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Indigenous recognition - Part 6: Indigenous sovereignty

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In a majestic six part series, Dr George Venturini takes an in-depth look at the proposal to recognise Indigenous Australians in the Constitution, asking whether it will produce the positive effects on reconciliation hoped for.

[Read Part One by clicking here]
[Read Part Two by clicking here]
[Read Part Three by clicking here]
[Read Part Four by clicking here]
[Read Part Five by clicking here]

In this final part, Dr Venturini balances the proposal for Indigenous recognition in the Constitution against the strong movement for Indigenous sovereignty.


On Recognising Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples in the Australian Constitution: a belated homage or yet another swindle (Part 6)


Indigenous sovereignty

At community consultations and in submissions, the Expert Panel was also referred to the recognition of Indigenous Peoples in international law — specifically the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which was adopted by the General Assembly on 13 September 2007 and endorsed by Australia on 5 April 2009.

In a country which remains lazily and self-satisfyingly mono-lingual – despite all the multicultural hullabaloo pretensions – it would be only fatal that comparison with other countries would only be towards similarly originally invaded parts of the world: Aotearoa-New Zealand, Canada, South Africa and the United States. But, they speak English there and available literature makes for easier access.

A look was given, however, into Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Denmark, Ecuador, Finland, Mexico, Norway, the Philippines, the Russian Federation, and Sweden.

Finland is the country which has the newest Constitution; it was amended as recently as 1 March 2012.  It has a somewhat similar provenance to Australia’s — but an infinitely more active brain and a stronger back-bone. It gained its independence from Imperial Russia in 1917 and from then has progressed to become a secular, democratic republic, with a parliament elected through a system of proportional representation — hence truly guaranteeing the foundation of democracy: one head = one = vote = one value.

One needs only look at the outcome of the 17 April 2011 election. There being eight competing and successful parties, the distribution of seats in parliament produced the following results:

In addition, Sami are protected by the Constitution of Finland, which in Chapter 2 has incorporated basic rights and liberties for all, expressed into articles from 6 to 23: on equality before the law, the right to life, personal liberty and integrity, the principle of legality in  criminal cases, freedom of movement, the right to privacy, freedom of religion and conscience, freedom of expression and right to access to information, freedom of assembly and freedom of association, electoral and participatory rights, protection of property, educational rights, right to one’s language and culture, the right to work and the freedom to engage in commercial activity, the right to social security, the duty of responsibility for the environment, the right of protection under the law, the guarantee that public authorities will observe those rights, and the basic rights and liberties in situations of emergency.

One would recognise in these declarations the fundamental elements of the International Bill of Rights, by which Finland strictly abides. Even the True Finns, the farthest-right party in the Finnish Parliament, would not dare to object to any of the provisions in that chapter on the totally medieval, and most certainly specious, grounds that it would introduce a ‘one-section Bill of Rights’.

One has to come to Australia to witness such wisdom — and from an undoubtedly intelligent and law-trained Leader of the Opposition. Maybe it was his schooling by the Jesuits that provided him with such flexible polyvalence.To date, Finland has not gone through the perfunctory ceremony of signing The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly during its 62nd session at UN Headquarters in New York City on 13 September 2007, as Australia did. The reasons are unknown. Perhaps, fundamental guarantees in the Constitution seem sufficient to Finns. Anyway, signing or not signing, what would that do to a place like Australia?

What is certain is that any comparison between a free, secular, and democratic republic and a Governor-Generalate such as Australia would be grossly offensive — to truth and intelligence.What matters, and ultimately distinguishes the Finnish from the Australian experience, is that a country wracked by civil war at the beginning, severely damaged during three wars between 1939 and 1945, a relative latecomer to industrialisation, which remained a largely agrarian country until the 1950s, thereafter would progress to a rapid economic development, guaranteeing an extensive welfare state. Finland has the best educational system in Europe. It has recently ranked as one of the world’s most peaceful, competitive and liveablecountries.






























































* The Province of Aland is guaranteed one seat by law.










That is democracy in action, even if the ultimate result is that of securing a large number of seats to the True Finns, who gather the vote of those who prefer a right-wing populist and nationalist representation — a recent phenomenon due to the common resurging of European authoritarian parties.

