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Reconciliation should be the name of the game

March 23rd, 2013

"The Proclamation of South Australia" 1836 records the ceremony at Glenelg on Dec 28 1836, by Charles Hill - Museum of Australia Democracy

“The Proclamation of South Australia” 1836 records the ceremony at Glenelg on Dec 28 1836, by Charles Hill – Museum of Australia Democracy

Historic amendments to South Australia’s constitution to formally recognise Aboriginal people were passed through Legislative Council in Adelaide yesterday, ensuring Cultural Safety in all Departments should be all Ministers’ next priority if genuine reconciliation is the name of the game.

It is no coincidence that the events that took place across Australia yesterday, including the passing of the SA Constitutional amendment in Adelaide and the Apology to forcibly removed and adopted children by Prime Minister Julia Gillard in Canberra, aligned with the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and World Harmony. A day where we internationally acknowledge that “Racism continues to cause suffering for millions of people around the world… We must, individually and collectively, stamp out racism, stigma and prejudice.” as stated by the Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-Moon.

One of the ways the State Government of South Australia is attempting to stamp out the effects of racism, stigma and prejudice – much of which stems from trans-generational and inter-generational trauma caused by lateral violence that has remained to this day since colonisation, is through the passing of amendments to South Australia’s constitution to formally recognise Aboriginal people.

The denial and exclusion of Aboriginal peoples when the province of South Australia was established in 1836 meant that there was no recognition of or consultation with Aboriginal people in South Australia and this has remained unrectified in the constitution which was passed almost 100 years later. Ironic really, when you realise that one of the paintings featured in the gallery here in Adelaide where the Legislative Council yesterday passed the amendment, as pointed out by The Hon SG Wade, depicts Aboriginal people at the reading of the proclamation in 1836, “The painting of Charles Hill in the western upper gallery of this council depicts the scene of the reading of the proclamation. I think it speaks volumes that the painting shows a few Aboriginal people on the fringe observing from afar.” he said.

The Letters Patent

The Letters Patent

It was pleasing to see references to the Letters Patent and the proclamation as being key constitutional documents both making reference to Aboriginal people. Clearly we existed; there was no such thing as Terra Nullius and we were here. (Letters Patent)

This amendment is intended to set this record straight. The amendment acknowledges and respects Aboriginal peoples as the State’s first peoples and nations; recognises Aboriginal peoples as the traditional owners and occupants of the land and waters in South Australia; and most importantly acknowledges that the Aboriginal peoples have endured past injustices and dispossession of their traditional lands and waters, it also places on record the Apology to the Stolen Generation given in State Parliament on 28 May 1997.

Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation Minister The Hon. Ian Hunter said the changes were proposed following state-wide consultation which was led by the South Australian Advisory Panel (Professor Peter Buckskin, Commissioner Khatija Thomas, The Hon Robyn Layton, Shirley Peisley AM and The Hon John von Doussa). “This is a genuine move towards reconciliation and I feel privileged to have been part of it. I would like to thank the panel … for their dedication and passion, along with everybody else who worked hard to contribute to this historic moment.” Mr Hunter said.

Shirley Peisley AM, Aunty Shirley to me, and to many Aboriginal people, young and old here in South Australia who continue to call on her for leadership, support and encouragement, recalls all of the hard work done by so many Aboriginal people who did not have the wherewithal to seek justice for any of the atrocities and injustices dealt to them at the hands of poor Government policies and an ignorant mainstream society stating that “It has taken us many, many years to get to this point and a lot of hard work and unfortunately a lot of the people especially the women who paved the way have now passed on and cannot be here to see this moment in history” .

When I asked about the true impact this amendment will have at the grassroots level for both current and future generations, Auntie Shirley said, “Well, for me today is very much a historical and momentous occasion and it should be for all Aboriginal people. I know the Government are very well aware that the law has always been questioned and that some of the injustices that have occurred have been as a direct result of these laws”.

Auntie Shirley went on to further explain that whilst being inclusive of historical facts acknowledging Aboriginal peoples as the First peoples of South Australia and that by inserting these words into the State’s most fundamental document, there will now be hope that future generations will have the ability to gain ground legitimately and seek such justice, “even though this act alone does not alter anything, what it does do – and I can only imagine that as a result of our inclusion, they [the Government] will now have to deal with all the unfinished business. Our people will for the first time, have a way forward to do this” she said. “I do believe that we can be victorious with this first significant change happening”, she said.

