Do You Own the Land … Or Does the Land Own You

RacismI’ve been involved in land issues lately and the question of traditional ownership and land rights, which is a biggie in Aus consistently. I personally believe that there is a change in loyalties, or perception and it is gradual and rather odd to note. Like a change in the breeze almost and I haven’t yet decided if it’s a good thing, or a bad thing.

I have had a bit to do with land rights over the years, mainly in the formation of opinion and seeing first hand the consequence of land rights decisions. I do believe emphatically that we should rescind the statement of ‘terra nullius’, which the English Crown declared over Australia even though they had only seen an itty bit of it and had no idea how big a landscape it was. Recognise on Facebook is a good place to start as their movement requires this as part of the action proposed. In fact I support that we rescind our connection to England but that is another posting.

As of 30yrs ago only 36% saw ourselves as descendant from the UK, the vast majority of families descend from the EU and this fallacy that we are English has been going on for 200 years. The English might have ruled us for 120yrs before we organized our own Constitution, but they certainly weren’t who we were as a people. It is time we grew up and cut the apron strings.

This declaration of ‘terra nullius’ was the basis in colonization 200yrs ago. Though colonization of this vast land did not begin with the establishment of the penal settlement at Sydney Cove, but some years later. The proclamation of terra nullius is most definitely incorrect and this needs to be addressed as an article in law in defence of our own people who are Australian. The English should have been less series about being able to claim the vast tracts that they did by putting a stick in the sand at some remote location and then doing bugger all about it until they needed a dumping ground for convicts when the US kicked them out a decade or so later.

Reality is that the colonization and socialization of Australia took hundreds of years and there are still vastly remote area’s where few people get to. We need more than a stick and a piece of fabric to claim title. That having been said, there is no going back from the Constitution now and we require some type of management… aka Government in this present day. There is no going back from this either so lets instead go forward and work to make the nation workable for all Aussies.

I personally believe that Traditional Owners do tend to look after the land better than industry, such as mining and international concerns, particularly when it comes to long-term outcomes. I’m also not keen on huge tourism and resort developments and would prefer to see smaller eco developments and stuff the opinions of international tourists in regards to this, after all… it is our country and why do they go to our wonderlands and wilderness area’s expecting all manner of amenities? And why would you look to destroy what initially attracts these same tourists? Let us instead encourage international tourism which is simpatico with the environment and our care of it. International interests do not own the land, and the land does not own them so we should remain suspicious of motive and responsibility. They are not here to help us.. but to help themselves.

In issues related to resources… well… what positive is there in the mining scrap heaps and poisonous tailings that are left to future generations to deal with. In any industry clear guidelines should be laid out in benefits remaining for our future generations of Aussies but while there is a short term gain in jobs and infrastructure, we need to ask is the consequences left after large scale mining has moved out worth it? The question remains unanswered and unaddressed.1/2 view of the Superpit

I once would look out over the Superpit in Kalgoorlie, and where others saw progress… and it can’t be denied that mining props up the Western Australian economy, I however saw a dam big hole that someone was gunna have to fill at some point, with something. The thought is staggering and in traveling around the WA state a bit, you do come across bloody big abandoned holes left by mining and they are a huge and dangerous hazard not to mention the scar on the landscape that is left. Legislation and follow up is clearly needed.The Superpit, Kalgoolie WA

However it all comes down to perception and what is important to you is your own perception. As mentioned, I am in favour of Traditional Ownership or custody of the land and I do agree with many land-rights issues. However, having said that, I ran into a blackfella in Darwin once in a pub and ended up in an argument over the issue of land rights. His mob had a claim pending on an area west of Darwin, I do believe that the claim in the end was not granted… thank God! You see once we had got into the demographics of the claim, it came out that his mob had moved in from the islands scarcely 100yrs ago and were now making a land claim.

Lucky DevilsNow the reality is that my mob moved into our home-ground over 200yrs ago and we would never have dreamed of making a land claim, and rightly so. Instead we bought freehold and it worked for us. If people are to be granted traditional ownership, then they need to establish a clear claim to that right and this is being established by those of Aboriginal descent in pockets all across the land, such as those of the Daintree mob and other Cape York communities etc where the Councils largely administer their own affairs sometimes under stricture depending on the activity. Some would call this arrangement ‘treaty’ but I have my doubts as to the meaning of the term and no faith in its blanket address. That it works in the community when it comes to your connection to your country and how that country is used is what is important. The colour of our skin should not determine land rights, nor should your economic situation regardless of how your family or mob ended up where they did.

These are the same ideals that the world abides by when it comes to land rights. My ancestors were dragged off their land and I certainly have no land rights there now. After all, what are land rights to someone who has no sense of the land in question? It is a harsh reality but a true state of affairs around the world and while I would wish everyone to own their own patch and that they should have control over it. We never really have total control, even when land is freehold. Governments are fickle and unconcerned largely when there is no benefit to be gained.

