anarcho sando on Wed, 25 Sep 2002 10:26:45 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> indigenous view on refugees/undocumented - indig sovereignity and globalisation


A Gungalidda grassroots perspective on refugees
and the recent events in the US

Gungalidda Elder

1. Not all Aboriginal people agree with the views on asylum-seekers 
expressed by ATSIC bureaucrat Marion Hansen (C/T, 22/9/01). I wonder if 
working for the Government has affected her views. People working for the 
Government have a job to do, but maybe she is just saying what the 
government wants to hear. Maybe she is talking about the views of those 
Aboriginal people who have believed the myths the government has put out 
about the asylum seekers.

2. But we know that what the Government says about Aboriginal Peoples is 
wrong, so we are not going to believe similar statements like "the asylum 
seekers will take Australian's jobs." These are just myths to turn the 
public against refugees in the same way that public sentiment has been 
whipped up against Aboriginal people and their rights.
If we as Aboriginal people are true to our culture and spiritual beliefs, we 
should be telling the government that what they are doing to refugees is 
wrong! Our Aboriginal cultures do not allow us to treat people this way.

3. I am a grassroots Gungalidda Elder and I happened to be up in the Gulf of 
Carpentaria attending a funeral when it came over the radio that the Tampa 
people had arrived at Christmas Island. It was very disturbing to hear what 
was happening to those refugees. All of us old people were so sad about the 
refugees on the Tampa. We have our own issues to deal with but the refugees 
are fleeing hunger, deprivation, persecution and war. And now they are 
caught up in a situation with the Australian Government in which they are 

4. The refugees were coming here, to OUR country, which we as Aboriginal 
people have a spiritual connection to. Our culture teaches us that we are 
all connected, to the land and to everybody else. Our Spirit Creator and our 
ancient law and culture would not stand for how these refugees are being 
treated. But no-one will listen to us. (Except the Greens. They realise 
what's happening to this land.)

5. So it saddens me when I hear any Aboriginal person stand up and talk 
about money before human need. Ms Hansen is talking about the "money side" 
of the asylum seekers arriving, but my Gungalidda people were talking about 
the human side. We should be talking about human need first and realise we 
have a roof over our heads, we know where food's coming from. Those people 
were out on the water. The old women where I come from said "Look at this 
big river, where we're fishing, look at this big land."
There's room for all of us, if we learn to live simply, within our country's 
means. This land is crying out for us to stop being so materialistic. We 
should be learning our lesson. Cutting down on the way we live, saving the 
land and embracing others in need. Giving them refuge. This is a spiritual 
country and we are a spiritual people, we are ready to embrace other people 
in their need. We should only be using the things we need to survive, and 
not keeping everything for ourselves, and living well at other people's 

6. Before Europeans came here, (illegally), in the Aboriginal world, we were 
all different, speaking different languages, but we all had the same kinship 
system for all human beings, in a spiritual way. Our religion and cultural 
beliefs teaches us that everyone is a part of us and we should care about 
them. We can't separate ourselves from other human beings - it's a duty.

7. The first thing we have to stand by is our belief of caring for each 
other. People can come here, if they respect our land, and treat our land as 
it should be treated. And if they don't interfere with us, and if they 
respect our differences, because we've been interfered with enough!

8. I am appalled that even as I write this, laws are being made in 
theParliament, to keep refugees away from this land. I always wanted to 
believe that the majority of people in Australia weren't racist, but the 
polls supporting John Howard's actions against the refugees have showed me 
that I was sadly mistaken. John Howard's popularity jumped, but I can see 
that he is doing to the refugees the same things that have been done to
Aboriginal Peoples. I can identify with what is happening to the refugees, 
especially to the Moslems.

9. As a black woman I recognise the racism and arrogance that is projected 
against the refugees - because that same racism and arrogance has been 
directed against us for over 200 years. We know what it's like to suffer 
religious persecution, because we have not had freedom since we were 

10. I believe we are all from the human race and we should take heed of the 
great evil that happened in New York and Washington and let it be a global 
warning to all of us. I see the hungry children of the Middle East and 
Africa (and the people dying of preventable and treatable diseases), on 
television; they are starving, living in 3rd and 4th world conditions, sick 
and dying slowly. There is little difference between sudden death (even
though I don't condone what happened at the WTC for a minute) and the slow 
deaths of the children of Afghanistan, Iraq and other poor countries. In 
fact, if anything, a sudden death is a kinder death than living a life of 
hell on earth, and wondering when the powerful of the world will recognise 
the humanity of those suffering people.

11. Many nations live on this planet, some have enormous might and others 
feel powerless in the face of that might. But the wealthy countries like the 
US, the UK and Australia, they became rich in the first place from either 
taking someone else's country, or from what they took from the poor 
countries, and now they have to take stock. Instead of being just all out 
for themselves, and causing so much suffering in the world, they need to be 
honest and admit what they are doing to other human beings. Then we can turn 
this great evil into something good.

