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Sekisui: Under the spirit of the Uluru Statement, return the Yaroomba land to the Traditional Owners.

The ‘Uluru Statement From The Heart‘ is a very powerful document. It re-affirms Indigenous spiritual connection to land and nature, and explains how Indigenous people possessed this continent under their own laws and customs.

Our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander tribes were the first sovereign nations of the Australian continent and its adjacent islands, and possessed it under our own laws and customs.

This sovereignty is a spiritual notion: the ancestral tie between the land, or ‘mother nature’, and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples who were born therefrom, remain attached thereto, and must one day return thither to be united with our ancestors. This link is the basis of the ownership of the soil, or better, of sovereignty. It has never been ceded or extinguished, and co-exists with the sovereignty of the Crown.”

The Yaroomba Beach Sekisui Development Site has many hectares of vacant land which are currently tied up in a Development Application proposal to Sunshine Coast Regional Council. Eventually there will be a public consultation process and Council will ultimately vote to accept or reject the proposal.

Under non-Indigenous Australian Law, Sekisui (Japanese development giant) has every right to submit a proposal, Council has every right to assess that proposal, and the local Yaroomba Community, in their droves, has every right to stand firm against any modification to the current Planning Scheme.

But there is another set of Laws pertaining to that largely vacant Sekisui owned plot of land at Yaroomba isn’t there? There is another group of people, First Nations’ People, who also just happen to have the right of vacant possession under their own laws and customs, don’t they?

Modern Australian law is a very nimble thing and it generally precludes First Nations’ People from submitting any sort of Native Title claim over freehold land.

 

Because of all that the Kabi Kabi First Nation’s Native Title Claim QC2013/003, which covers a reasonably large area and includes Yaroomba, seeks to claw back some rights but does not seek to throw anybody out into the street. Our ancestors may have pinched the land, and we might be the beneficiaries of that pinching, but the Claim does not seek to wind the clock back. The Native Titles Act ensures that, except in exceptional cases, freehold land remains immune from claim.

Which brings us back to the Sekisui Development Site at Yaroomba. The land is just sitting there patiently waiting for a bureaucratic planning mill to go through certain motions, make certain decisions, and ultimately say yay or nay to the possible ingress of tsunami waves of high-rise concrete over that beautiful largely vacant plot of land.

And that brings us back to the Uluru Statement From The Heart, and that notion of a sovereignty that was never ceded or extinguished. It is Makarrata time.

“Makarrata is the culmination of our agenda: the coming together after a struggle. It captures our aspirations for a fair and truthful relationship with the people of Australia and a better future for our children based on justice and self-determination.”

I feel very uncomfortable with the notion that this land – this land currently owned by Sekisui, and all of the living things that it contains – is seen as no more than an exploitable product by wealthy people seeking to increase their own wealth even further. It borders on the obscene.

This particular area of land has endured a chequered history of being horse-traded, bequeathed, sold and re-sold, and generally being treated as a plaything of one too many groups simply seeking to profit from it. It is nothing short of amazing that this land has survived all that and largely remains intact and pristine.

I believe that this land represents one of those rare exceptions allowed under the Native Titles Act. Returning it will not place any of the rest of us, or our property, at risk.

Sekisui is a very large and wealthy firm. The return of this land under the spirit of the Uluru Statement From The Heart would not be too hurtful financially for them. It would allow Sekisui to exit Yaroomba with some grace and dignity.

In my view this block of land, this exceptional block of land, should be returned by Sekisui on our behalf to the Traditional Owners so that they can exercise their own historical rights and interests over it.

 

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6 comments

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  1. Ian Ellis

    Just once in a while, it would be wonderful if the descendants of the invaders of Australia, those who are actually receivers of stolen goods, could do something that showed a desire to make a gesture which showed remorse for what has been, and even a small tangible token of this remorse. This beautifully written article should be widely read, as our community’s many failures in this regard are partly due to widespread ignorance , or it is to be hoped that this is so..

  2. Kevin Brewer

    Sorry, but you don’t cede sovereignty. If you don’t defend it against an invader, you lose it. It can only come back to you if you take it. No matter how hard you wish, it remains gone, and even native title is an act under present sovereign status.

    As for remorse, I am not sure remorse is quite the right way to go about the process of reconciliation, and not is the guilt trip/genocide model of any use, as is obvious by the resistance to it by most people, and the basis of which is simply as ahistorical as the notion of terra nullius. Anyone who has read colonial correspondence knows the invaders had a fairly clear idea of the lay of the land, they knew that Aborigines had special attachments to the land, to particular areas. They never used or even thought the place was unoccupied. They did think, however, that their own claim to the land was superior because it was based on the Lockean natural law idea that the land belongs to those who invest capital and labour to make it productive, and they could see no evidence of Aboriginal farming.