Growing up with a heightened sense of the need for personal safety and through living in the reality of a society which currently holds little respect for, or understanding of the importance in cultural safety for Aboriginal people such as myself, it is not a far stretch to imagine the types of comments that will now begin to flow. Something along the lines of ‘what are these black fullas going to be asking for next?’ now they will be legitimately encompassed within South Australia’s Constitution. I know there will be people thinking this way and also know that those who hold this position do so out of ignorance concerning the true history, lives and journeys of Aboriginal people in this state and the rest of the Nation for that matter, but Auntie Shirley is adamant that “our exclusion from the constitution has stopped us from moving forward as a people and with the record, very publically set straight, Aboriginal people will feel more comfortable in talking about these things” , ‘these things’ being the collaborative dialogue that needs to take place for us to move forward as a Nation, together in unity and hopefully one that will focus on the appropriate levels of cultural safety for all humankind.

The Hon. Kelly Vincent gave an address that really provided me with a sense of genuineness after acknowledging the traditional owners of the land and all other groups and elders, past and present “whose footprints meet our own every time they touch this land, and within whose stories we weave our own” Ms Vincent went on to tell it like it is, not withholding any punches as to the reality we still face once the hype of the amendment has faded, “Aboriginal reconciliation is often used as something of a political football and spoken of as some kind of noble goal of a caring government, but to my mind reconciliation is none of these things because the need for reconciliation between our nation’s first and, I suppose, second peoples arises from a debt—a debt thanks to which our forbearers have prospered at the cost of the health, happiness, dignity and even the lives of the native inhabitants of this country. Because this debt is so often in many ways yet to be repaid, we here in this room are still prospering because of it”.

Some community members I have spoken to feel as though this act of recognition is just adding salt to the wound, more insult to injury because they can’t comprehend at this moment in time how words, just more words in a constitution that still symbolises the dispossession of our land from our elders back then and the continued dispossession of our lands right now, will bring any changes. The amendment will never as a standalone be able to redress the situation for our peoples, all the trauma and the grief that has been and continues to consume so many.

Non-Aboriginal people live in their mansions, send their kids to private schools, then complain about the cost of living as a result and all the while Aboriginal people are still seeking answers to the questions of why they were dispossessed in the first place, why our people are dying 20 years earlier than the rest of the population, why our children continue to experience racism at every turn and at ridiculously higher rates than any other country in the world are killing themselves because of it. Without a national implementation of a system to turn back the impacts of colonisation by Aboriginalising the school systems (teaching our old ways of caring and sharing to all children) to ensure they receive what remains of the native tongues of this land, strong encouraging cultural knowledge and the true unabridged history for them to move forward as equal human beings, and why we still have so many of our brothers and sisters with no clue as to their true heritage and kinship ties? All of these questions remain un-answered; it is understandable and acceptable that not everyone will be over the moon with this amendment nor will they be able to see the benefits and potential the amendments could bring.

Further impressed by Ms Vincent as she followed on to say this, “We have a new school of thought, we have the resources, and on days like today—although not nearly often enough—we have the political will.” And again “I am extraordinarily proud and privileged to be part of a process that recognises and addresses the long and dark history of the dispossession of the state’s Indigenous inhabitants. I will be even more proud, however, if together we can now rally and redouble our efforts to address the social, political and economic marginalisation that Aboriginal people still suffer in Australia today”.

Wouldn’t it be nice if all our Politicians set their moral and ethical compasses by taking a leaf out of Ms Vincent’s book?

The Hon. Tammy Franks stated that whilst the amendment is “an important part of reconciliation…perhaps an equally important part, and probably a more important part, is the question: what do we do about it? What follows next?” In direct response to this question wouldn’t it be logical to now turned the focus to ensuring Cultural Safety becomes a priority that find its way to be appropriately embedded into all policies which can be then supported down the line, throughout each and every department and agency as the next step to reconciliation by addressing the lateral violence it leaves in its wake?

A long time coming but nevertheless positive follow up to the formal apology made by the Government 16 years ago on behalf of State Parliament in 1997, I believe this action alone has great potential for good, one that I certainly hope the Federal Government heeds and follows suit.

It remains to be seen, if the South Australian Aboriginal community will be able to see through this lateral violence, the bile and toxic waste, the remnants of bad Government policies, left for us to wade through unable to make head nor tails of what this all means.