  1. A 9 November 1973 act establishing the Finnish Sami Parliament, representing 0.16 per cent of a total population of some 5.4 million;

  2. the Sami were recognised as a ‘People’ in 1995;

  3. since 1970 Sami have begun to have access to Sami language instruction in any of the three languages spoken in Finland: Inari Sami, North Sami and Skolt Sami; "language rights’ were established in 1992.

  4. As for the recognition of the Sami people, also spelled Sámi or Saami, of whom there are about 9,350 in Finland – with some 2,000 in Russia, 24,600 in Sweden, and between 60 and 100 thousand in Norway – Finland proceeded  this way:

    In addition, Sami are protected by the Constitution of Finland, which in Chapter 2 has incorporated basic rights and liberties for all, expressed into articles from 6 to 23: on equality before the law, the right to life, personal liberty and integrity, the principle of legality in  criminal cases, freedom of movement, the right to privacy, freedom of religion and conscience, freedom of expression and right to access to information, freedom of assembly and freedom of association, electoral and participatory rights, protection of property, educational rights, right to one’s language and culture, the right to work and the freedom to engage in commercial activity, the right to social security, the duty of responsibility for the environment, the right of protection under the law, the guarantee that public authorities will observe those rights, and the basic rights and liberties in situations of emergency.



    One would recognise in these declarations the fundamental elements of the International Bill of Rights, by which Finland strictly abides. Even the True Finns, the farthest-right party in the Finnish Parliament, would not dare to object to any of the provisions in that chapter on the totally medieval, and most certainly specious, grounds that it would introduce a ‘one-section Bill of Rights’. One has to come to Australia to witness such wisdom — and from an undoubtedly intelligent and law-trained Leader of the Opposition. Maybe it was his schooling by the Jesuits that provided him with such flexible polyvalence.

    To date, Finland has not gone through the perfunctory ceremony of signing The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly during its 62nd session at UN Headquarters in New York City on 13 September 2007, as Australia did. The reasons are unknown. Perhaps, fundamental guarantees in the Constitution seem sufficient to Finns. Anyway, signing or not signing, what would that do to a place like Australia?

    What is certain is that any comparison between a free, secular, and democratic republic and a Governor-Generalate such as Australia would be grossly offensive — to truth and intelligence.

    What matters, and ultimately distinguishes the Finnish from the Australian experience, is that a country wracked by civil war at the beginning, severely damaged during three wars between 1939 and 1945, a relative latecomer to industrialisation, which remained a largely agrarian country until the 1950s, thereafter would progress to a rapid economic development, guaranteeing an extensive welfare state. Finland has the best educational system in Europe. It has recently ranked as one of the world’s most peaceful, competitive and liveable countries.

    * * *


    An outsider who has lived in Australia as a visitor for over forty years, and has regularly done the best to ‘behave like a tenant’, should be very cautious in coming to conclusions about such a sad affair as ‘Recognising Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples in the Constitution’ — that Constitution.

    The Expert Panel’s recommendations for changes even of that Constitution are a source of concern.  They are:

    1) That section 25 be repealed.

    2) That section 51(xxvi) be repealed.

    3) That a new ‘section 51A’ be inserted, along the following lines:
    Section 51A Recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples

    Recognising that the continent and its islands now known as Australia were first
    occupied by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples;


    Acknowledging the continuing relationship of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
    peoples with their traditional lands and waters;


    Respecting the continuing cultures, languages and heritage of Aboriginal and Torres
    Strait Islander peoples;


    Acknowledging the need to secure the advancement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait
    Islander peoples;


    the Parliament shall, subject to this Constitution, have power to make laws for the
    peace, order and good government of the Commonwealth with respect to Aboriginal
    and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

    The Panel further recommended that the repeal of Section 51(xxvi) and the insertion of
    the new ‘section 51A’ be proposed together.

    4) That a new ‘section 116A’ be inserted, along the following lines:
    Section 116A Prohibition of racial discrimination

    (1) The Commonwealth, a State or a Territory shall not discriminate on the grounds
    of race, colour or ethnic or national origin.


