On January 26th at the aboriginal tent embassy in Canberra, I met a strong, black man with a wide smile and weathered face. “When are we meeting again?” he demanded of the group of the cream of first nation’s leaders of Australia; among them Jenny Munro, Michael Anderson and Les Coe. Anzac day they decided before breaking off.
Marbak is among the last of the traditional sovereign people that have survived since before the referendum of 1967, “I’ve been in the political arena for more than 30 years and now I’m back where I come from, living at the tent embassy” says Marbak, who now has partial paralysis after a stroke.
I’m Marbak, from the Barkendjah Nation, he told me when the meeting was over and I traded a CD of his music with my awayo (a woven blanket traditional to Inca culture).
For eleven years, Marbak was the deputy chair for the national aboriginal legal service secretariat of Australia, shoulder to shoulder with his best friend Charles Perkins.
“At the parliament house protest in 1996, I walked into parliament house through bullet proof windows because Howard took $400 million out of the budget for Aboriginal housing, health & education.” His friend says the crack he heard when the police broke Marbak’s ribs was sickening. That day at the ‘Cavalcade to Canberra’ trade union protest, they were all fighting for their rights.
“I argued with the government for my pension card to say currently and or previously on walkabout, instead of having a fixed address, I live as a sovereign traditional elder,” he tells me over the phone, before inviting me to Dubbo to join him at a meeting organized by the referendum council to discuss constitutional reform.
“They’re discussing our future behind closed doors, they haven’t invited us, the majority of Aboriginal people living in NSW and there’s 200,000 of us, don’t even know these meetings are taking place. I wasn’t invited, my son wasn’t invited either, and we’re from Dubbo.”
On the last day of the meetings, Marbak talks to the group gathered at the RSL. “I’m a fighter, a song writer, a sovereign man. I’ve lived classified as flora and fauna, I’ve lived without running water, without electricity and I had no fixed address, my father was a drover and I grew up wiping my ass with a stick,” he says before asking his friend Alan Coe (Marbk forgot his glasses), to read aloud a letter he’d written to the first people of this land.
The letter begins…
Recognition is a white word for white Australia.
The constitution of Australia is the most racist, white supremacist founding document in the world and we’re glad we've refused to be part of that.
This constitution is our proof that we never ceded our sovereignty to the white trespassers.
The Australian government is a signatory to the UN declaration that relates to First Nations People's. We demand they comply with the document they signed under international law in 2009.
Without first having land rights, we can't have human rights.
We can't close the gap we didn't create. We demand our land back so we can control it; our future rests on this, securing the future for our grandchildren's children.
Today, white Australians are guilty of receiving stolen goods, a criminal offense under their own law, aiding and abetting is their way of life. Today white Australians have 8 generations of wealth to hand down from father to son; land, houses, businesses, mines and money. All of it thanks to our land.
We were considered flora and fauna until 27 May 1967. On 28 May we stopped being animals under white law and as you’d conclude, animals don’t own land or houses. This is the root of our dispossession. White Australians stole our land; if it wasn't stolen, then white man show me your deeds from the traditional custodians who belong to this land.
Generational trauma isn't only a problem for us, it’s also a problem for white Australians. I wonder how they sleep at night with their ancestral conscience.
We can't accept recognition without talking about restitution, treaties, self-determination and sovereignty.
This comes first.
Recognition is something that white Australians need more than anything. They’re in a hurry to change the constitution, however we don't have to play by their rules. We’ve lived here for more than 60,000 years; we have a different concept of time. If the government wants legitimacy they need to recognise each sovereign nation of this land, their languages and totems.
If we go along with the recognition deal and accept the changes they propose, we will be giving the white government consent to take our land.
For 228 years our people have been killed, mutilated and imprisoned, our children are kidnapped and our waters are poisoned, however we've survived the genocide. They buried our kids in the ground up to their necks and kicked their heads off to put fear into us, they put ground glass in sugar and arsenic in flour and left it on the wood heaps to be taken and eaten. But they didn't succeed because we're the living proof, we’re still here and we still have no fear.
We’ve given our land the best sportspeople, Olympic athletes, artists, writers, politicians, the best and the brightest, despite their attempts to wipe us out.
They need to change their racist, white supremacist, and disgraceful constitution, not us. They need recognition to be here, not us.
I love my children and my grandchildren and I will fight until my last breath to give them back what is rightfully theirs.
Marbak. Barkendjah Nation
Former Chairman of the Aboriginal Legal Service in Dubbo
Former Chairman Land Council Dubbo
Former Deputy Chair for the national aboriginal legal service secretariat of Australia
Former Chairman of juvenile justice
Member of New South Wales department of fisheries
Singer and song writer for The Oranaroos.
#Australia #GetTheFullPicture #Racism #Discrimination #HumanRights #ConstitutionalReform #Recognise #Referendum