This is what is currently dividing many of our own peoples.

Thanks to the extremely successful divide and conquer tactics of colonisation, native title laws and processes, and the everyday policies that are continue to divide us through the stealthy genocide that is destroying our families right now as I type.

Can we put aside our differences just long enough, to genuinely work together and build the necessary platforms for self-determining action to take place in what must be a culturally safe environment?

The elimination of the impacts of lateral violence needs to occur and be perpetuated from within our own families and communities alongside a change in focus for Government policy and it is through this achievement that we will then see the true benefit from this monumental step forward in reconciliation.

All South Australians should be rightfully proud of what is being done to achieve greater reconciliation between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people here in our state and we should all rise up to the challenge of consciously co-creating the culturally safe environment we all need. An environment which is free from the impacts of lateral violence, and an environment that will positively nurture our children and grandchildren to gain the necessary skills, training and cultural knowledge to enact true self- determination providing the opportunity for our future generations to reach their full potential, this can be achieved through our legitimisation, our inclusion, in the states founding document the South Australian constitution.

The Hon. Ian Hunter stated in closing “We acknowledge that our Aboriginal people were overlooked, ignored and omitted from our state’s constitution. It is astounding for me to consider this extraordinary act of generosity on the part of the Aboriginal community in South Australia, to have engaged with us in this process. I thank them most sincerely for that generosity of spirit. It has been suggested that recognition alone may not advance the work required to address the current level of social and economic disadvantage faced by so many Aboriginal people. That may be true, but the symbolism of the recognition should not be dismissed lightly. After all, as many have noted today, symbols have a profound effect on us all.” The session, which was considerably respectful and considerate, not something I am used to watching at the Federal level, was then concluded after the following acknowledgement had been made. The Bill’s reading a second and third time passed through the Legislative Council unanimously and without amendment.

All things taken into consideration I must say that I now personally hold a faint light of renewed hope that things have the potential to improve not only for Aboriginal peoples but for all South Australians, providing we can all find the necessary good will to carry out the hard work that is now required to bring us into this new era.

Want to know more about what ‘Cultural Safety’ is? Then get on over to the Lateral Love Australia website run by myself and the head of my family William ‘Brian’ Butler where we believe that, “Cultural safety by definition concerns the experience one feels in their physical surroundings born out of interactive behaviours and perceptions based on individual values, morals, standards and ethics. We each must have an understanding of our own personal culture, and of how our own personal cultural values impact upon others, particularly in regard to our interaction, interpretation, beliefs and subconscious reckoning as we make our way about in the world, regardless of age, race, creed, colour, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, religion or disability. A culturally safe and secure environment is one where ‘all’ peoples feel safe and draw strength in their identity, culture and community. Cultural safety cannot exist without Lateral Love and Lateral Love cannot exist where Lateral Violence reigns supreme.”

Questioning what Lateral Violence is all about? Well, at Lateral Love headquarters we stand strong in the definition provided by one of our Elders Wisdom Patrons, Auntie Cheri Yavu-Kama-Harathunian, stated as simply as possible like this, “Lateral violence is the power and control used by a dominating authority and individuals to disconnect and decimate a peoples or persons nationhood birth rights, to their spiritual and cultural heritage, self and cultural identity and ‘sense of being’, by means of colonisation processes that ‘normalise’ institutionalise systems of violent intimidation, manipulation and deception politically, religiously, legitimately , governmentally and socially.”

Go to to find out how this definition translates into the here and now with what we view as the manifestations of the Lateral Violence that have been constantly perpetuated by us, onto us and through us, as a nation of peoples.

Our inclusion in the South Australian Constitution does not change the fact that we are all existing on land that always was and always will be Aboriginal land, some comfort can be sought in that it legitimises this fact through the acknowledgement of the true history of this country and as Premier Jay Weatherill stated in Parliament yesterday “it is an act that has the capacity to reach across generations”.

As always, we remain yours in Unity through Lateral Love and Spirit of Care for all Humankind through the ‘Decade of Lateral Love Around the World 2012 – 2022’ because the work we need to do is generational, and is going to take as long, if not longer, for us to right the wrongs of the past than it took for us all to get here.

Brian Butler or myself, Nicola Butler can be contacted via our website at via email or the good old fashioned way by picking up the dog and bone [phone] and calling 0419 801 085 (Brian) or 0423 285 256 (Nicola).


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