    I have nothing to feel guilty about although my ancestors began arriving in 1838, from places where they weren’t wanted-they were not convicts. And they came from places which had been invaded constantly for thousands of years, and in terms of my German ancestors, within their lifetimes their farmlands had been trampled by the armies of Napoleon, the Austrians, the Prussians. Those lands are now Polish. You can’t ask us to remember the history of others and to ignore our own history, because it is one of the things that produces not only the philosophy that supports our actions, but our genetic inheritance.

    And I don’t think the Uluru paper is an adequate basis for it either, especially the claims for a political process above the present constitutional practices of the country.

  3. Kyran

    Without meaning, in any way, to diminish the importance of the discussion about the Sekisui Development, the need to keep discussion about the fundamentals of the Uluru Statement at the fore are paramount, in my opinion.
    In the final paragraph are the words;

    “In 1967 we were counted, in 2017 we seek to be heard”.

    At the risk of sounding simplistic, it seems to me that the sequence of events are that the Australian government sought assistance from our First People in the framing of a change to the constitution.
    The response from our First People was that the proposed changes were tokenistic. They asked for real change. The indignation of our parliamentarians was nothing short of stupefying.
    To add insult to centuries of injury, within weeks we have changes to the Native Title laws that are nothing more than a shallow attempt to accommodate developments such as Sekisui and Adani to the detriment of our First People. Not surprisingly, Brandis claimed to have ‘consulted widely’. This is a euphemism for ‘trust me’, bearing in mind his refusal to disclose diary proof of wide consultation in relation to other matters.

    http://www.sbs.com.au/nitv/nitv-news/article/2017/06/14/native-title-changes-pass-senate

    A few days ago, another matter at the heart of the Uluru Statement, the systemic abuse of our First People, was evidenced in an article about ‘Australia’s booming prison population’.

    “Indigenous Australians’ experiences of removal, dispossession, exclusion from education and employment, and structural disadvantage also play major roles in Indigenous offending rates and over-representation in prison.
    Other research has found that contributing factors include over-policing of Indigenous people with mental and cognitive disability, as well as institutional discrimination and greater severity by the criminal justice system in its treatment of Indigenous offenders.”

    I’m only half way through the imbedded links. It is not just horrifying. That would imply that a wrong has suddenly been discovered, as if there was some intent to right the wrong. It’s sickening.
    This wrong has been known of for decades and nothing has been done to include our First People in any way, shape or form in righting the wrong. We continue to offer them tokenistic involvement and prescriptive remedies.
    The only improvement in the incarceration rates of our First People is that we are now approaching gender equality.

    “Over the last decade, the total number of women in prison in Australia has increased by 77 per cent.
    As evident below, the increase in Indigenous women prisoners accounts for most of that growth.”

    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-06-14/australias-booming-prison-population-in-three-charts/8616876

    “It re-affirms Indigenous spiritual connection to land and nature, and explains how Indigenous people possessed this continent under their own laws and customs.”
    In the spirit of the Uluru Statement, we not only need to listen to them. We need the benefit of their thousands of years of experience, we need their counsel.
    Does anyone know if Australia is the only country on the planet not to have a treaty with its First People?
    Thank you Mr Davis. Take care

  4. jamesss

    Having experienced many “Dreaming journeys” and an initiated Noongar lawman, it is a wondrous feeling connected to the intelligence of nature. Not only of my country but the whole of mother earth. It is without doubt the political class have no awareness beyond service to self. This is succinctly obvious throughout the history of this planet.
    A heart possessing a compassionate consciousness and wisdom of the elders would not trample upon the dignity, and freedom of all Australians.

  5. king1394

    The concept that land can be privately owned by any entity, and that ownership, based on monetary exchange, then gives rights to completely transform or destroy the complex values arising from traditions, culture and environmental needs is one that we fail to question. The Indigenous people had no concept of land ownership, they rather believed that the land owned them. When colonial law and land ownership systems were brought to this country, the Indigenous people had no defence.
    Australia continues to have a most religious respect for private land ownership as a value above all else, even when the owners are foreigners. These attitudes have and continue to allow the total devastation of the landscape, and the externalising of the costs of poor land management to the wider community. Implementation of Indigenous land management systems and adoption of their attitudes to land use may be the only way we can save the land for future generations

  6. paulwalter

    Would it not be fine to get more developmental stuff that is not crass and tasteless up and running. The rest of the comments and the posting of course get no argument from me.

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