Australia Day? We’ve got bigger fish to fry

The Fitzroy River in flood.

A leader representing some of Australia’s most isolated communities says there are more important issues facing Aboriginal people than the date of Australia Day.

Marra Worra Worra chief executive Dickie Bedford will travel more than 4800km from remote Fitzroy Crossing in Western Australia’s north to represent 35 communities at the giant Justice Through Treaty march in Sydney on Friday.

Mr Bedford said homelessness, overcrowding, failed government programs and lack of representation in government were all more critical than the January 26 date debate.

“For some, they have the right to debate the date if they feel that is important to them,” Mr Bedford said.

“I represent 35 communities. January 26 will come and go and our issues on the ground will still remain.

“I much more want to engage with the government on how do we change all of that.”

His comments come as a national war of words continues to rage around Australia Day and as organisers of the justice rally — which will call for a treaty with Aboriginal people — prepare for crowds in the tens of thousands.

Mr Bedford will be a speaker at the event.

He said a treaty was important to the communities in WA’s north.

“I guess the treaty would give us some security about our future and our security isn’t going to be based around another government coming in, another set of policies and another set of programs and another welfare system where they know what’s right for the Aboriginal people,” he said.

“The treaty would lead to identification, which is important to us and it would allow us to have self-determination on our communities to determine our own destinies and our own future.

“I guess in a certain sense it would be a healing thing for the nation for prosperity and perpetuity and we want to be a part of that. We just don’t want to be the subject of it.”

Mr Bedford said the debate over Australia Day was diverting attention from the main issues.

He said some communities liked to celebrate on January 26.

“The debate about changing the date just recently came up,” he said. “For a long time Aboriginal people across the country in some way, shape or form celebrated Australia Day.

“We do nothing specific up home at Fitzroy Crossing, but of course there are communities that want to celebrate the day. After all, we are Aussies, albeit the first Aussies.

“In the last 10 to 20 years people have been celebrating Survival Day.

“It’s either change the date or change the name. The Indigenous community celebrates the day under different circumstances, you might say.”

Meanwhile, Sydney Aboriginal pastor Ray Minniecon, another speaker at the rally, has labelled comments by former Prime Minister Tony Abbott about Australia Day as “idiotic, stupid, dumb”.

In a radio interview this week Mr Abbott said the events of January 26 1788 – when British settlement began – was a good thing for everyone, including Aboriginal people, because it brought Australia into the modern world.

“What Aboriginal person would agree with him?” Mr Minniecon said. “It’s stupid. I’ve said many, many times the 26th of January in any year will always be a year of mourning and lament for me personally and any other Aboriginal person who wants to join us.

“It’s not something I could celebrate. That’s when the darkness fell upon our people and continues to be that way.

“We have to remember the massacres, we have to remember the stolen generations and more recently in our own contemporary days the number of children forcibly removed.

“We don’t have a treaty. We’re the only Indigenous people on the planet who don’t have any kind of agreement. We’ve got nothing to celebrate except a continuation of our lament and mourning.”

Michael Anderson, the last surviving member of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy and leader of the Euahlayi Nation, said treaty talks in Sydney were welcome but a single treaty was not the answer.

“It has to be understood that a single Treaty, be it state or federal, will cause more damage to our various sovereign nations than the Native Title Act as amended,” he said.

“I offer this warning to our people that, if each respective sovereign nation fails to stand up for itself and take ownership of their own future, your people will stand to lose much through the process and ambition to negotiate a single treaty.”

Wendy Caccetta

Read more in NIT: Everyone’s two bob on Oz Day debate

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12 Comments on Australia Day? We’ve got bigger fish to fry

  1. Yes, of course there are more urgent problems. But at least changing the date is an easy tokenistic way to help absolve white guilt.

    • asusina, your response is the reason why Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander is finally being taught in primary school curriculum history classes. This has nothing to do with white guilt; it is an opportunity to bring broken (black AND white) communities closer together.

  2. Funny how the ‘first people’ happily grab all the free christmas presents and Easter eggs offered at the time… neither were pre landing occasions.
    IF we complain about 1 event.. hand back all the others.. kinda like the day we invented the wheel..

  3. And there are seperate Aboriginal nations are there? And they all want a treaty? Ha. Given to these community leaders right? Ha. The majority of Aboriginals wouldnt want that. Who the $%#% do these bloody community leaders think they are anyway to think that they get to decide how compensatory action money is spent. Look at how they waste the millions given to them by mining companies to mine on sacred land. Some tiny Aboriginal community gets all the cash through a ‘community leader’ and every other Aboriginal is left out. Hardly a united people. But do normal Aboriginals really want all of this money to be given to some government chosen community leader? I know many Aboriginals that do not agree with this at all.

    We do need to debate this nonsense. I am not saying anything racist here. The fact is that the arguments of liberals and Aboriginal community leaders are pathetic! So let’s debate this. Bring out that old grey haired Aboriginal lady that hates so-called ‘white people’ and is always crying tears of rage and let’s have a debate. I will take her on and I will destroy her. I have done nothing to this woman yet she hates me because I am ‘white’. It is ludicrous. So let’s do it!

  4. Plus not all of the convicts were even white – like out first Bush Ranger – Black Caesar. Black Caesar was a black African convict from Madagascar. Does Black Caesar get a pass because he was a black African? Ha. There were convicts from all over the place brought to Australia by the English. And do you people truly believe that a Southern European and a Northern European are both ‘white’ and the same? A Southern Euro is not a Teuton – they are closer to an Arab and that is where a lot of their blood came from. Did Con the Fruiterer look more like a white person or an Arab? Think about it. Same with Italians. And is these Southern Euro Greeks and Romans that conquered us Northern Euro Teuton so should I be asking for compensatory action from the Greek or Italian Governments? Ha.

