'Whitefella' draws up own treaty for his land with traditional owners

A different approach to Aboriginal land. Source: AAP

A non-Indigenous family in New South Wales has voluntarily signed over its land to the traditional owners in a unique treaty.

A non-Indigenous family in New South Wales has voluntarily signed over its land to the traditional owners in a unique treaty.

The agreement, signed with the Dabee tribe of the Wiradjuri Nation in the state's east, is one of the first of its kind in Australia.

Naomi Selvaratnam has the story.

Paul Dixon moved to the New South Wales town of Rylstone earlier this year.

But after doing some research on the history of the area, he discovered some information that concerned him.

"There were massacres and very serious business which is on the record that my people -- I am a whitefella, that's what I am -- my ancestors have carried out very significant crimes against Wiradjuri and other people, and no-one's paid for those crimes. That's been on my mind for many years, but, when I moved here, the evidence was just so clear about this stuff. And even whitefellas in the community admit that these massacres did occur, that's just what happened. But then people just get on with life and just forget about it, and, obviously, the Dabee people can't just forget about it. It decimated their population, and they've lost property rights and all sorts of other rights. And I just ... It's an injustice."

Mr Dixon decided he wanted to help correct that injustice, offering the Dabee people official recognition of the land as theirs through a treaty he wrote himself.

He says he chose to draft his own treaty because he did not want to wait years for the federal government to declare the land belonged to the Dabee people under Native Title law.

"I thought, 'Well, I don't need the law to tell me if I can fall in love. I don't need the law to tell me if I can commit a crime or to say sorry for a crime I've committed. So I'll just go ahead and make my own efforts to approach people in normal, human terms and say sorry and ask permission -- "Is it okay if I do stay on your traditional lands?" -- because, as far as I'm concerned, the lands have been stolen.'"

Mr Dixon continues to live on the land, but the treaty he has drafted acknowledges the Dabee people are the traditional owners of the area.

He approached Lyn Syme, a Dabee senior woman and elder, proposing the treaty be signed.

Ms Syme says she was initially surprised, but she has since welcomed the treaty, deeming it of great symbolic significance.

"We've all agreed that it's a living document and we can change it whenever we want to. We know it's a private treaty. It's certainly not the treaty that our mob have been campaigning for for decades, but it's a start. And we're hoping that other communities might pick up and run with it as well."

Ms Syme says Mr Dixon's treaty should be adopted in other Indigenous communities.

"I think he's really trying to make amends for what happened in the past and, like, he wants to ensure that his family knows the real history of this area where he's come to live."

 

 

 

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