Saturday, January 28, 2006

Aboriginal Sovereignty Day Declared

Aboriginal Sovereignty Day Declared

January 27, 2006

Representatives of Australian Aboriginal Sovereign Nations at a gathering in Canberra, have declared that the 26th of January would be known as Aboriginal Sovereignty Day. January 26th (Australia Day) is Australia's official national day - commemorating the landing of the First Fleet in Sydney Cove in 1788.

While the rest of the country celebrated the Australia Day holiday with medals, barbecues, fireworks and beer under the Union Jack, hundreds of people at the Aboriginal Tent Embassy in Canberra lit a ceremonial fire and discussed the land that once belonged to their ancestors.

Indigenous Australians communities, past and present

Indigeneous Elders have gathered this week at the Aboriginal Tent Embassy for the Corroboree for Sovereignty convergence, in response to what they say is the continual Government threat to control the historical Tent Embassy site.

The gathering identified the 34 year-old Tent Embassy on the grounds of Old Parliament House in Canberra, as a significant place of social, spiritual and political importance to Aboriginal Peoples - a symbol of the assertion of Aboriginal Sovereignty. The Aboriginal Embassy, not considered an official embassy by the Australian government, has come under review recently in a bid to remove the campsite and dwellings originally founded on Australia Day in 1972.

The Tent Embassy calls on all Aboriginal Sovereign Nations to "stand up against the illegal occupation of our country and continue to resist the oppression of our people." The Tent Embassy say that "until there is true justice for our people, these issues will not go away and we will continue to resist."

Members of the Embassy will take a sacred fire to Melbourne in March for the 2006 "Stolenwealth Games" campaign, in an effort to highlight the plight of Aboriginal people. The fire will contain a "message of peace, healing and justice, and create a focal point for unfinished business."

The group calls on all Aboriginal Nations to send representatives to the Embassy to commemorate and review the issues of Land Rights in Australia. The Tent Embassy also announced the establishment of the National Tribal Law Council.

"Invasion Day"

Indigenous leaders, including Marji Thorpe, Gary Foley, Robbie Thorpe and Michael Mansell claim that Native Title and Reconciliation haven't adequately addressed Indigenous rights. They say: "Native Title has mainly embroiled Indigenous peoples in complex legal processes where they have (generally unsuccessfully) had to prove their fundamental human rights to the land."

The campaigners, known as the Black GST, say the process "puts the onus on Indigenous peoples to somehow prove continuous connection with their land, an impossible task in many situations given the effects of our dispossession and attempted genocide."

On Australia Day the diverse and vibrant group marched peacefully through Canberra, gathered at the Embassy on the lawns in front of Old Parliament House and called for recognition of indigenous sovereignty over the land.

Australain Aboriginal Flag

"We're wanting to let all the people know that all the land in Australia has been given back to the Aboriginal people... and the sovereignty now lies with all Aboriginal nations," a spokesperson Robert Corowa said at the Embassy.

To many Indigenous and Non-Indigenous people, Australia Day was is labelled "Invasion Day" - in recognition of the colonisation of the continent by the British, he said. "We call it invasion day. The most important thing is that everybody in Australia who's now living here... we strongly encourage them to come to the Aboriginal Tent Embassy and place a leaf in our fire."

Legal director of the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre (TAC), Michael Mansell, says the current Australia Day celebrations should be scrapped and a new national day chosen. Mansell said Australia Day would forever remain a racist blot on Australia's political landscape as long as the event was held on the anniversary of the landing of the First Fleet.

"There can never be reconciliation between whites and Aborigines so long as the anniversary of the coming of white people is the basis for celebrating Australia Day," he said. "A fair and just society cannot be built on celebrating gains by one race at the expense of another."

Mr Mansell has also reported the theft of an Aboriginal sign from the TAC premises. The sign reading: "AUSTRALIA DAY Yes, let’s celebrate: MURDER, INVASION, RAPE, THEFT" was removed on the 25th of January hours after being installed on the Launceston premises.

