Noel Pearson does not speak for us


Conservative Aboriginal leader Noel Pearson will present the opening address to the Brisbane Writers' Festival on September 9. Brisbane-based Indigenous leader Sam Watson, who will also speak at the festival, has challenged Pearson to a public debate.

The article below is an abridged transcript of an interview with Watson by Dave Riley.


For some years now, white Australia has chosen to engage with carefully selected leaders to shape Aboriginal policy. In particular it has formed a strong association with Noel Pearson and his Cape York Leadership Institute.

But people like Pearson have no mandate. They have not been elected or appointed by their communities and do not speak on behalf of Aboriginal people.

Here in Brisbane we say emphatically that Pearson and his crew do not speak on our behalf.

We challenge Pearson to meet us and put his views forward in an open public debate.

We would have Aboriginal leaders from across those Northern Territory Aboriginal communities that have suffered under the intervention measures.

Pearson has ready access to the media and uses the Australian to push his own warped views on Aboriginal affairs.

His ideology is based on blaming the victim. He has no capacity to strip away the lies and the half truths of colonial history or assert the rights of Aboriginal people to land and country.

He expects Aboriginal people to engage with white Australia from the bottom rung of society, where we have been placed by 200 years of colonial terrorism.

He refuses to acknowledge that Aboriginal people have been dispossessed by 200 years of violent terrorism and that this is the primary cause of [problems] across the Aboriginal community.

The Australian economy was constructed by stealing Aboriginal land — that's the fundamental beginning point of the Aboriginal political struggle.

The denial of this is an enormous lie.

Yet Pearson seeks to lay all the ills within our community at our own feet. He wasn't around in the 1970s when the great struggles were launched for equal wages, equal rights, equal housing, etc.

We acknowledge that writers' festivals are all about showcasing new work and that Pearson has published a book.

Pearson puts forward his views often through the Australian, but never on public platforms where Aboriginal people can challenge him. This is what we are doing at the Brisbane Writers' Festival.

This is a work that is slanted against the genuine struggle of Aboriginal people, which panders to the extremist, racist elements within white Australia.

It is a work that should not be presented to the Brisbane Writers' Festival.

There is no difference between Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and former PM John Howard. As an old uncle once said, "same horse, different saddle blanket".

If anything, Aboriginal people have suffered more under the Rudd government than they did during the 11 years of Howard.

Rudd and Indigenous affairs minister Jenny Macklin are just as dangerous as Howard and Brough.