    (2) Subsection (1) does not preclude the making of laws or measures for the purpose
    of overcoming disadvantage, ameliorating the effects of past discrimination, or
    protecting the cultures, languages or heritage of any group.

    5) That a new ‘section 127A’ be inserted, along the following lines:
    Section 127A Recognition of languages

    (1) The national language of the Commonwealth of Australia is English.
    (2) The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages are the original Australian
    languages, a part of our national heritage.

    The Gillard Government has not yet pronounced itself on the recommendations, but it is fair to assume it would support all of them.

    Even some of those who support changes may cultivate facile illusions. It is not true; as a sympathetic and very active group’s spokesperson said:
    “The Expert Panel’s historic report presents a sound and practical proposal for bringing our [a contemporary] Constitution into the 21st Century.” 

    This is pie-in-the-sky stuff, plain nonsense. And that 63 per cent of Australians were in favour of recognition, with 37 per cent against as at 20 January 2012 – the day the Expert Report was mentioned in the press – means absolutely nothing. The wise men – and women, too – of the right are out with their doubts: but what if? What if the proposed clauses ‘open the gate’ to litigation? Could the prohibition of discrimination based on race, ethnicity or nationality not become ‘a dog’ (translation: risk)? Is it not better to do nothing? Are we not afraid of ‘creating a precedent’? Why should we challenge the principle of the dangerous precedent whereby nothing should be done for the first time?

    As far as the Opposition is concerned, and subject to one last minute volte-face, quite possible in the vagaries of ‘The System’, and so long as doubt is raised about the implications in the proposed Section 116A, it is possible that it may join the Government in preparing a ‘Yes’ suggestion.



    It is also possible that the cavillous objection that the proposed section could introduce a “one-clause Bill of Rights” could supply a pretext to the Opposition to torpedo the proposals. Just one day after the presentation of the Report, the Leader of the Opposition warned that
    “In examining the report we will be looking closely at the potential legal ramifications of any specific anti-discrimination power.”

    With the present Opposition, one should keep in mind that ‘The end justifies the means’. Wrongly attributed to Machiavelli, the saying better characterises the Jesuits — of whom, with or without visible frock, there are several among the ‘Liberals’.

    Maybe the simple-mindedness of most ‘reluctant voters’ could accept the proposal because ‘social conservatives’ almost always agree with laundry lists of statements of no consequence, such as: “I would not mind working with people from other races.”

    On the other hand, strict right-wing law-and-order types may be attracted to negative solutions simply because they have trouble grasping the complexity of the world. There are too many of them among ‘real’ Australians.

    More worrying, perhaps, for the proposals is the disparity of views among representatives of the Indigenous Peoples.

    Opinions there, despite the apparent enthusiasm, vary considerably; voices are discordant — and the ‘whites’, genuine or red-neck, will no doubt take advantage of those conflicting attitudes, thoughts, positions.

    There is first of all the view of the highly respected co-chair of the Expert Panel; then there are the firm observations by a relatively young Indigenous person, truly a public intellectual, who speaks not only outstanding English but also his father’s language, his mother’s language and two or three other local languages, that
    “We need to address the social and economic disadvantage of Indigenous Peoples on the same basis as other citizens: on the basis of social need, not ethnicity, colour or origin.”

    Obviously, he does not believe that there is some kind of social alchemy in constitutional reform. As an intended panacea it would do nothing to remove the intractable and ghettoised poverty of Indigenous communities and the gleaming, near but not too near to the material affluence of boom-time mining communities.

    The same exponent did say, however, that
    “If the proposed reform does not meet with [a very well known Indigenous leader]’s blessing, as an Indigenous [and woman] elder of Australia, then it will go nowhere. ... At the same time, if it does not meet with John Howard’s blessing, as a conservative elder of Australia, it will be equally doomed.”

    John Howard’s blessing?! Heaven forbid!

    Two well-known Indigenous academics, attached to prestigious universities, have written advising caution, because of “the state of our citizens’ understanding of the issues.” They also referred to the Constitution as ‘democratic’ and to Australia as a ‘modern nation.”  Hmmm ...

    They wrote:
    “The loss of the referendum would brand Australians to the world as racists, and self-consciously and deliberately so.”

