Part Thirty-six of a history of European occupation, rule, and brutal imperialism of Indigenous Australia, by Dr George Venturini.
The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples can be seen as an interpretation and expansion of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It states a minimum level for how the Indigenous People’s questions should be handled. The Declaration was adopted by the U. N. General Assembly in September 2007. Ms Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, a development consultant and an international indigenous activist of Igorot ethnicity, who was chairwoman for the Permanent Forum for Indigenous Peoples at that time, participated in the 30-year process of adopting the Declaration and the exercising of applicable international conventions. On 2 June 2014 she assumed responsibilities as the third U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
And should Indigenous Peoples have special rights?
“It is not about special right for indigenous peoples,” says Ms Tauli-Corpuz. “The declaration is an interpretation of the Declaration of Human Rights and the international conventions that apply to everyone.”
There are about 5,000 different Indigenous Peoples and just as many languages. Indigenous Peoples live under very different conditions and can be both rich and poor. Many Indigenous Peoples have been divided by national borders during the colonisation era; the Sami in Scandinavia and on the Kola Peninsula are just one example.
The work before the U.N.’s General Assembly could adopt the Declaration was an arduous process. In 1982 a work group within the United Nations started drawing up the first guidelines. Along the way, numerous obstacles, challenges and negotiations were met. Up to the very end it was uncertain whether the Declaration would pass.
“Thanks to the suggestions from the Nordic countries, one could finally agree on changes in the original text that the majority could accept,” Ms Tauli-Corpuz points out.
The Declaration states a minimum level for how the Indigenous Peoples’ problems should be handled in different counties. It expresses 24 fundamental principles and contains 46 articles. One of the rights, and the fundamental princple itself in the Declaration, is the right to self-determination. It is formulated in Article 3. “The right to self-determination is the most violated since the colonisation era,” asserts Ms Tauli-Corpuz. Self-determination is about the right of a people themselves to decide on their political status and their social, cultural and financial development. National states can be afraid that just that article shall lead to an undermining of the territorial integrity and sovereignty. But any right to so-called “emancipation” is not what the right to self-determination is about. Self-determination for Indigenous Peoples concerns autonomy inside existing borders. Six articles deal with Indigenous Peoples’ rights to own, use and control land, territories and natural resources. And that is of course the most controversial part when it comes to the Sami in the Nordic regions. From a strict legal point of view, if Sweden were to follow the Declaration to the letter, it would mean that the Swedish Government could no longer maintain that the Sami lands belong to the State.
Eighteen articles deal with the cultural rights. The aim of “special treatment” of Indigenous Peoples and minorities is for all to have the same rights – that minority cultures shall have the same protection as that belonging to the majority culture. There are many multi-cultural nations and an enormous cultural diversity in the world, not to mention the biological diversity.
“We live in an interesting world,” Ms Tauli-Corpuz says. “And it is the Indigenous Peoples that are to a great degree the bearers and preservers of the cultural and biological diversity! In our time, when we speak of economic collapse and climate changes, it becomes obvious that the Indigenous Peoples have something valuable to contribute for a more sustainable development,” she concludes.
The Sami may not have been the very first in the world to claim the recognition of their independence – historical, cultural and political. But, when they did, they did not look back – where there was nothing but misery.
The example was set, most likely by the Sami of Finland. Not for them a feeling of nostalgia for what they were leaving behind. Invaded by ‘missionaries’ who would make it part of Sweden in 1155, surrendered by Sweden to Russia in 1809 – the Czar declaring it a semi-autonomous Grand Duchy, with himself as ‘constitutional’ monarch represented by a governor-general (sounds familiar?), modern Finland declared its independence on 6 December 1917 and became a republic in 1919.
The Finns were not paining about upsetting ‘the sovereignty of the Crown’, which so concerned the Uluru Statement from the Heart. They did not miss Alexander I ‘the Blessed’. And why should the Indigenous and Torres Strait Islanders miss the ultimate product of George III the Mad?
The Finns survived the successor Nicholas I, an autocrat lacking both spiritual and intellectual breadth, and remembered for his reign of repression of dissent, economic stagnation, poor administrative policies, a sprawling, corrupt bureaucracy, and frequent wars which culminated in Russia’s defeat in the Crimean War of 1853-56. By then the Indigenous Peoples of Sahul had a quite similar experience by the hand of the Englanders.
The Finns owed nothing to Alexander II, also called ‘Alexander the Liberator’. He ‘liberated’ just about everybody, except the Finns. During his bachelor days, Alexander made a state visit to England in 1838. Just a year older than the young Queen Victoria, Alexander’s approaches to her were short-lived. Victoria married her German cousin, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg in February 1840. Alexander turned around and married Princess Marie of Hesse – keeping it all in the family.
The successor Alexander III was known as ‘The Peacemaker’, simply because during his reign Russia fought no major wars. He was highly conservative and reversed most of the ‘liberal’ reforms of his father. He was a counterpart of Victoria. The Blacks in Sahul would associate her with their massacres.
Nicholas II was the last Emperor of Russia, ruling from 1 November 1894 until his forced abdication on 15 March 1917. His reign saw the fall of the Russian Empire from being one of the foremost ‘great powers of the world’ to economic and military collapse. Due to the ‘Khodynka Tragedy’, anti-Semitic pogroms, ‘Bloody Sunday’, the violent suppression of the 1905 Revolution, the execution of political opponents and his perceived responsibility for the Russo-Japanese war, he was given the well-deserved nickname Nicholas ‘the Bloody.’ He was a weak and incompetent leader, whose decisions led to military defeats and the deaths of millions of his subjects. Nicholas and his family were executed on the night of 16-17 July 1918.