As a white skinned person, I have a connection to the land…  the whole island of Aus. This whole continent is my country, even the bits that are now traditionally held and the bits mining has destroyed or are developing depending on your outlook. I will defend this Land and Country as is my right, I am Australian and in this defence I have no need, or drive to lay a land claim anywhere. It simply is not something which is needed.

I was raised in what was largely bush south of Sydney and I learnt to listen and love dearly this land as a child. I left my childhood home because it could not offer me what I wanted for my kids and family and I have never regretted this.

As an adult I have adopted much of the Lore of the land, that which I could feel living about me, the perception of right, wrong and just that makes me Australian. I am of convict descent of mixed heritage and my lot did not have an easy time of it but however we overcame many of the problems in our social structure and left these behind, in part. We retained what remained of our culture and that which we identified with and developed our own place in society. You see essentially the land owns me and I can travel across this country and feel my kinship with it. I came to recognize this as I was exposed to other places across the globe. Because I write about Aboriginal issues people will question my heritage, even though this is illegal and none of their damn business. I write about Australian issues and I am undeniably Australian. Aboriginal issues are a large part of our country and its future.

HandoutsThe shift in the breeze though that I am talking about is the one where I now see the descendants of the Aboriginal tribes claiming and/or inferring that they own the land exclusively… not that the land owns them. It sometimes seems that it is not about the land owning them but more about royalties, possession, moral or not and hand-outs, and not about celebrating the return to a place where you feel family. They seem to live in a different universe to the rest of us sometimes and they can’t succeed here on Earth. It also seems that they have now the self same arrogance of the English some two hundred an more years ago at times.

They are commonly not talking about their Country, or the land their tribal ancestors walked on which they arguably have a right too, but are talking about the whole damn island and how much anyone who has any resources owes them. You can understand why I am not sure that this growing attitude is a good thing, particularly as it is based on skin shade. I am poker-dotted so I have a foot in both camps and yet satisfy no-one.

The Mobs about Aus are now not what would be termed traditional tribal people, these old people are no longer with us unfortunately but this can be said of everyone and every culture. Interbreeding with the Whitefella’s and other races occurred for many reasons, those encouraged by cultural practices largely and had more to do with the place of women in society. You can read my posting on ‘Owning a Woman’ for more info. The Aboriginal society has moved on and I sometimes worry for our blackfella brothers and what they are making of their own society. I have seen skilled and talented Aboriginal people, Traditional Owners no less, abused and shunned in communities (including mine) because they did not reach someone’s perceived shade of dark or light. The problem is not solely the abusers, but also largely that the communities which tolerate and allow this. It is Whitefella or Blackfella or Yellafella bashing and racist and racism should not be tolerated in any community. Aside from all else, it IS illegal and we all understand how destructive it can be, I hope.

There is no doubting that many Aboriginal communities need development, assistance and funding particularly in the area’s of health, education and social workers and they do get a great deal of support from Government and Society. After all, lets start with the fact that every Aussie citizen who is an adult gets a pay packet of some sort.  (Only if your not married – a married adult who is not working, yet whose partner is earning a living wage barely enough for 1 person, does not receive government assistance. I guess you’re expected to freeload). Communities, not just Aboriginal communities commonly also get a resounding lack of support where they want and need it. But want is not always addressed easily, and need should be address before want. So they should stop bleating about ‘want’ and do something creative like the rest of us are required to do.

Is it practical to expect the Government of the day to provide these things open handed, when the community is unwilling to support or assist or help themselves in this endeavour. Who is going to work where they are not welcome, or abused and not consistently supported, as within the communities where help is often called for the most. Angry voices create angry vibes and support angry deeds. Anger is not the answer, but concern and involvement is. Be part of the solution, not the problem.

The communities regardless of their cultural orientation need to take some responsibility in the things they need or want and how they look after them and support them.

The only solution that I can see is that as is found in the developing communities in other parts of the world. The solution has been found in part in education, where there has been support for local residents in education in the fields most needed within their own communities. This support encourages the return of services and human resources to the same community using people who have been drawn from the community and educated with support from outside. We currently have this, what is lacking is the support of the community in supporting their own.

The Amani Centre - Tanzania, AfricaThe choice of where you work, once educated, is of course an individual one but educational support over and above any other forms of additional financial and physical assistance seems to be working as in Tanzania, Africa. The Amani Centre which as a community that faced similar problems as can be found in many Aboriginal communities. The culture and country in this region is poor and poverty stricken and the local people are seen as intractable, sound familiar?

However in welcoming, supporting and assisting Father John Naumann who is the backbone of the development and prosperity within their own community, they have achieved what was considered unachievable in less than a decade. I should mention here that Father John Naumann is not a missionary in the sense of the concept as related to ‘missionaries’ associated with the Aboriginal missions of the past. He is a retired minister of the Anglican Church who saw clearly a need amongst a people who welcomed his help. He is also an Australian who was born and bred in country Queensland. I generally do not support religiously orientated missionary practices due to past abuses of both culture and people in general.

Kids from the Amani Cnt.

