ successful fora ’First Nations Women Speak out for Treaty’ in 2015 and ‘First Nations Men speak out for Treaty’ in 2016, this event will feature four First Nations young women. It is the intention of STICS to hold a forum for young men later this year. The forum will be followed by Q&A and will be facilitated by Jeff McMullen AO.

For more information or to interview the speakers contact:
Cathy Gill on 0422385852

Lynda-June Coe, Wiradjuri
Natalie Cromb, Gamilaraay
Amelia Pangarte Kunoth-Monks, Eastern Arrernte
Lidia Thorpe, Gunnai and Gunditjmara

Jeff McMullen, journalist and film-maker