The Guardian • Issue #2083

Treaty and Land Rights

  • The Guardian
  • Issue #2083

Invasion Day Melbourne, 2020.

On 26 January, join with Indigenous people in their demands for land rights, treaty, and truth telling!

“To join in the rally demonstrates that we are here, we’ve survived, that we are resisting all the injustices that have been done to us. We as a people are strong and we are going to fight against what has happened to us,” a young Indigenous man says.

26 January marks 236 years of colonisation and the ongoing dispossession of Aboriginal land and human rights. It also marks Indigenous resistance, from the 1938 day of mourning to the tent embassy in 1972, opposition to the bicentennial in 1988 and so much more.

This year many protest events on 26 January will draw comparisons between the slaughter of Indigenous Australians after 1788 and the ongoing genocide of the Palestinian people in Gaza, and unite participants in their struggle for justice in both places.

‘Australia Day’ was only made a national public holiday in 1994, a day celebrating the 150th anniversary of colonisation by British imperialism.

Over recent years there has been waning support for Australia Day and growing calls for an alternative date.

In 2023, at least 81 councils nationwide decided not to hold citizenship ceremonies on 26 January. The change follows a decision by the Albanese government to revoke a rule effectively forcing local councils to hold citizenship ceremonies on Australia Day.

At the same time the referendum on the Voice saw extremists such as Opposition leader Peter Dutton use the opportunity to run a dishonest and divisive racist campaign. Shadow Minister for Indigenous Australians, Jacinta Nampijinpa Price was used as an effective weapon for the No campaign.

In an address to the National Press Club, Price notoriously claimed that “Colonisation had a positive impact on Indigenous Australia.” This was followed by the outrageous and dishonest claim that “Indigenous people now have the same opportunities as all other Australians.”

The Closing the Gap reports tell a very different story. The differences between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians in education, health, employment, life expectancy, living conditions, and other social indicators are stark and ongoing. The impact of intergenerational trauma, stolen generations, racial discrimination and lack of opportunities continues today.

January 26 is an opportunity to strengthen the campaign against the blatant disregard for Indigenous land rights, culture, sacred sites, story lines, and other rights.

The Royal Commission into Deaths in Custody recommendations have not been implemented. At least 19 indigenous people died in custody in 2023. There remains an appalling over-representation of Indigenous people in the criminal justice system. At just 3 per cent of the national population, they make up nearly one third of Australia’s adult prison population.

The recommendations of the inquiry into the destruction of 46,000 year old caves at the Juukan Gorge in the Pilbara region of Western Australia remain on paper only.

Justice Natalie Charlesworth recently threw out a case by three Tiwi Islanders objecting to Santos constructing a pipeline route for its $5.8bn Barossa offshore gas project. Their claims of intangible underwater heritage, including Crocodile Man songlines and an area of significance for the rainbow serpent Ampiji, were deemed unproven.

January 26 protests will be another opportunity to resist the mining companies and to continue the campaign to win land rights for traditional owners.

Since the referendum the racists have become emboldened and there has been pushback against Indigenous rights. This is reflected in the NSW and Queensland governments’ delay in honouring their promises for a treaty.

It is time to take up the fight in every way possible. The key issue for justice and protection of heritage for Indigenous Australians is land rights.

The Communist Party of Australia’s Program states:

“The political and social struggle by the Indigenous people is centred on the issue of land rights. This campaign is not only a question of civil rights; it goes beyond this bourgeois democratic aim, for it contains a significant revolutionary aspect, the demand for the return to collective ownership of part of the basic means of production.

“The demand for communal and inalienable property challenges capitalism, for it puts forward a case for the expropriation of private property. It creates an alternative to private land property and raises the question of social ownership by all the people, black and white, of land and other resources in a people’s Australia.”

On 26 January, join with Indigenous people in their demands for land rights, treaty, and truth telling!

The Communist Party of Australia acknowledges the traditional owners and custodians of the land throughout Australia. We acknowledge that this is Aboriginal land, always was, always will be. We pay our respects to elders past, present and emerging. We acknowledge the ongoing strength of Aboriginal people in sustaining
the world’s oldest living culture.

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