    The first part of this sentence offers nothing new, and the second is open to serious doubt.

    One of those academics listed three camps in Indigenous Australia pushing three different viewpoints about the form of the referendum question. One wants a radical form of sovereignty; another wants a conservative model which only includes mention of Indigenous Australians in the preamble; and the third – which is the speaker’s camp – believes in more fundamental change, which would remove the ‘race power’ in the Constitution. She suggests that a preliminary vote of Indigenous Australians would settle which position was most deeply held by black Australia.

    Coming from a different direction, the former chairwoman of the federal Intervention, and an Indigenous leader at that, warned that the recommendations might be too complex to sway voters at a referendum. Australians are ‘not ready’, yet. If not now, then when?

    From the so-called Labor side of politics, another prominent Indigenous leader said that the Panel had overreached and it was unlikely that the proposals would succeed.

    There are, finally, voices from the Resistance against the English invasion. They talk about ‘Aboriginal sovereignty’ on the very basic, fundamental point that sovereignty was never discussed, negotiated, or ceded. They understand for sovereignty not ‘the power over others’ but the right – the rock-solid-right, though – to retain their culture as they understand it. “Traditional life – they say – is about the custodians’ role of caretakers of the rocky outcrops, desert plains and sacred mystical waterways which belong to the people of the Seven Wonders of the World.”  Fancy that!?

    On 16 May 2012, an Aboriginal sovereignty movement asked the United Nations to send peacekeepers to Australia to protect them against “increasing aggression by the Australian authorities.”

    “We have already put the United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki Moon, on notice that we are in need of U.N. peacekeepers as the Australian authorities are increasing their aggression against our sovereignty movement,” wrote Michael Anderson in a media release approved by the main actors resisting the construction of a huge natural gas industry at James Price Point, near Broome in Western Australia.



    Mr Anderson is the last survivor of the four men who set up the Aboriginal Embassy in Canberra in 1972. Early in February 2012, he had announced that he intended to travel all over the country, meeting people with the aim of forming a national unity government. He said he would be looking at having talks with non-Indigenous people so as to explain that the National Unity Government was for
    “…making Australia an independent republic, totally separate from England, as we are now mature enough to stand alone amongst the nations of the world. Included in these discussions will be the finalisation of an independent constitution which will set up the independent republican state.”

    Mr Anderson is the interim spokesperson for the 'Sovereign Union', formed at the 40th anniversary corroboree of the Aboriginal Embassy in January 2012. Several more such embassies have been set up across the country since then, including one at Walmandany (James Price Point), north of Broome. All are being harassed by local authorities.

    The protesters accuse the Premier of Western Australia, Colin Barnett, in conjunction with Western Australia police, of applying dictatorial methods in dealing with Indigenous Peoples, local families and protesters at James Price Point by sending in around 250 police with riot gear to secure clear access for the Woodside company’s staff and equipment to the proposed gas hub site on the West Kimberley coast. Yet over 600 members of Broome’s rich and diverse multicultural community presented flowers at Broome Police Station on Mother’s Day as a peaceful protest against the heavy police presence. Police were later seen dumping the bouquets in a bin, rather than taking them to a hospital or an aged care facility. On 14 May 2012, fifty riot squad police escorted the Woodside convoy of workers and equipment past a handful of locals protesting the destruction of the land, ocean and cultural landscape.

    The media release prepared by Mr Anderson said:
    “The next move will presumably be the destruction of the Walmandany Aboriginal Embassy and another camp on Cape Leveque Road. These camps were established to make a vocal statement about the atrocity of the nature of the proposed Woodside gas hub on the pristine land and sea ecology, and defend the rights of Aboriginal people and locals to have a say in the future of the state of the environment in the Kimberley. The proposed development site would have significant negative impacts on the Aboriginal heritage values, environmental values and the value of the National Heritage Listed dinosaur footprint trackways.” 

    All this is lost to representatives of one of the crudest business cabals.
    “Police have been intimidating and harassing local families and their supporters by deregistering cars suspected of having involvement with the Walmandany Embassy, and have been performing additional drug and alcohol testing on them....”

