By Dee McLachlan
For those readers not living in Australia, let me first explain. If one attends any function, conference and event, the emcee or whoever is running the event starts off with an “Acknowledgement of Country and Traditional Owners.” It is to pay respect to indigenous people.
This is how it goes.
“Our conference is being held on the traditional country [or lands] of the Wada wurrung people [or relevant traditional owner], and I wish to acknowledge them as Traditional Owners. I would also like to pay my respects to their Elders, past and present, and the Elders from other communities who may be here today.”
When I first arrived, it seemed to me a most respectful acknowledgement and a reminder of the land’s history, but as the years have gone by — it sometimes leaves me uneasy. In many of these functions, in Victoria, it feels a function of political correctness — and I look around and see no, or very few, Aboriginal faces. Of the original inhabitants, who were living on this land for over 40,000 years, very few have benefited like the newbies and their offspring, that arrived in the last 200 plus years ago.
Aboriginal Tent City
The area which eventually became the Australian Capital Territory (ACT), before European settlement, was inhabited by people who spoke a Ngarigo dialect. Canberra in the ACT, was chosen as the capital. From 1927 to 1988 politicians used the old Parliament House — which was replaced by the new building in 1988.
On 26 January 1972, four Aboriginal men arrived in Canberra from Sydney and set up the Aboriginal Embassy by planting a beach umbrella on the lawn in front of (the old) Parliament House. This was over the McMahon Coalition Government’s refusal to recognize Aboriginal land rights. The beach umbrella was soon replaced by several tents. Many struggles, fires and battles later, the Embassy became a heritage-listed landmark for Aboriginal protest.
Lobby Restaurant and Australia Day
Australia Day is the official National Day of Australia, celebrated annually on 26 January, and it marks the anniversary of the 1788 arrival of the First Fleet of British ships at Port Jackson, New South Wales — and the raising of the Flag of Great Britain.
Overseas readers might have read some years ago about how the Australian prime minister — then, Julia Gillard — had to be whisked away from Australia Day protesters, while eating at the Lobby Restaurant at Australia Day celebrations.
The New York Times report said, “A fancy dinner. A hurried escape. A shoe left behind, found and offered back by an unlikely suitor.”
The Lobby Restaurant, located is directly opposite Old Parliament House, had been the haunt of politicians over the years. But then on January 14, 2017 it closed — disappointing many brides, who had booked their receptions there.
Then, about a week ago a few local Ngunnawal people and Aboriginal Tent Embassy activists moved into the empty restaurant — as a protest.
The group stuck their own EVICTION NOTICE addressed to the National Capital Authority (NCA) on the front door, claiming that no permission had been sought from the Ngunnawal people, to build the restaurant. [The NCA is the government body that manages development of Commonwealth land in Canberra, and it controls the property.]
On Wednesday (8 November, 2017) the NCA acting chief, Andrew Smith, met with elders and Australian Federal Police around the fire at the Tent Embassy. They asked the activists to leave. The activists refused.
The Eviction notice reads:
“National Capital Authority, you are hereby given an eviction notice for the Lobby restaurant and Rose Gardens that exist on Ngunnawal Land.
The reason for this eviction notice is:
Your failure to seek permission, seek an agreement, sign a Treaty or Lease the land from the Ngunnawal Original Custodians. National Capital Authority have neglected to pay rent for the period from 1968 to 15th February 2017.
Your outstanding rent due is $7,644,000 (Seven Million, Six Hundred and Forty Four Thousand Dollars) calculated at $3,000 a week for 49 years.
Dated: 15 February, 2017
I quote the ABC report:
“The activists argued with police, with elder Kevin Buzzacott asking for ‘one good reason why you can’t let us have this place’… Eventually all but one person left the building. Wiradjuri man Mud Gooloogong sat down inside until he was arrested and removed peacefully by police.”
He was charged with failing to leave a Commonwealth premise when directed to, and is to face court in December.
The Cost of a Politician
$7.6 million sounds like a lot of money for a “people”. But let me compare it to what one politician is being paid. (Sorry, Mr Rudd, but yours was the first to pop up during my search).
I take Mr Kevin Rudd, who was prime minister for brief periods while at Canberra. I have ignored what he earned while working — and will discuss what he is paid AFTER leaving office.
I will quote the Daily Telegraph:
“If Mr Rudd lives to be 85, that would cost about $20 million… allowances of about $600,000 a year for the rest of his life [including entitlements of]… superannuation, a gold air pass, a car, at least four personal staff and his own office in Brisbane for life… a pension of between $118,346 and $145,987 a year, indexed for inflation.
The average politician probably earns about $3 to 4 million after retiring.
But good ‘ol Mud Gooloogong — yep, his people lost the land centuries ago. We understand the concept of dispossession — and in Australia, most people’s wealth is derived from the increase in their asset (land) prices. Mud missed out. The Acknowledgement of Country, which “involves visitors acknowledging the original Indigenous custodians of the land” is “a very important way of giving Aboriginal people back their place in society,” says Wurundjeri Elder, Joy Murphy Wandin.
I’d like to understand the contradiction. Maybe Canberra can stop with the political correct “acknowledgement” stuff, and just say it how it really is.
And maybe explain to the people how pensions, and the rent money is loaned and created by private bankers out of thin air.