  5. Back to Black Caesar – if you don’t know your Australian history well enough you may not he aware of the fact that Black Caesar once tangled with Aboriginal leader Pemulwuy. Black Caesar was part of a convict crew working at Botany Bay when all of a sudden they are attacked by the great Pemulwuy and his army of gorrila warfare Aboriginals. Nor Black Caesar was a massive African man but he was only given the same small rations by the English as the other convicts so he was always very hungry and that is actually why he decided to become Australia’s first Bush Ranger, so when Pemulwuy and his army attacked the convicts Black Caesar was not about to allow a bunch of Aboriginals take his rations so he fought back and he managed to crack Pemulwuys skill. Both the English and convicts were all terrified of Pemulwuy so when Black Caesar managed to crack his skull many believed that Black Caesar had killed Pemulwuy and this made Black Caesar a hero throughout the colony. It turned out that Pemulwuy had actuo survived and he and his army continued their attacks on the English and convicts until someone was able to finally shoot him.

    I am not making this up.

    An Aboriginal attacking a black African convict. The Black African convict cracked his skull.

    Is Black Caesar really to blame for invading Australia? Is any convict to blame? Wouldn’t it be far more logical to demand compensation from the actual English Government for invading Australia? It is the English that have Pemulwuys skull you know. After he was shot the redcoats were so happy that they sent his skull back to England. Some Aboriginal people want Pemulwuys skill returned and they asked Prince William about it and he told them he would have a look for it but that was years ago. My guess is that the English have either lost Pemulwuys skull – or they threw it in the bin and forgot about it. Either way it is the English that should pay – not so-called ‘white Australians’.

    Also – many Aboriginals have jobs and pay tax right? So aren’t they going to have yo lay for their own compensatory action? How is that fair? The only fair way is for the English to pay.

  6. Working class Australians unite! All of us. All colours. All cultures. For us all!

    Don’t allow ASIO and the capitalist media and political class divide us.

    How many Australian citizens agree with a controlled opposition ASIO clown like Erikson? Bugger all.

    And why does capitalist media promote this Erikson clown? Think about it.

    We should all be complaining to ASIO about Erikson.

    Send him a message on Facebook and tell him that you know that he works for ASIO. This guy is dumb as hell – its obvious – and if we all call him out I think he will panic and go away. Let’s send Erikson a message!

  7. The folksy goings-on, funded by governments, on Australia Day are a way of diverting attention from the needs mentioned by Mr Bedford. It is true that those needs are more important than the Day. If the Day were treated seriously, such as Linda Burney suggests, then those needs would be right in front of govt attention. Australia Day Councils admin and events everywhere are absorbing money (to white people) that could be better spent. Get rid of them. Get some of that money to fund alternatives to the p-r guff that is spread over us these days.

  8. How AB-ORIGINAL and authentic are Oz-straylia day celebrations?Flags and thongs which are made in China plus Mexican sombreros. Then they’ll chuck some introduced lamb on the barbie.

  9. My 4 years work with child protection in FX with the same government mob that took my material and paternal grandparent away and placed them into Moore River Mission, mum and her sisters taken away from Mingenew and placed into New Norica Mission and dad taken a way from Arrino and placed into Moore River Mission and my 5 sisters and 6 brother taken away from Mingenew and placed into New Norica and Tardun mission. Because our families did not live up too white fella GOVT standards. I’m the elder of 14 children. my tribe is Wattandee from the Midwest of Western Australia. I’m also an elder for my Tribe, we have a Totem, Skin, Tribe, Dreaming and Language. Dickie your right we Aboriginal people need to deal with current and ongoing extension issues affecting our people. I’ve worked for 50 years and I’m still working, I’m also dealing with politics to better lives of our aboriginal people. Our heroes are the ones
    “who get knocked down then they get up again” trust we aboriginal have been dictated, manipulated, genocide, stolen land, by colonisation and government invented practice and policy. Referendum, I’ve seen were one group of people in central Australia speaks for all our aboriginal brothers and sisters. I’ve not seen dialogue or consultation from canberraterrieans talking to our Midwest People. Keep up good work Dickie

  10. We all can walk and chew gum at the same time.
    Just like we holistically handle and carry out all indigenous related business, on all remaining days of any year.
    In regards to the other issues noted in this article, these have been longstanding and have not merely become a discussion that stemmed solely from, or is just connected to the recent National day of celebration 2018, which currently is not inclusive or respectful, not recognised by many thousands of our people, as much as it should be.
    Leaving the date as it is, has not lead, or will lead to any real change either, in the short term or long term if you look at this holistically and historically and politically.

    As for Treaties they will be and should be discussed with each separate nation or group to decide their position.

    I thought I was reading a Murdoch news article for a second hold on its NIT news.✌?
    ✊? change the date.✊?

  11. Regardles of what colour or nationality the convicts were, they were put on a continent which was already inhabited by the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.The original inhabitants who lived happily within their own boundaries, governed by thier own effective governing structure built on the foundation of love,care,protection,respect and survival for each other and for their Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander society.The convicts came,shoved and pushed by the English, the convicts came…. and with the full force of greed for land, in the name of ‘their survival’ in a foriegn country,they tortured, raped, caused bloodshed, psychological abuse and unimaginable violence to the men, women and children of the first people of Australia.History that has been verbally passed on through generations….and you expect US to forget??

    I totally agree that changing the date WILL make a difference. It is then that we can all celebrate Australia Day as a nation regardless of race, gender, religion, nationality and historical differences. A nation that will make Reconciliation, Closing the Gap etc and any other programs the government has placed upon us to move forward, a reality. It is then that we can sing our national anthem with pride…Advance Australia Fair! Until that day comes, Australia certainly hasn’t advanced fairly with the original people of this country and continues to do so.

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