    The media release concluded:
    “We again state that the Australian government has no sovereignty over Australia and no jurisdiction over Aboriginal people, who have never signed a treaty nor ceded their sovereignty to a colonial force. The Australian government continues to fail to provide any protection against gross misuse of police powers towards Aboriginal people. We call for the immediate scrutiny and involvement of the United Nations in the many human rights violations perpetrated by the so-called ‘Australian Nation’ towards Aboriginal people in Australia.”

    On 23 to 24 May 2012, a conference was held at the University of Wollongong’s Innovation Campus,organised by legal academics of the University of Wollongong and Southern Cross University. The theme was this year’s renewed interest in the issue of sovereignty, defined in different ways — at the gathering of 26 January in Canberra it was intended as ‘self-determination’; in Wollongong it was rather explained as ‘the ultimate power to govern or have authority over land or territory’.

    The workshop specifically concentrated on discussing the complexities of litigating claims of sovereignty, which refers to having supreme independent authority over a geographic area, as a public interest issue by bringing together leading Indigenous activists, legal practitioners and scholars in the areas of law, politics and public culture.

    Speakers at the event included Mr Anderson, who gave an introduction to sovereignty claims before exploring the case study of the Provisional Constitution/Advisory opinion to the International Court of Justice.

    Speaking at the symposium on the first day, Mr Anderson said that Indigenous Peoples have a legal right to sovereignty, which would lead to a complete change in the legal and political dynamics of Australia.  “Sovereignty,” he said, “was not a matter of if, but when.”

    “When our claims are upheld, Australia has to come and talk with us and we have to negotiate how we live together in this country,” he said.

    And he warned:
    “We just have to change the whole dynamics of this country and our relationship ... but it’s not going to be a change to the detriment of the nation, it will be a change for the betterment of the nation.”

    Mr Anderson was followed by the Chair of the Northern Murray-Darling Basin Aboriginal Nations, Mr Fred Hooper, who gave a case study on the Northern New South Wales Local Alliance and local elder Roy ‘Dootch’ Kennedy, who spoke about the Sandon Point Aboriginal Tent Embassy.

    Mr Hooper said the claim to continuous sovereignty, uninfluenced by any proclamations to the contrary made by Captain Cook and Captain Phillip in 1770 and 1788 and uninterrupted by the ever-changing colonial policies of the last two centuries, is supported by the use of cases, documents and doctrines which illustrate the possible existence of multiple coexisting sovereign claims on the same territorial jurisdiction.

    One aspect of the claim, for example, would rely on the Pacific Islanders’ Protection Act 1872 [NB and 1875 Act] and the impact of the ‘doctrine of discovery’ on international Indigenous sovereignty — matters to be discussed at the Eleventh Session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in May this year.



    Dr Alesandro Pelizzon, one of the co-conveners of the meeting and a lecturer at Southern Cross University, agreed with Mr Anderson.  He said:
    “We are actually beginning a dialogue – a legal dialogue – on the issue, because it is undeniable that there is a claim to sovereignty; it is a fact, and it is not something that can be denied.”

    He went on:
    “So what we are exploring here is 'what are the implications?'

    “It is not a new discourse, but it is a newly supported claim, which has not been supported like that from the grassroots movement so far, and the testimony to that is that 40 years ago there was one tent embassy in Canberra ... but since January 26 more Aboriginal tent embassies have [been formed].”

    Professor Elena Marchetti, the other co-convener of the symposium, said that the gathering had received a very positive response from attendees and focused on the next steps needed to support the claim to sovereignty.

    On 24 May 2012, a meeting of Indigenous representatives from across the continent gathered to confirm their intent to form a National Unity Government of the Sovereign Union of First Nations Peoples in Australia.

    This intent was confirmed by the representatives formally signing an Act of Sovereign Union among First Nations Peoples in Australia. Mr Anderson, spokesperson for the Sovereign Union, said from Wollongong the following day:
    “The delegates acknowledged that having now stepped up to the plate of taking on this enormous task of nation building, not just at the national level, but at our local and regional levels as well. The most pleasing aspects of this movement is that nation building has now become organic within our communities throughout Australia. The grassroots people are using their own personal resources to bring their people together to rebuild their own nations and governance.

