Hundreds of Aboriginal elders and leaders will gather in Alice Springs for the Freedom Summit at the end of this month.
One of the summit’s organisers and chair of the Narrunga people, Tauto Sansbury, said: “The summit will be the most diverse and largest gathering in the one place on this continent, of this continent’s First People. We need to reclaim the Aboriginal rights struggle. We need it more than ever before, because we are at the crossroads. If we do nothing or go the way some have with assimilation then we face the decimation of our dreams and hopes, of who we are and who we want to be.
“We have to step up now. Young and old have to come together and the body politic has to be about the big picture. All our issues will be represented through the rights struggle and its reclamation. If we stand solid, put aside individual histories and agendas, put aside individual issues, and stand solid in big numbers, without waiver, we will win.
“We have hundreds coming, and they are the legitimate leaders of their people.”
Brisbane-based Murri man Professor Sam Watson said it is time to reclaim the streets.
“The Aboriginal rights struggle was at its most powerful in the 1950s, 1960s and early 1970s,” he said. “We brought it to the streets where blood was spilled. But despite everything that did come out of the 1972 to 1975 period, I also see this period as having been a turning point, a turning away from the rights struggle.
“Too many of our people went from the streets to the suits.
“We need to get back on to the streets, we need to fill the streets. We need to spill a little more blood. We need to finish the job.
“I think the Freedom Summit will be confronting for the government. Wherever you get our mob together, and in huge numbers, we can be formidable.”
Eulayhi leader Michael Anderson said that “unity” is the imperative. Anderson said “I will be there” — and so too will a delegation from the Original Sovereigns he leads.
Anderson spoke about the need for a multitude of voices without personal agendas and without egos, but of the Aboriginal body politic — and where “both women and men are heard”.
One of the continent’s most powerful voices, Arrente elder Rosalie Kunoth-Monks said: “Our people will be in Alice Springs for the Freedom Summit.
“I really feel for the first time in a long time that we have hope, that this is a united vision by our people and not some band of so-called leaders chosen by politicians.
“It is so important that the heart of Aboriginal people and the heart of Aboriginal lands are represented. I look forward to the gathering because it will be free of external agendas and controls, because it will be led by the First Nations.
“It is up to us too, not just those who have brought us together, to get the message out to all our communities. The Northern Territory communities will be there because of the hurt, because of the aching, because of the trauma we have suffered and we continue to suffer. For the First Nations of the Northern Territory, this gathering will be a beacon for us to come and put on the table the reclaiming of the rights struggle.”
[The Freedom Summit will be held in Alice Springs on November 27 and 28. This article was first published at The Stringer.]