Image for Noel Pearson stories from the heart of Australia

*Pic: Image of Noel Pearson from HERE

Three stories that “make Australia” are the centrepiece of a historic declaration drafted by Noel Pearson that he believes should stand alongside the nation’s Constitution to provide recognition of indigenous peoples for the first time.

The indigenous leader’s proposed declaration is specific in recognising “ancient indigenous heritage” as the foundation of Australia, followed by “British institutions” that built upon it and the “gift of multicultural migration”.

Referring to “frontier wars” between Aborigines and settlers, and arguments about British “settlement” versus “invasion”, he contends the best way to transcend debates about history is to set out both perspectives “as honestly as we can” in a declaration.

Mr Pearson says he accepts the position of Liberal MP Julian Leeser and Cambridge philosopher Damien Freeman that the declaration should have “no legal footing” and exist rather for its moral, social and cultural power, similar to the US Declaration of Independence.

But he remains emphatic that a declaration would be insufficient by itself and must be accompanied by a constitutional amendment, passed by referendum, to set out the “substance” of recognition for indigenous Australians.

“A declaration outside of the Constitution would be an appropriate place for symbolic language — the better place for poetry — as long as it was in addition to substantive constitutional reform,” Mr Pearson writes in The Weekend Australian, which has published his draft in full with personal annotations. Mr Pearson’s insistence on indigenous constitutional recognition — as proposed by the Uluru Statement from the Heart, the consensus document published a year ago of which Mr Pearson was a co-author — puts him at odds with Malcolm Turnbull.

The Prime Minister might support a non-legal recognition document but has so far stood firm in rejecting the option — based on the Uluru statement’s recommendation — of a constitutional referendum to give indigenous Australians an advisory voice to parliament.

The Cape York indigenous leader says his draft declaration, for which he provided seven terms of reference this week during an oration in Adelaide in honour of Lowitja O’Donoghue, is offered in the spirit of generating ideas. “The draft is for the purpose of illustrating what could be possible if 300 to 500 apposite words could afford mutual recognition of all Australians and make for a more unified and reconciled nation,” he says.

The “three stories” detailed in the draft declaration were first proposed by Mr Pearson when he delivered his dinner address to mark the 50th anniversary of The Australian in July 2014.

He begins the declaration with a definitive statement that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander tribes were the “First Nations of the Australian continent and its ¬islands, possessed under ancient laws and customs, according to the reckoning of culture, from the Creation, according to the common law, from time immemorial, and according to science for more than 65 millennia”.

Calling it a spiritual notion, Mr Pearson speaks of the ancestral tie between land, or mother nature, and indigenous peoples who remain attached to the land and “must one day return thither to be united with their ancestors”.

He completes the declaration’s first section with the words, “We recognise and honour the First Nations who discovered Australia as their sovereign possession, the oldest continuing civilisation in the world.”

WHEREAS THREE STORIES MAKE AUSTRALIA:

Link - https://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/inquirer/in-the-spirit-of-getting-the-ball-rolling-noel-pearson-offers-this-declaration-of-australia-and-the-australian-people/news-story/ed799975812fe15795d4690409e11638 the Ancient Indigenous Heritage which is its foundation, the British Institutions built upon it, and the adorning Gift of Multicultural Migration:

And whereas Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander tribes were the First Nations of the Australian continent and its islands, possessed under ancient laws and customs, according to the reckoning of culture, from the Creation, according to the common law, from time immemorial, and according to science for more than 65 millennia. This is a spiritual notion: the ancestral tie between the land, or mother nature, and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples who were born therefrom, remain attached thereto, and must one day return thither to be united with their ancestors. We recognise and honour the First Nations who discovered Australia as their sovereign possession, the oldest continuing civilisation in the world.

And whereas those who sailed the First Fleet landing at Sydney Cove carried upon their shoulders the common law of England, when the sovereignty of the British Crown was proclaimed. The rule of law, parliamentary government and the Australian English language have their provenance in Britain. From eyes on board ship, this was a settlement, and from eyes on shore, an invasion. We recognise the eve of the 25th and the dawn of the 26th January 1788 as a profound time for all of us, when Ancient Australia became the New Australia. We recognise and honour the Britons and Irish – convict and free – who founded our institutional heritage, making our Commonwealth from 1901, a great democracy of the globe.

And whereas peoples the earth over brought their multitude of cultural gifts to Australia. That we celebrate diversity in unity makes us a beacon unto the world. We recognise and honour our New Australians. When we renounced the White Australia policy, we made a better Commonwealth. We show that people with different roots can live together, that we can learn to read the image-bank of others, that we can look across the frontiers of our differences without prejudice or illusion.

NOW THEREFORE, with earnest and open hearts and strong desire to fill the lacuna, after more than two centuries, we make this Declaration of Australia and the Australian People, to see our reflections in each other, and recognise one and all:

Our history is replete with shame and pride, failure and achievement, fear and love, cruelty and kindness, conflict and comity, mistake and brilliance, folly and glory. We will not shy from its truth. Our storylines entwine further each generation. We will ever strive to leave our country better for our children.

We will honour the Uluru Statement from the Heart and make good upon it. Whilst English is the shared language of our Commonwealth, mother tongues name the country and sing its song-lines – and we do not want for them to pass from this land. They are part of the cultural and natural wonder of our country that is the campfire of our national soul, and the pledge of care and custody we owe our ancestral dead and unborn descendants.

After the battles of our frontier wars fell silent, diggers from the First Nations joined their Settler and New Australian comrades in the crucibles of Gallipoli, the Western Front and Kokoda, and there distilled the essence of our values:

That our mateship is and will always be our enduring bond.

That freedom and the fair go are our abiding ethic.

That our virtues of egality and irreverence give us courage to have a go.

That we know we can and always will count on each other.

Three stories make us one: Australians.

*Leonard Colquhoun’s employment mainly comprised working as a middle and senior secondary teacher of English and histories; he appreciates how history has an enduring impact on life today, acknowledges that there’s both shame and tragedy, with joy and wonder in all histories (including ours) but refuses to accept that people’s lives now are determined by other people’s decisions then. And asserts that we are much, much more than our double helixes.