Why the Uluru bark petition does not speak for me

August 20, 2015
The so-called "Uluru Bark Petition".

Today, thanks to the power of social media, I have come across this despicable act. I am so angry about it that I feel compelled to write something in the 20 minutes I have remaining in my lunch break.

The accompanying photo is of the so-called “Uluru bark petition”. It was presented to the federal government, much to the gleeful hand-rubbing of the Liberal Party and particularly anti-marriage equality campaigner Senator Eric Abetz.

Abetz praised the group — which apparently consists of about 30 people — for rallying to protect “traditional marriage”, claiming that the campaign for equal marriage — which he wrongfully believes has only been around for about 10 years — cannot hold up against several millennia of tradition.

There are several reasons I am incensed to see this petition. First and most importantly, I am incensed because the Arrernte are named as being one of the groups who support this petition. I am an Arrernte woman and I say plainly and clearly that these people do not speak for me.

Indeed, I strongly doubt that they speak for many, if any, of the groups they have named, and the fact that they have named these groups is a rude and despicable act. They have not consulted, they have not polled and they have certainly not discussed widely. They have claimed authority on this stance while having none, and I am so offended by their actions that I am calling it out.

I have seen some “Stockholm Syndrome” stuff in my time in activism, but this really stands out.

It is news to me from an Arrernte perspective that marriage between a man and a woman is tradition and that other forms of marriage would be an affront. Last I checked, traditional marriage in Arrernte customs tended to include polygyny as well as monogamous pairings, and certainly we were not unique in this across the country.

Polygyny, as opposed to the broader “polygamy”, is the marriage of one man to several women. So does this “tradition” that the signatories, Attorney General George Brandis and the media are crowing about, stretch to include actual traditions? Or are we conveniently overlooking some practices in order to be compliant and in accordance with the wishes of our oppressors?

I am not a supporter of marriage in general. I would sooner abolish the Marriage Act entirely and throw the definition of partnership wide open so that consenting adults would have the right to register and be recognised whatever relationship they are in and be treated with complete dignity in our society.

I'm not going to win that argument any time soon though. What I do not ever stand for, though, is homophobia, particularly the legislated homophobia that was written into the Marriage Act by the John Howard government. I therefore want this removed and I want marriage equality to become a reality in this country.

I don't stand for the homophobia contained in this bark petition and I stand with all people fighting to make marriage equality a reality in this country. I also do not align with the despicable views of Pastor Peter Walker and call on him to retract his stated views that “This is a cultural initiative, it is not a Christian initiative”, as this clearly is not the case.

[Celeste Liddle is a 35-year-old Arrernte woman who lives in Melbourne. She is the national Indigenous organiser for the National Tertiary Education Union and blogs at Rantings of an Aboriginal Feminist. She has also started a petition.

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