Alyawarr Ingkerr-wenh

Richard Downs

Media Release

Call to reconcile reconciliation campaigns

Alyawarr Leader, Richard Downs has called for reconciliation between the Recognise and treaty campaigns.

Tensions have been building between the campaigns as calls for treaties have increased.

The Constitutional Reform Expert Panel considered a 1983 recommendation for the insertion in the Constitution of a provision, along the lines of section 105A, conferring a broad power on the Commonwealth to enter into a compact with representatives of the Aboriginal people. But the Panel concluded that any amendment to the Constitution should not be made until such a compact or treaty had been negotiated.

Downs said that the Victorian Government's willingness to enter into treaty talks with Victorian Aboriginal peoples has led to a change in rhetoric from the Recognise campaign.

“Following the announcement by the Victorian Government, Tanya Hosch, the Director of the Recognise campaign said that it was ‘a good thing’ and that ‘it’s not at odds with the push for recognition’. If that’s the case, then the proposal for conferring power on the Commonwealth to enter into treaties with Aboriginal peoples should be put back on the table” he said.

Downs rejected that the argument of the Expert Panel that the Constitution should only be amended to confer power on the Commonwealth after a compact or a treaty has been negotiated.

“In the case of those of us Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory, I doubt whether such a Constitutional amendment is necessary for the Commonwealth to enter into a compact or treaty with any of us. But with Victoria’s decision to negotiate treaties with its Aboriginal peoples, such a provision will almost certainly be required and I seriously doubt whether there will be any interest in having a third referendum to do this” he said.

“I urge the Expert Panel to consider wisely and take into consideration concerns from all language speaking tribes across Australia. We have not given our free prior consent to expert panel to speak on Alyawarr peoples’ behalf. Our land is not yours to do as you wish in discussions with federal governments. We are the Custodians and carers of land and all living creatures in our region. The land belongs to all our younger future generation and their children, we belong to Earth.”

”The Expert Panel and government leaders must understand and acknowledge that to go ahead in any negotiation without the full support from grass roots people; you are following in the footsteps of invaders/colonisers taking what does not belong to you. We now have a great opportunity to include an amendment which opens a window into ongoing discussions on treaty. Treaty is a way of true recognition, acknowledgement of ownership, belonging, and reconciliation” he said.

Downs also encouraged other Aboriginal peoples to bring forward and press their claims for a treaty and to organise along state/territory and Federal lines.

“In the case of the Alyawarr, it is conceivable that we could eventually align ourselves with other Arandic, Territory Aboriginal and Australian Aboriginal peoples consistent with our common language, laws, customs and histories and participate in Tribal Councils and First Nations Assemblies, as happens in Canada” he said.

23 May 2016
For more information, telephone Richard Downs on 0457 636 513 or e-mail him at