Who owns Australia?
Its Aboriginal people do, claim ever more of their leaders.
One of them is Michael Ghillar Anderson, the last survivor of the four young men who set up the Aboriginal Embassy in Canberra in 1972 and now heads the Sovereign Union of First Nations and Peoples in Australia, set up by the embassy’s 40th anniversary corroboree on 26 January 2012.
Mr Anderson is the leader of the 3,000 Euahlayi people who inhabit parts of northwest New South Wales and southwest Queensland.
His central tenet is that Queen Victoria issued a so-called order in council – which is absolute law – that no lands or resources were to be taken away from Aborigines and that their governance and way of life were not to be interfered with.
Constitutional experts in London have advised him that only a reigning monarch – which now would have to be Queen Elizabeth II – could overturn the original order by making a new one, and until that happens the original order remains law.
Hence Australia remains a colony of the British Crown.
Former prime minister, John Howard, tried to nullify that law but Mr Anderson and his experts argue that he failed.
Mr Anderson (Nyoongar Ghurradjong Murri Ghillar) brilliantly argued his case to the “Festival of Dangerous Ideas” in the Sydney Opera House on 28 September 2012. He suggests that the only way forward is a treaty between the settler society and the Indigenous nations.
Here’s how the organisers billed the speech on the festival website:
“Twenty-first century Australia is built on the premise that the British Government acquired title to the country more than 200 years ago. Although significant shifts in our understanding have taken place in recent decades, this basic ownership has been unchallenged. But what if it could be proved that Aboriginal people never lost sovereignty over Australia? If our governments had to negotiate to salvage their legitimacy, could they come to terms with this shift in the balance of power and forge a new understanding between black and white Australia?
“Michael Anderson (Nyoongar Ghurradjong Murri Ghillar) is an Aboriginal rights activist, community leader, lecturer and long-standing political figure who was appointed by his peers as the first Aboriginal ambassador to white Australia in the 1970s.”