Mansell says that he will replace the sign in an effort to "the obvious need to expose the myth, as expressed in the national anthem, that Australia is a free and fair country" and called for "white society" to punish the offenders.

"This is another instance of the continuing trend in Tasmania of racist attacks on both people and property by extreme elements of white society who don't like the truth, who don't like Aborigines and other races. As with the racial attacks on middle Eastern people in Sydney, these Tasmanian incidents show how Australia under the Howard government is becoming more openly xenophobic," he said.

Flag Burning

Activists in Brisbane yesterday burned an Australian flag to protest against celebrations marking European settlement in Australia. Around 300 protesters staged an "Invasion Day" demonstration. Queensland Premier Peter Beattie condemned the action.

"I don't care whether they're black or white ... I don't believe we should burn the Australian flag, particularly at this time (when) we all know we live in an unsettled world," he said.

One protester said he believed the wrong flag had been burned: "I just felt deep down that it should have been the British flag they burnt not the Australian one."

Compulsory National Anthem

The Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre has strongly opposed the compulsory singing of the Australian national anthem in schools.

NSW Premier Morris Iemma wants to make it compulsory for NSW schoolchildren to sing the national anthem each day before class. The plan has strong support from both sides of Parliament in Tasmania as well as the Multicultural Council of Australia and the Australian National Flag Association.

However some Aboriginal support groups say forcing the singing of the national anthem diminishes individual enthusiasm for participation.

Michael Mansell says, "more importantly, the anthem is about the white people and immigrants and excludes Aborigines." He said the words "for we are young and free" were a clear reference to the last 200 years of colonisation by Europeans and dismissed the ownership of the country by Aboriginal people.


West Papuans refugees forced to fly 4000ks despite tuberculosis fears

West Papuans refugees forced to fly 4000ks despite tuberculosis fears

From Wikinews, the free news source you can write!

January 27, 2006

West Papuan asylum seekers who arrived in Australia last week, were forced to make a 4000 kilometre journey to Christmas Island despite suspicions they had tuberculosis. The West Papuans were herded on to an RAAF Hercules last week and flown to Christmas Island.

Two of the group, a man and his child, have now been flown the 2,600 kilometres to Perth, Western Australia from the remote Indian Ocean island. Air force personnel had initially refused to fly them, concerned that the flight crew's health would be at risk.

"It's a complete farce, absurd" said one health official. "It has not only posed an unnecessary health risk, it has been hideously expensive."

The West Papuans were among a group of 43 refugees found last week on the far north-west coast of Cape York in Queensland. They had made a five-day journey from the Indonesian province in an outrigger canoe. They arrived with banners accusing Indonesia's military in the province ruled by Jakarta of genocide and intimidation. Their 25m traditional boat was fitted with an outboard motor and was flying the outlawed West Papuan flag.

Amid media scrutiny and the disapproval of the Indonesian Government, the boat people underwent health checks before being sent to Chrismas Island. X-rays and other medical examinations strongly indicated that at least one man had tuberculosis, yet the group were flown to Australia's Christmas Island Immigration Detention Centre.

Upon landing at the Island, health officials recommended the patients be transferred to Perth. However, the crew of the RAAF Hercules refused to take them, saying they were not "adequately equipped".

A Department of Immigration spokesman (DIMIA) said an alternative flight was arranged. "At this stage there has been no positive diagnosis for tuberculosis," the spokesman said.

The removal of the asylum seekers to Christmas Island has been met with fierce criticism from many refugee rights groups and opposition parties, who say it was impractical, potentially traumatising and hugely expensive. The Immigration Department says it has interviewed most of the asylum seekers but won't say if they have made formal asylum claims.


Rallies in Sydney, Melbourne, Darwin, Canberra and Brisbane were held this week, in support of the West Papuan asylum seekers. Refugee rights advocates protested the forced transfer to the remote Christmas Island facility.

Melbourne auxiliary bishop Hilton Deakin told about 130 people demonstrating outside DIMIA headquarters in Melbourne that, "we know that already the Indonesian authorities, in Canberra and beyond, are trying to get to them."