Kids from the Amani Cnt.

I personally know Father Naumann and have a small insight into how he has achieved so much. He has a rich and strong farming knowledge and has been able to call on advice on farming (in Australia) which has gone a long way towards the development and education of the township and community in helping the people to provide for them-selves. He also commonly draws on volunteers from around the globe who assist and are openly welcomed by all the community regardless of race.

He began with helping the children in a child orientated educational centre. I should also add that the ongoing development of this community has had absolutely no Government funding and is supported by a large and varied demographic of people who wish only to see change in disadvantaged communities. To see change, you must welcome and support it and the community did this openly. The only formal assistance he has received from any government has been the granting of visa’s which I should add were hard won.

Someone once asked him why he did not take his skills to the Aboriginal Communities and the answer was that he was not welcome there, nor did he feel the communities would want him. He is white skinned even though he is very tanned. You see… Tanzania now owns him and the community welcomes this, they do not see his skin colour. The very first thing they did was give him his own patch of land and he and the people in the small community physically built a school.

This to me says a great deal about Australia’s current inter-racial social outlook I am sorry to say.

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3 thoughts on “Do You Own the Land … Or Does the Land Own You

  1. Pingback: Is it a Question of Race or Attitude … when Doors Don’t Open | Jan Hawkins Author

  2. Humans have no rights that are not ALSO property rights. For example, you have to own a printing press to exercise “freedom of the press.”

    This even extends into freedom of speech. You have to have a place to stand in order to speak. The Black Robed “legislators” ruled that one can NOT yell “fire” in a crowded theater. And they did a lot of damage to a basic human freedom by the way they couched their opinion (put a limitation on freedom of speech).

    A more logical explanation would have been in terms of property rights. Whose property rights were violated by the yeller of “fire?” The theater owner’s certainly. Also the patrons who had paid to enjoy an uninterrupted performance, also.

    So how do property rights originate. According to John Locke (whose philosophy provided for the foundation of America) they stem from the self-ownership axiom. We each own ourselves.

    Thus if we encounter a previously unclaimed (no squatters allowed) resource (land) and mix out labor (sweat was his term) with it then the product-result is a part of us and therefore is our property.

    From this we can also conclude that it is impossible for government (of any form) to own property. The only “property” government possesses, it took from someone at the point of a gun.

    Private property is a peaceful notion and the only notion what can possibly bring peace on earth, good will to men. That is because all other schemes are counter to human nature.

    • Interesting point there. In Australia we deal with ‘Crown Lands’ – ie the assumption that the ‘English Crown’ has a claim over all land on the grounds of terra nullis, the claim the land was vacant, which it was not. Two hundred years down the track there is no going back. The rule of might allows us to hold the land and the people allow Government but it is based on a false premise.
      Quite a complex issue… however ‘land rights’ are held under ‘Freehold’, ‘Leasehold’ or Grant in Aus.
      Some of our advocates for Aboriginal land affairs are pushing for ‘treaty’ however the history of treaty is particularly bad as the Crown, indeed most Governing World Authorities and industry commonly ignore treaty if there is a $ to be made. The fight is currently between Indigenous Traditional Owners and Government or Crown bodies. So Traditional Lands are currently held in Aus. by ‘Indigenous Land Councils’ on Grant arrangements when Traditional Land Ownership can be proven… the issue is revenue (ie primarily mining interests) who owns them and who has the right to negotiate royalty. It is made very complex but a point is that if the Land Owns You, then the rights are blurred.
      In regards to Indigenous rights, “Mabo” (Native Title) High Court decision granted recently is the legal groundset in Aus. for Indigenous Land Rights.
      Where Freehold ownership has been granted in the past, traditional land claims cannot over-rule Freehold.
      In Australia, Freehold has only been granted in a very few ‘old colonial’ area’s, the majority of Aus. is held under Leasehold controlled by the Crown. These lands are in contest by Traditional Ownership but the issue of ‘royalty’ remains, this is what is on the table. Traditional Ownership will over rule Lease Hold but they are subject to Government bodies and are complex in nature but they work.
      To my mind the concept of ‘treaty’ is muddied and is muddying the issue. It is based on the premise that a group can negotiate treaty… which group?
      Traditional Ownership needs to be established as with the Mabo case. This is not always possible for much of Australia.

      It is an extremely complex issue that is made worse by the fact that there is a sector of white Australia, ie those of European descent are now ‘Native Australians and Indigenous Australians under International Law… ie of the 6th generation and under International Law could claim land under the ‘Mabo’ ruling except that the land they could claim is often Freehold (ie – exempt from claim) This will change in the next few generations as Leasehold comes within the range of International Law related to native title.

      The issue is also muddied by reality, in that Full blood Traditional Aboriginals are thin on the ground, full Tribal Aboriginal passed by the 1930’s and the question of wether T.O. claims are weakened by interracial marriage or those of mixed heritage which is the vast majority of Aboriginal people today. The biggest Aboriginal population now lives in west Sydney today.

      Complex issue in the extreme!

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