|Wealth and Want|
|... because democracy alone is not enough to produce widely shared prosperity.|
|Home||Essential Documents||Themes||All Documents||Authors||Glossary||Links||Contact Us|
INDIGENOUS LAND RIGHTS
"When the white man came we had the land and they had the Bible. They taught us to pray with our eyes closed and when we opened them, they had the land and we had the Bible." - Jomo Kenyatta, (1889 - 1978), prime minister of Kenya
Before European settlement/invasion, Aboriginals generally, we are told, had a beautiful thing going - they really knew how to share. Each tribal group was a custodian of a traditional area, and all were taught how to look after and respect their ancestral land. They belonged to the Earth, and not the other way around. No individual owned any land, and none could personally profit from Nature's gifts.
These are Geonomic principles, pure and simple. However, Geonomics has developed things such that each person is, in effect, the co-owner of the entire country. Geonomics further allows for those wishing to live in fixed abodes to take advantage of infrastructure, allocating land of greatly unequal value in an elegantly fair manner.
Geonomics has so much to offer the indigenous population (as well as everyone else), if only they knew of it. On top of all the other tragedies Aboriginals have suffered at the hands of Europeans is the fact that many have adopted the prevailing concept of land as property and are thus claiming exclusive ownership of land rather than the more traditional notion of guardianship.
Another problem is that the planet is a much more crowded place these days, and there's not enough land to enable small groups to live on large expanses of land as nomadic hunter-gatherers. And we can't turn the clock back 200 years and return the continent to its original inhabitants - indeed, if the federal government learned how to treat refugees with a lot more respect, there's a good case for how Australia has a moral duty to take in a lot more immigrants.
SELLING YOUR MOTHER?
Given our admission of European culpability for all the misdeeds of settlement/invasion and its present-day consequences, it's time to talk frankly about those Aboriginal leaders who are now claiming a spiritual relationship with the land and that the Earth is their mother, yet in the same breath asserting ownership of vast tracts of land with exclusive rights of occupancy as well as mineral royalties. Or those who say that their connection to the land is something deeply spiritual and priceless ……. and they won't accept less than $5 billion a year in rent!
These - even if well meaning - contortions, if carried through, will establish an institutionalised, perpetual race-based class of landlords and tenants, and in so doing, perpetuate the very injustices we are attempting to eradicate.
"I SAW IT FIRST!"
And what, if anything, is the basis for the race-based privilege of indigenous land rights? "Prior occupancy", no less! So because someone's distant ancestors, whom he never knew, got to a continent first, they claim ownership! The logic of this declaration is certainly worth examining. So then, what if new archeological evidence came to light which revealed that a certain Aboriginal clan are the sole descendants of the very first guy who crossed the Torres Strait? Could this clan then say, "OK all you whitefellas and blackfellas descended from the later arrivals ….. you all have to pay us the rent for living in Australia, or clear out!"
Or what if Australia hadn't been occupied when the first Europeans landed? Could the king who sent the ship have personally claimed ownership based on first occupancy, or would Australia more rightly belong to the ship's captain? But hang on! - what if one of the oarsmen jumped off the boat before the captain, and was first to hit the beach? But, wait! - the oarsman was wearing boots, and his skin never touched the soil until after the first mate slipped over on the beach and got a face full of sand!
Steady on, guys - what about me?! Where's my share of the Earth? Do I have to return to England and Ireland where my ancestors had "prior occupancy", and can I then tell those Pakistani and West Indian immigrants to clear off or else pay me rent for standing on my homeland? No-one stands on my spiritual motherland for nothing!
ACTUALLY, IT'S ALL PRETTY SIMPLE
The Earth and its bounty are the birthright of all humanity. Land and natural resources are our equal and common inheritance, regardless of race, creed, or gender.
But it's true that culture, history, attachment to place and arbitrary national boundaries have complicated these straightforward principles of human rights. And there is a clear case in Australia for studying and acknowledging the shameful history of European invasion, saying "Sorry" on behalf of our ancestors, and trying to make amends as best we can. If this means special programs, roles, and grants for Aboriginals in order to help them out of their appalling condition, then let's do it. And we should acknowledge Aboriginals being the first occupants, caretakers and custodians, but don't use that word "ownership", OK?
"The whole of the people have the right of the ownership of land and the right to share in the value of land itself, though not to share in the fruits of land which properly belong to the individuals by whose labour they are produced." - Alfred Deakin, (1857 - 1919), Australia's second prime minister ... Read the entire article
to email this page to a friend: right click, choose "send"
Wealth and Want
... because democracy alone hasn't yet led to a society in which all can prosper