For feebleness there are similarities between Nicholas II and the future Charles III.
Why would the Indigenous and Torres Strait Peoples of Sahul burden themselves with any form of respect for such a representative, an embodiment of the ‘sovereignty of the Crown’?
Light-minded, modestly ‘educated’, intrusive beyond the myth of the ‘impartiality of the Crown’, conspirator with John Kerr as agent of the ‘the Anglo-American world of Wall Street and S.W. 1’, involved in not-so-obscure dealings with Saudi Arabian potentates – and who knows what else – Charlie would be almost a closing-of-the-ring with his nine-head-removed George III.
The Indigenous Peoples of Sahul would do well to start from the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, 2007. And, of course, before that, well they should rely on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948.
A honourable Australia contributed to the latter, a decaying place objected to the former.
If one can be so bold as to recommend what the Indigenous and Torres Strait Islanders should do, it is this: prepare not a supplication but a bill of claims, each proposition based on an article of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Expectedly, no Australian Government of the Westminster-cabal would accept the content of the bill.
At that point the Indigenous and Torres Straits Islanders, at the head of a large movement representing all the people living in Australia, should turn that claim towards a declaration of independence, with a view to the promotion of a constituent assembly, charged with the drafting of a constitution and the eventual declaration of an Australian republic.
Well, consider this: Australia is quite a different place from what was put together by Englanders in 1901.
Australia has grown from a population of estimated 750,000 Indigenous People in 1778, to one of 3,765.000 non-Indigenous in 1901, to one of 23,717,421 people – of whom 649,171 Indigenous and Torres Strait Islanders – census night, 9 August 2016, and estimated 24,894,586 as of 7 December 2017.
At the 2016 census, 26 per cent of the Australian resident population, or 6,163,667 people, were born overseas. The distribution by place of birth is as follows: Australian resident population consists of people who were born in the following countries – and only countries with 50,000 or more are listed here:
Due to several waves of immigration, the European component of the population is declining as a percentage.
The Australian population hit 23,401,892 on census night.
Until the second world war, the vast majority of immigrants came from the British Isles, and a majority of Australians have some British or Irish ancestry. These Australians form an ethnic group known as Anglo-Celtic Australians – an absolutely bloody mis-nomer. For, if after Freire, and Fanon and many others, one more glorious freedom fighter should be mentioned it is Albert Camus, who left us the command: “[I]n such a world of conflict, a world of victims and executioners, it is the job of thinking people, not to be on the side of the executioners.”
The number of overseas-born Australians coming from England has steadily declined over the years, while one has seen increasing arrivals from China and India, particularly since 2006. In the 2016 Australian census, the most commonly nominated ancestries were: English, 36.1 per cent; Australian, 33.5 per cent; Irish, 11.0 per cent; Scottish, 9.3 per cent; Chinese, 5.6 per cent; Italian, 4.6 per cent; German, 4.5 per cent; Indian, 2.8 per cent; Greek, 1.8 per cent, and Dutch, 1.6 per cent.
At the 2016 census 47.3 per cent of people had both parents born in Australia and 34.4 per cent of people had both parents born overseas. And on this subject one should not dismiss the effect of the present ‘bleedings’ of parliamentarians, due to their dual subject-ship – citizenship in some, rare cases – and the other which will undoubtedly have developed from that mouldy, thread-bare, moth-eaten piece of paper which is the Constitution of 1901. Consider the little problem that present members of Parliament, who so often mouth about multiculturalism – of which they know little-to-nothing – may have from the ‘new reading’ of sections 42 in relation to section 44.
Now, by s. 42 “Every senator and every member of the House of Representatives shall before taking his seat make and subscribe before the Governor-General, or some person authorised by him, an oath or affirmation of allegiance in the form set forth in the schedule to this Constitution.” And the Schedule offers: “I, A.B., do swear that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen [Elisabeth II], Her heirs and successors according to law. SO HELP ME GOD!” or “I, A.B., do solemnly and sincerely affirm and declare that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen [Elisabeth II], Her heirs and successors according to law.”
Section 44 (i) provides that any person who: “is under any acknowledgment of allegiance, obedience, or adherence to a foreign power, or is a subject or a citizen or entitled to the rights or privileges of a subject or a citizen of a foreign power;
… shall be incapable of being chosen or of sitting as a senator or a member of the House of Representatives.”
Every consideration about a candidate’s personal faith, political or religious, could cause some problem – perjury comes to mind. Perhaps, just perhaps, these two provisions are clashing. Queen Elisabeth II – yes, of course, also ‘Queen of Australia’ – could be regarded as a ‘foreign power’ no matter how much the soi-disant ‘Mountbatten’ (actually Battenberg, from the town of Battenberg, Hesse) (Windsors) crowd may try to put as much distance as possible between themselves and the Haus Sachsen-Coburg und Gotha, which is an effluent of the Haus Wettin, itself a lair of German counts, dukes, prince-electors and kings who once ruled territories in the present-day German states of Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and Thuringia.
And the more one reads about Buckingham Palace’s interest in Cayman Islands and other tax haven the more one sees the alien.
Continued Friday with: A movement of people in Australia (Part 2)
Previous instalment: One last chance (Part 2)
Dr Venturino Giorgio (George) Venturini, formerly an avvocato at the Court of Appeal of Bologna, devoted some sixty years to study, practice, teach, write and administer law at different places in four continents. He may be reach at George.Venturini@bigpond.com.au.