    “It is important to acknowledge this effort because the Sovereign Union is Peoples’ movement and they own it. This is not Australian Government inspired nor funded. It was decided that any funds for the further advancement of the Sovereign Union movement is to operate on the basis of goodwill from the people of Australia though donations or bequests.”

    The gathering concluded that the political significance of Aboriginal Embassies is vital to the sovereignty movement, in that those embassies represent a sovereign stand against the invader State and are an assertion of the Indigenous Peoples rightful place in their country. Moreover, those embassies are not protest sites; Indigenous Peoples call upon both the domestic and international community to recognise them as authentic diplomatic missions, to be afforded standard diplomatic immunities. It is also important to understand that when those embassies are assaulted by superior forces of the invader State, the people have a right to defend their sovereign independence. The sacred fire which burns at those embassies is the sacred spiritual essence uniting Indigenous Peoples through their ancient songlines and Dreamings. The Indigenous Peoples will defend this spirit life which comes from that sacred fire.

    The delegates to the Wollongong gathering asked Fred Hooper of the Murrawarri (at Weilmoringle) to head the establishment of the constitutional framework for the National Unity Government, including regional and local assemblies. He is to be supported by Judulu of the Kunghi (Grubunna) Djunkun Yarrabah North Queensland. Jululu was also delegated to communicate with tribal ceremonial Elders across the nations to co-ordinate the joining of ancient songlines. Vanessa Colbong of the Wdjuk, Wilmen and Ingarda from southwest Western Australia were delegated to co-ordinate the unification of the nations in the southern half of Western Australia. Peter Skuthorpe of the Gomeroi nation, from northwest New South Wales, was put in charge of co-ordinating youth action and education. Roy ‘Dootch’ Kennedy of the Yuin/Monaro, from Kuradji Sandon Point was held responsible for the unification of the nations from La Perouse down the south east coast of Australia, and Maureen Brennan was asked to assist ‘Dootch’ Kennedy in bringing the people together. Michael Anderson was appointed the national co-ordinator and responsible for all diplomatic relations both domestic and international.

    Thus far the media release; attached to that release was the communiqué containing the ‘Act of Sovereign Union between First Nations and Peoples in Australia’.
    There is a distinct opening reference to the American Declaration of Independence:

    Whereas in the course of human events and history there are times when it becomes absolutely necessary for one Nation or People to dissolve the political and legal bonds which have connected them with another;

    Whereas we now call upon the powers of the Creators of the Dreaming to enforce the natural authority that establishes a decent respect of humankind. It is required that we should declare the causes which impel us to the separation from our oppressor and to now declare our unity under our Dreaming and songlines, as we have since time immemorial;

    Whereas we hold the Law of the Dreaming, as evidence of authority that all people are born equal, and that they were granted by the Creator certain sovereign inalienable rights; among these are the right to life, liberty, the right to maintain the Law of the Dreaming and the pursuit of spiritual wholeness and personal wellbeing;
    Whereas to secure these rights in the modern world, governments are instituted among different Nations and Peoples, deriving their just powers from the consent of the people and the spiritual authority of the Dreaming. Whenever any form of government becomes destructive, it is the right of the Peoples to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, ensuring that at the very foundation of this process are principles based upon the rule of Law of the Peoples and organising its powers to ensure the most pleasing of outcomes for peaceful existence, safety of the Peoples’ happiness and wellbeing;


    Whereas prudence will dictate that governments long established should, without prejudice, support the objective of the Peoples who choose to exercise their inalienable sovereign right to be governed by their own peers in accordance with their Laws and under their authority;

    Whereas all experience has shown that humankind is more disposed to suffer, while the wrongs are sufferable, than to correct them by abolishing the entrenched subjugation. But, when a long train of abuses and usurpations derides the rights of Peoples, which reduces them to absolute despotism, it is the right of the oppressed, it is their sacred duty, to reject and throw off such tyrannical governance and to provide new guards for their future security and to pursue their own goals and objectives. Such has been the patient sufferance of First Nations Peoples of this island continent now known as Australia; and such is now the necessity which requires us to dispel the existing destructive systems that oppress us; and to reinforce our own systems of governance, in accordance with our Law of the Dreaming;

    We resolve to adopt and adhere to the following Statement of Principles:

    1. Our Peoples are equal in dignity and rights to all other Peoples, while recognising the rights of all other Peoples to be different and to be respected as such.

