Forum discusses Aboriginal rights

March 18, 1998

By Chris Spindler

A Green Left Weekly forum on native title held at Glebe Town Hall on March 12 attracted 50 people.

The speakers were Jenny Munro from the Metropolitan Lands Council; Darryl French, NSW field officer with the Aboriginal Education Consultancy Group; Carla Gorton, the Democratic Socialist Party anti-racism campaign coordinator; and Peter O'Brien, NSW secretary of Australians for Native Title and Reconciliation.

The meeting also launched the new Resistance Books publication Bludgers in Grass Castles — the unpaid debts of the pastoral industry by Martin Taylor.

Munro pointed out the extent of misinformation about native title being peddled by the wealthy landowners. She said, "While we haven't really succeeded in mobilising our communities, we should never rely on the major parties. If these rumours of the Labor Party and Harradine doing deals to pass Howard's 10-point plan are correct, we have to find the ways to keep people going back to the streets."

O'Brien commented that the next two weeks, before the legislation goes back to the Senate, are crucial. "Even before this last deal, the 10-point plan was practically delivered. Only two safeguards remained: a watered down version of the right to negotiate ... and applying the Racial Discrimination Act to the whole Wik bill. Labor and Harradine gave the rest away."

O'Brien stressed that pro-native title campaigners must be prepared to fight on the issue for years.

Gorton outlined a range of the attacks on land rights beyond Howard's plan. For example, the NT Land Rights Act is currently under review by John Reeves QC (who has opposed many land claims), the uranium mine at Jabiluka, the undermining of the Heritage Protection Act, and the destruction of sacred sites by "developments" such as the Hindmarsh Island bridge.

French described the attacks on Aboriginal people beyond native title. He said: "The government cuts education and health while spending millions on fireworks. There is a gross lack of attention to Aboriginal children in education. They make up 3% of the school-age population, but 15-20% of them are excluded or suspended; that is seven times more than other students."

Discussion focused on mobilising in defence of land rights, against the 2000 Olympics and against Pauline Hanson.

You need Green Left, and we need you!

Green Left is funded by contributions from readers and supporters. Help us reach our funding target.

Make a One-off Donation or choose from one of our Monthly Donation options.

Become a supporter to get the digital edition for $5 per month or the print edition for $10 per month. One-time payment options are available.

You can also call 1800 634 206 to make a donation or to become a supporter. Thank you.