Nayuka Gorrie is a Gunai/Kurnai, Gunditjmara, Wiradjuri and Yorta Yorta woman. She is a fashion icon, freelance writer and works for Seed Indigenous Youth Climate Network


Elected representatives in this country have some bad habits; personal travel on taxpayers dime, shit post-politics career choices and making decisions for people they have fuck all to do with.

 

For black people in this country Attorney-General George Brandis is like that mate you only hear from when they want something, except instead of asking you to feed his staffy while he’s in Bali, he’s eroding your rights and doesn’t even have the decency to buy you a slab next payday.

Although any time is a good time to think Brandis is quite a gronk, something is happening in black affairs that could have some serious implications for both black people and the mining companies that want to dig up our land.

 

Last month, the Federal Court ruled a few Indigenous Land Use Agreements (ILUA) between Noongar mob and the West Australian government invalid after it was contested by some Noongar folks. The federal government have been shitting bricks because this ILUA was worth $1.3 billion. There are currently over 100 ILUAs across the country and apparently this will affect a few of them including the highly contested and not registered one between Wangan and Jagalingou people and Adani, the Indian company that wants to build the world’s largest open cut mine on their country.

 

Unsurprisingly – given this government’s tendency to support their mining mates – last month the Federal Government tried to rush through changes to the Native Title Act. I know native title isn’t sexy and can be a bit ambiguous for the layperson – it is for me too. But this isn’t just about native title. This is about how this government handles black affairs.

 

Black people have every reason to be suss and the rushed proposals have been met with opposition. When it comes to black people in this country there are things this and many other governments have sat on for years. Most of the recommendations of the Royal Commission Into Deaths In Custody haven’t been implemented. It’s been over 25 years since those recommendations were made. The Bringing Them Home Report was released in 1997 and the majority of its recommendations haven’t been implemented either. 

I know it’s pessimistic but I suspect the Don Dale inquiry will likely produce incisive but largely ignored recommendations. It took an exposé from the ABC’s Four Corners into Don Dale for the government to do anything about it. Claims of mistreatment had already emerged before the episode aired but despite this, Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion said it didn’t pique his interest and he didn’t watch the episode the night it aired. 

Similarly, it took a Four Corners episode that revealed the compelling evidence of the alleged rape and murder of Lynette Daley by two white men for the NSW government to revisit the case. Likewise for the high profile community outrage for the Bowraville murders. 

Imagine our surprise then that a government with a history of dragging its pasty feet would try to change legislation several days after the decision was handed down by the Federal Court.

 

Successive governments since invasion have cooked it for black people and bipartisan effort in black affairs rarely lead to anything good. The Northern Territory Intervention was initiated by a Coalition government and legislated by Labor. Constitutional recognition has been supported and backed by the all major parties despite heavy community opposition. 

Every single government has been guilty of making changes that only affect black people without our involvement. Rushing through changes to the Native Title Act is just another example.

The rush is not to our benefit and any changes to legislation as significant as native title should at the very least be run past those affected by it. The government were hoping to rush the changes through parliament and hope that no one noticed. 

Consider that this is in stark contrast to the government’s approach to pushing for changes to the Racial Discrimination Act. The government have been banging on about this for years – or, more specifically, since 2011 when Andrew Bolt was challenged in court under the Act. 

They’ve dragged it out for years and just this week the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights tabled its report on the act leaving Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to decide if section 18C – the one that landed Andrew Bolt in strife – should change. The purposeful to-ing and fro-ing serves to make people think their free speech is under attack and generate fear. 

When it comes to black affairs the government are often selective in their approach. Which leads me to ask: what’s the rush? Who does the rush serve? Brandis himself said he needed to make the changes due to “commercial uncertainty”. Same goes for old mate Ian Macfarlane who is worried about the impact this will have on foreign investors.

Sounds like the same old shit to me.

Editor’s note: The words ‘highly contested and not registered’ have been added to clarify the situation regarding the ILUA between Adani and the Wangan and Jagalingou people.

Photo: Seed Indigenous Youth Climate Network.