    2. We recognise that the diversity of Nations and other Peoples contributes to cultures and civilisations, which constitute the heritage of all humankind.

    3. As First Nations and Peoples we assert the right to freely exercise our basic human rights free from discrimination of any kind.

    4. It is recognised and accepted that we as First Nations Peoples have been deprived of our basic human rights and fundamental freedoms, which resulted from British colonisation and dispossession.

    5. The colonial usurpation of our lands, waters, and natural resources has prevented us from exercising our right to development in accordance with our sovereign inherent cultural, socio-economic and spiritual interest in these modern times.

    6. As First Nations and Peoples it is our sovereign inherent right to have control of our lands, including our natural resources, our environment, our waters, which is derived from our ancient political, economic, religious and social structures in accordance with our culture, Law and philosophies.

    7. It is our inherent sovereign right to declare and advance our interests in all lands, waters, natural resources, subsurface and airspace as decreed by our Dreamings and songlines, through our obligation to Mother Earth and Creation.

    8. We have an ancient inherent obligation to protect our heritage and to control and regulate its use.

    9. It is recognised and accepted that we have an ancient sovereign inherent right to protect, control and regulate our ancient practices that ensure their sustainability and thereby establishes equity in development and management of our natural environment and ecosystems.

    10. We recognise and accept that our Nations and Peoples have a sovereign inherent right to freely determine our future and way of life, with each other and with other sovereign nation states, in a spirit of co-existence and co-operation, thereby ensuring mutual benefit and respect.

    11. Any and all such agreements, arrangements, 'treaties' shall be consistent with all international laws that govern human rights and human interaction.

    12. We have a right to engage all human rights covenants and conventions in order to promote our hopes and aspirations as Nations and Peoples.

    13. Nothing in this set of principles may be used to deny any Nations or Peoples their sovereign inherent rights to freely pursue their right of self-determination while asserting sovereignty.

    14. This statement of principles is a step forward for the recognition, promotion and protection of our sovereign inherent rights and freedoms in respect to our future development and wellbeing.

    15. Signed this 24th day of May 2012 at Kuradji Aboriginal Embassy, Sandon Point, New South Wales.



    In the words of that Indigenous Declaration of Independence, one can hear the echo of the immortal words of Thomas Jefferson, and of another Declaration — a more recent one.

    On 2 September 1945, Hồ Chí Minh – revolutionary, statesman, later Prime Minister and first President of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam – delivered an address to the Vietnamese People, then freed from the Japanese occupation.

    Hồ Chí Minh, too, evoked Thomas Jefferson’s words. He said:
    All men are created equal. They are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.

    This immortal statement was made in the Declaration of Independence of the United States of America m 1776. In a broader sense, this means: All the peoples on the earth are equal from birth, all the peoples have a right to live, to be happy and free.

    The Declaration of the French Revolution made in 1791 on the Rights of Man and the Citizen also states: ‘All men are born free and with equal rights, and must always remain free and have equal rights.’ Those are undeniable truths.

    Hồ Chí Minh went on:
    Nevertheless, for more than eighty years, the French imperialists, abusing the standard of Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity, have violated our Fatherland and oppressed our fellow-citizens. They have acted contrary to the ideals of humanity and justice. In the field of politics, they have deprived our people of every democratic liberty.

    They have enforced inhuman laws; they have set up three distinct political regimes in the North, the Centre and the South of Vietnam in order to wreck our national unity and prevent our people from being united.

    They have built more prisons than schools. They have mercilessly slain our patriots- they have drowned our uprisings in rivers of blood. They have fettered public opinion; they have practised obscurantism against our people. To weaken our race they have forced us to use opium and alcohol.

    In the fields of economics, they have fleeced us to the backbone, impoverished our people, and devastated our land.

    They have robbed us of our rice fields, our mines, our forests, and our raw materials. They have monopolised the issuing of bank-notes and the export trade.

    They have invented numerous unjustifiable taxes and reduced our people, especially our peasantry, to a state of extreme poverty.

