• Indigenous Australians united in 2015 to protest the flagged closures of over 150 communities in Western Australia (AAP)Source: AAP
Indigenous communities across the nation must unite under one common Aboriginal rights cause if they are ever to achieve true political recognition, says a celebrated Indigenous elder.
Yasmin Noone

20 Oct 2015 - 4:19 PM  UPDATED 21 Oct 2015 - 12:58 PM

Tauto Sansbury, a 66-year-old Narungga man from the Yorke Peninsula of South Australia, appeared on NITV current affairs show Awaken to discuss how to advance the rights of Indigenous peoples in the face of threats to land and culture from large mining entities and governments.

The 2015 NAIDOC Lifetime Achievement Award winner said Aboriginal unity was the best way to achieve a stronger Indigenous voice and attain the power to negate such government policies as the forced closure of 150 remote WA communities and native title matters.

NAIDOC 2015: Tauto Sansbury receives Lifetime Achievement Award
Tauto Sansbury, a Narungga elder, has worked to close the gap in inequality between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians for more than 30 years.

"Aboriginal Australia: we've got a problem and I think the only way we are going to beat these people is that Aboriginal Australia unites as one," Mr Sansbury told an Awaken panel.

"Once we do that, we can start putting pressure on any government running this country because this is our country."

Consulting Indigenous on government initiatives that impact Aboriginal Australia is not good enough, the elder also commented.

"We want to make decisions. We want to change the agenda.

"We don't want to work to a white agenda anymore. We want an Aboriginal agenda [created] from the bottom up. We want to do that and we can do it and we can connect.

He said despite the fact that Indigenous peoples are from different regions all over Australia and the Torres Strait Islands, "we are supporting one another on one argument: that we don’t want anything happening to us".

"...Aboriginal Australia is starting to rise up and create an Aboriginal agenda.

"No longer should we accept and sit down and tick the boxes and [engage in] consultation. I’m not interested in consultation. If they are going to come and talk to me about my country, then sit down and negotiate with me."

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Larissa Baldwin, Indigenous youth climate network Seed national coordinator, also on the Awaken panel, agreed with the call for greater self-determination and encouraged communities to take action to advance their own political rights.

"We need to remove this thing that has been embedded in Aboriginal people that governments should make decisions for us," said Ms Baldwin.

"In the [mainstream] non-Indigenous public, we need to educate them that we can make our own decisions and we will make our own choices: not wait for someone to give us self-determination.

"But we will take it for ourselves!"

How do you create nationwide unity?

Social media platforms were touted by the panel as a powerful way to rally thousands of Australians behind common Indigenous causes, with little or no funding needed.

"United, we can beat this mob," Mr Sansbury said, pointing to the example of the growth of SOS Blak Australia social media and rally campaign to protest community closures.

Public voices multiplying on social media in support of remote Indigenous communities
Australians are speaking out in droves against the forced closure of remote Indigenous communities in WA, with tens of thousands of people voicing their support online.

Tanya Hunter, who was instrumental in organising Adelaide rallies in protest of proposed remote Western Australian community closures in March, explained on the show how social media helped build people power.

The uniting factor wasn't the region in which Indigenous people come from or a specific issue: she said support was about preserving and protecting Indigenous culture.

"South Australia rallied to the call of the Kimberley people, and everybody showed up and wanted to send a clear and strong message that we are united and that South Australia was in there supporting the rest of the country," Ms Hunter told the panel.

"It comes down to the same thing: it's about our culture and country. It's about us telling them about what you can and can't do" 

SOS Blak Australia protests were originally planned to take place over a number of Australian towns and cities. But following social media promotion about the need to resist closures, news spread internationally.

Indigenous and non-Indigenous attended rallies nationwide and by May, protests were being called in New Zealand, Los Angeles, Chicago, Denver, Honolulu, Houston, New York, Ottawa, Toronto, Hong Kong, Berlin and London in support of the cause.

"It comes down to the same thing: it's about our culture and country," said Ms Hunter. 

"It's about us telling them what you can and can't do."

The Awaken season starter, 'Talking Country', airs on NITV  at 9.00pm on Wednesday 21 October.

This special panel-themed show, hosted by Catherine Liddle, was filmed on the grounds of the Alice Springs Telegraph Station Historical Reserve in the Northern Territory.

This episode aims to encourage discussion about the innate link between Indigenous people and their country and the remarkable lengths that they will take to protect it. Get involved in the conversation on Twitter using #NITV .