At the conclusion of the New Way Summit in Melbourne over July 1-4, a proposal was adopted stating that: “Aboriginal people be encouraged to take possession of unoccupied and Crown lands, including abandoned buildings, to assert their ownership and original title.”
This was the third New Way Summit on Indigenous rights to be held. The New Way Summit was initiated by Euahlayi man Michael Anderson from far-western New South Wales. The first summit was held in Canberra in January.
Anderson is the only surviving member of the four founders of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy, the historic site of protest that began in 1972.
The summit heard that the Mabo judgment on Native Title was legal trickery, because hunting, gathering, walking on land and ceremonies on country did not constitute a claim to legal title and ownership, whereas erecting fences and buildings and clearing land was legally considered an act of “adverse possession”.
Anderson, trained in Western and Aboriginal law, told the conference that the Crown and “squatter rights” were totally underpinned by a “Doctrine of Discovery”, which has its origin in the Papal Bulls (bull = seal) issued in 1453 and thereafter.
“The Papal Bulls defined Aboriginal Peoples and all non-Christians as animals and brutes to be the legitimate prey of Christian monarchs, who were then carving up the world between them”, Anderson said.
Conference participants were told that before taking the assertive action of retaking their lands, they needed to challenge the colonisers’ jurisdiction over their sovereign lands.
Anderson suggested they follow the action of his Euahlayi people by writing to the queen, the governor-general, state premiers and the prime minister, demanding they prove they have jurisdiction over Australia.
The Euahlayi demand that the authorities produce certified copies of documentation where the people allegedly ceded their sovereignty and title to their lands by way of signed surrender documents.
“Obviously no such documents exist”, Anderson said.
“This admission by the authorities will establish and confirm Aboriginal ownership. Any action of reclamation by Aboriginal people cannot be considered an act of theft or trespass. These admissions are a shield against colonial coppers.”
The conference also resolved that international legal and political challenges would be mounted within the coming months.
Responding to the focus on legal challenges, Indigenous historian Gary Foley said: “We must activate the grassroots people so that they become actively involved in controlling their own affairs.
“Talk of international operations and grandiose challenges without grassroots action means nothing.”
Foley said the summit was important as it brought the Indigenous community together for discussion, which had not happened enough in recent years.
A range of topics was covered, including Aboriginal deaths in custody, the life expectancy gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians, treaty, and the Northern Territory intervention.
Chris Graham, former editor of the National Indigenous Times, gave a damning presentation on racism in the media. He pointed to collusion between the previous Coalition government and the mainstream media to justify the racist measures contained within the intervention.
The summit heard greetings from the Nigerian consulate and the Australia Venezuela Solidarity Network.
The Australian Labor Party received a lot of criticism from speakers at the summit, but there was an expression of support for minor parties.
The Victorian convenor of the third New Way Summit, Sharon Firebrace, told the audience that in the past 30 years, Aboriginal affairs had become corrupt to the core through politicians and government bureaucrats and their Aboriginal collaborators, which gave the government the pretext to attack Aboriginal self-determination.
Anderson said: “The lure of mining royalties is the new colonial method to make our people sign away their rights to land.”
The summit resolved to set up a system to name and shame treasonous activities by Aboriginal collaborators.
The next summits are planned for Darwin at the end of July and Townsville in early August.