12. I see this as an Elder from the Gungalidda Nation. The wealthy countries 
have to start respecting everybody, even if they are different and start 
treating everybody as a human being. This journey, from the cradle to the 
grave is too short not to embrace other people in need. We shouldn't be 
turning people away, on the high seas, putting their lives in danger and the 
lives of their children. We should feel ashamed at what has happened to 
those refugees. They came from war-torn countries, and had to flee through 
no fault of their own. They are different to us, with different languages, 
different religions and different cultures. But they should be accepted as 
equally important to us because they are human beings.

13. And Bush, he is a loose cannon. Australia is a little country mindlessly 
playing "follow the leader". If we follow the US we will destroy ourselves 
as surely as the US is destroying itself. Bush thinks he can reach to the 
sky with his missiles but he can't even see hungry children right in front 
of his eyes. He is disconnected to other people's suffering.

14. Remember, Bush is the world "leader" who had the arrogance to refuse to 
sign the Kyoto protocol. He said he was going to put the US economy before 
the global environment. But his words are the words of a fool, because if he 
destroys the planet, where is he going to get jobs for the people of the US?

15. What will happen to the economy of the US then? And remember, the US 
recently walked out of the UN World Conference Against Racism and refused to 
listen to any criticism of US foreign policies.

16. In regards to the people who did the bombing in the US, we have to think 
about what could have made them so angry and desperate. Desperate people can 
be driven to desperate acts when they are not treated equally and their 
needs are not taken into consideration by the wealthy countries of the 

17. I can understand their feelings because Aboriginal Peoples have never 
been accepted in this land, even though it is OUR land. We have never been 
treated as equals. I will finish by reminding everyone that this is not John 
Howard's country, it has been stolen. It was taken over by the first fleet 
of illegal boat people. We need to remind the world that the Aboriginal 
people who have stayed true to themselves, to their land and to their 
spiritual beliefs do not have the same views about refugees, about the US or 
about a war of retribution that John Howard does.

The URL for this document is:
  October 2002

Volume 1 Number 2 On What Grounds? Sovereignties Territorialities and 
Indigenous Rights edited by Irene Watson, Fiona Allon, Brett Neilsen and 
Fiona Nicoll

Essays by Haunani-Kay Trask Dinesh Wadiwel Ned Rossiter Patricia 
Monture-Angus and Candice Metallic Justine Lloyd Fiona Nicoll Irene Watson 
Katrina Schlunke Anthony Burke Fiona Allon and Bruce Buchan

On What Grounds? is a special guest-edited borderlands issue in which 
discussions of sovereignties without territoriality (as heralded in much 
globalisation theory) are held alongside Indigenous sovereignty theorists' 
continuing claims to their ground. On What Grounds? is a valuable resource 
as cultural theorists attempt to address the question of how - or indeed, 
whether - Indigenous claims to ground can be reconciled with systems of 
globalisation which are making power increasingly independent of its ground. 
  More ...


forthcoming in 2002

On What Grounds? Sovereignties, Territorialities and Indigenous Rights 
Co-edited by Irene Watson, Fiona Allon, Brett Neilson and Fiona Nicoll

On What Grounds? is a collection of essays in which discussions of 
sovereignties without territoriality (as heralded in much globalisation 
theory) are held alongside Indigenous sovereignty theorists' continuing 
claims to their ground.

At the turn of the millennium, a new urgency and ethics of responsibility 
demand a rethinking of sovereignty's flight from disciplinary norms of the 
modern nation-state. Now, more than ever, does the crisis of sovereignty 
call for unprecedented modes of action and analysis.

It seems that no act of state can rescue the nation from the web of global 
flows in which it has become entangled. At this historic moment, it seems 
salutary to recall that all wars are now civil wars and that all elections 
have become by-elections. The nation-state dreams of re-establishing its 
borders, but to do this it must become a deterritorialized entity, as 
flexible and as mobile as those it seeks to exclude. As a consequence, 
sovereignty itself has no place to seek asylum. How do we account for global 
systems of command at a time when sovereignty, itself, is on the run?

Indigenous sovereignty struggles, waged from the outset of colonial ventures 
in every continent, have become embroiled in another great game, dependent 
on secrecy, diffusion, and deniability. Mohawk, Nunga, Hawaiian, 
Palestinians and innumerable other "stateless" peoples now stand ground 
against violent communalisms that are all but invisible to the world at 
large, wrapped in stripes, crosses, and stars. In the absence of official 
recognition of their sovereignties, Indigenous communities remain without 
"grounds"- in the sense of territory. They are also left "without grounds" 
for legal appeal. For example, in spite of the High Court's overturning of 
terra nullius in 1992, Indigenous sovereignty claims in Australia continue 
to face a legal system that declares such claims unjusticiable.

On What Grounds? is a valuable resource as cultural theorists attempt to 
address the question of how - or indeed, whether - Indigenous claims to 
ground can be reconciled with systems of globalisation which are making 
power increasingly independent of its ground.

On What Grounds? includes essays by Irene Watson, Haunani-Kay Trask, Fiona 
Nicoll, Dinesh Wadiwel, Fiona Allon, Ned Rossiter, Patricia Monture-Angus 
and Candice Metallic, Justine Lloyd, Katrina Schlunke, Anthony Burke and 
Bruce Buchan.

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