Yet the he Indonesian embassy in Canberra denied making any approach, saying: "I can guarantee that there has been no contact whatsoever, it hadn't been requested, it was never even sought."

But the Immigration Department has confirmed that "a junior delegation" from the embassy went to Weipa last Thursday seeking access to the asylum seekers. A spokesman for the Immigration Department said the Indonesians arrived in Weipa on Thursday but by then the Papuans had already been put on a plane for Christmas Island. The West Papuans were told they had a right to Indonesian consular assistance if they choose. "Not one has chosen to do so," the spokesman said.

"The majority of these 43 people are leaders for free expression and self-determination and possible independence because of the oppression from which they suffer," Bishop Deakin said. "Massacres, rapes and all the rest of it have gone on in that country for almost 30 years."

He called on the Australian Government to cancel its training program with the Indonesian military.

Democrats leader Lyn Allison said the Australian Government had "got it wrong on this issue". The 43 asylum seekers had been "whisked off" before they could tell their story, she said.

Greens Senator Kerry Nettle has called on the government to grant access to Papuan asylum seekers. The senator says they should not be in detention and they certainly should be allowed to communicate with the outside world.

Senator Nettle will go to Christmas Island this weekend to meet the imprisoned West Papuans. She said the immigration department is obligated under the Migration Act to allow her to meet them.

New Zealand Support

Meanwhile New Zealand Greens have offered to take the asylum seekers. "New Zealand can show the Howard government how to be compassionate, as we did back in 2001 when we took some Afghan asylum seekers from the Tampa," the New Zealand Green Party Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Keith Locke says.

"It is shocking that the West Papuan refugees, having survived 450 kilometres of open water in a flimsy craft, are now bundled off to a Christmas Island detention camp - well out of range of those Australians who wish to help them," he said.

"Under refugee law these Papuans deserve special consideration, having come directly from their claimed country of persecution, Indonesia, not via a third country, as is the case with most asylum seekers in this part of the world.

"The Papuans certain have a good prima facie case. I know from my own visit to West Papua last April that there is substantial and ongoing harassment of the local people, particularly those who assert their right to political self-determination," said Mr Locke.

On Friday last week Indonesian security forces shot dead one Papuan protester, and wounded two others, in the Paniai district, where the 43 asylum seekers originate.

Related Winews


Wednesday, January 25, 2006



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*Attn: News Editors, Political, Indigenous & Environment Reporters*

Kokatha women with traditional associations to the Yellabinna region will be meeting with the Minister of the Aboriginal Affairs Department at 10:00am Monday April 18^th , to appeal for help in further protection of the culturally important Yellabinna area including Yumbarra and Pureba Conservation Park. During the meeting they will be presenting him with a community-produced dot painting designed by a young Kokatha woman, Colleen Haseldine.

The meeting will highlight the community's support for an extension to the proposed Wilderness Protection Area/ for the Yellabinna region located north of Ceduna, the largest stretch of mallee wilderness in the world. Yellabinna is culturally significant and holds a richness of nature which is awe-inspiring. It is an area that holds deep significance for the local aboriginal people. Much of the traditional local culture is based on a deep connection with the land and its various formations. These sacred sites connect their dreaming stories.

"Total protection, no mining, controlled tourism for the whole of the area of Yellabinna, Yumbarra and Purbea. Our traditional tucker, medicine and sacred sites are out there. It's the last safe place for them. Without the extension of the protection area to include the whole area, this cultural heritage will be lost/." claimed Sue Haseldine, who traveled down from the state's far West coast for the meeting along with another Kokatha woman, Sheena Coleman, to make the presentation.

"The time has come for us to take care of the land, when the land is destroyed, there will be nothing. The land is part of our soul. We have to take responsibility to preserve and maintain the environment, because our future is reliant upon what the land produces. If we don't respect the land then it will not produce. Bush medicine, bush tucker and being able to practice our culture have economic values which are immeasurable." Added Sheena Coleman


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