    They have hampered the prospering of our national bourgeoisie; they have mercilessly exploited our workers.

    In the autumn of 1940, when the Japanese Fascists violated Indochina's territory to establish new bases in their fight against the Allies, the French imperialists went down on their bended knees and handed over our country to them.

    Thus, from that date, our people were subjected to the double yoke of the French and the Japanese. Their sufferings and miseries increased. The result was that from the end of last year to the beginning of this year, from Quang Tri province to the North of Vietnam, more than two million of our fellow-citizens died from starvation. On March 9, the French troops were disarmed by the Japanese. The French colonialists either fled or surrendered, showing that not only were they incapable of ‘protecting’ us, but that, in the span of five years, they had twice sold our country to the Japanese.

    On several occasions before March 9, the Vietminh League urged the French to ally themselves with it against the Japanese. Instead of agreeing to this proposal, the French colonialists so intensified their terrorist activities against the Vietminh members that before fleeing they massacred a great number of our political prisoners detained at Yen Bay and Cao Bang.

    Notwithstanding all this, our fellow-citizens have always manifested toward the French a tolerant and humane attitude. Even after the Japanese putsch of March 1945, the Vietminh League helped many Frenchmen to cross the frontier, rescued some of them from Japanese jails, and protected French lives and property.

    From the autumn of 1940, our country had in fact ceased to be a French colony and had become a Japanese possession.

    After the Japanese had surrendered to the Allies, our whole people rose to regain our national sovereignty and to found the Democratic Republic of Vietnam.

    The truth is that we have wrested our independence from the Japanese and not from the French.

    The French have fled, the Japanese have capitulated, Emperor Bao Dai has abdicated. Our people have broken the chains which for nearly a century have fettered them and have won independence for the Fatherland. Our people at the same time have overthrown the monarchic regime that has reigned supreme for dozens of centuries. In its place has been established the present Democratic Republic.

    For these reasons, we, members of the Provisional Government, representing the whole Vietnamese people, declare that from now on we break off all relations of a colonial character with France; we repeal all the international obligation that France has so far subscribed to on behalf of Vietnam and we abolish all the special rights the French have unlawfully acquired in our Fatherland.

    The whole Vietnamese people, animated by a common purpose, are determined to fight to the bitter end against any attempt by the French colonialists to reconquer their country.

    We are convinced that the Allied nations which at Tehran and San Francisco have acknowledged the principles of self-determination and equality of nations, will not refuse to acknowledge the independence of Vietnam.

    And Hồ Chí Minh concluded:
    A people who have courageously opposed French domination for more than eighty years, a people who have fought side by side with the Allies against the Fascists during these last years, such a people must be free and independent.

    For these reasons, we, members of the Provisional Government of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, solemnly declare to the world that Vietnam has the right to be a free and independent country and in fact it is so already. The entire Vietnamese people are determined to mobilise all their physical and mental strength, to sacrifice their lives and property in order to safeguard their independence and liberty.

    Little Hồ Chí Minh knew. The struggle for the liberation of Vietnam would continue for another thirty years, against the Americans and their coerced allies, such as the Australians, who were all victims of the servility of their governments. And so 521 conscripted Australians died as a result of the war and over 3,000 were wounded. The war was the cause of the greatest social and political dissent in Australia since the conscription referendums of the First World War. Many draft resisters, conscientious objectors, and protesters were fined or gaoled, while some soldiers met a hostile reception on their return home. Hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese were contaminated with Agent Orange, napalmed, made homeless, killed.

    Thirty years is a long time, but only one seventh of the English occupation of Indigenous Land.

    The Blacks will be up for a long struggle. They should well think thrice before accepting what could be one more swindle.

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Party






 % of votes



 % of seats



seats


National Coalition Party

20.4



22.0



44


Social Democratic Party

19.1



21.0



42


True Finns

19.1



19.5



39


Centre Party

15.8



17.5



35


Left Alliance

 8.1



 7.0



14


Green League

 7.3



 5.0



10


Swedish People's Party

 4.3



 4.5



 9


Christian Democrats

 4.0



 3.0



 6


Others

 0.4



 0.5



   1*