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  • Uluru, Uluru Kata-Tjuta National Park. Northern Territory. (Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park Parks Australia)
The recent announcement of the Uluru Climb closure in 2019 sparked a discussion with Anangu Tribal Elders and Members of the Uluru Kata-Tjuta Board of Management to request that the name of Uluru be taken off the Referendum Council's 'Uluru Statement from the Heart.'
English
By
Kirstyn Lindsay, Presented by
Kirstyn Lindsay

12 Dec 2017 - 10:51 AM  UPDATED 18 Dec 2017 - 11:44 AM

The vision of the Uluru Statement from the Heart was announced at the final Constitutional Recognition Dialogues at the First Nations Convention at Voyages Resort Yulara in May 2017.

The Referendum Council's final report detailed constitutional reform and recommendations for a Referendum on an enshrined Indigenous voice in Parliament. The reported was presented to the Prime Minister and Cabinet on June 30, 2017.

The recommendations from the Referendum council's report were refused by the Prime Minister in late October.

It was during that week that Mrs Alison Hunt, who is Senior Advisor to Voyages Resort at Yulara and an Anangu Tribal Elder, came forward to ABC Alice Springs on 2nd November 2017 and asked that the Referendum Council take the name of Uluru off the Uluru Statement From The Heart.

"People have to get their own name, not using Uluru."

Alison Hunt says "I was told by my Elders and the Board here to talk to the radio to get the message out there to take the name off the Uluru Statement From The Heart."

"And get it out of there - people have to get their own name, not using Uluru."

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The Turnbull government has officially rejected the Referendum Council's proposal for an Indigenous voice to Parliament.

During this time, Mrs Hunt has spoken with a member of the the Referendum Council who has met with some Anangu Traditional Owners in Mutitjulu regarding the matter.

The Referendum Council have been offered a right of reply by NITV Radio and have declined an interview until the matter is resolved.

Why are Anangu Tribal Elders asking for the name of Uluru to be taken off the statement?

Alison Hunt says the issue is about the customary law of Uluru Kata-Tjuta and not the actual content of the report and it's recommendations to the Prime Minister.

"That’s why you got to have proper protocol," says Hunt. "And you got to have proper consultation with the people."

"Also you have to be given permission and consent in order to use the land.

"This rock is very very sacred to us to Anangu people of the land."

Aunty Alison Hunt chaired the First Nations Convention at Yulara and was hired to mediate the proceedings of meeting.

She says "I was very sad to see there was a lot of division and and a lot of arguments."

"There was a lot of debate and not talking nicely about the vision or where to from here, but screaming.

"It was a very childish meeting, I’m sorry to say that."

Speaking more on the process of protocol on the use of the name of Uluru for the statement, Aunty Alison says "Some Anangu people were invited in, they came in through the board to listen in."

While some Anangu people were able to attend this way, she says there was no invitation issued to the broader community on whose lands the convention was held.

"There wasn’t an open invitation for any Anangu people to come in and sit down and listen in, so basically it was a closed meeting," she says.

Multiple sources say there were no interpreters on site for Anangu people to understand the process of the convention or Constitutional Recogntion.

Aunty Alison regularly interprets Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) language in meetings on the APY lands. In the case of this convention though, she says "I didn’t hear one interpreter there when they were talking, nothing no."

"We didn't see anybody come down and sit under a tree and tell us about it what their vision or story is on what they're going to do with the statement." 

At the First Nations Convention, delegates representing the thirteen regional dialogues elected two members from their regions to form the Uluru Statement Working Group.

When asked if she knew that it was planned for the name of Uluru was to be used for the statement, Aunty Alison says she didn't go into the closed rooms where people were elected and wasn’t aware of the process on the permissions sought to use the name of Uluru.

"I didn’t hear any talk at the conference to use the name of Uluru at all," she says.

"We talk about government making fast decisions about consultation -  well this is what happened here."

Aunty Alison says that to her knowledge there wasn't consultation with interpreting offered as a service.

As a Tribal Elder who travels the Petermann area of the APY Lands, she says there hasn't been consultation with the people in the Anangu languages over the years of Constitutional Recognition meetings and dialogues with the people across Australia.

"Anangu people were saying, we didn't see anybody come down and sit under a tree and tell us about it what their vision or story is on what they're going to do with the statement,"' she says.

"We talk about government making fast decisions about consultation, well this what happened here."

Broken promises in the wind

In 1988 Alison Hunt interpreted in Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara the Bark Petitions and Barunga Statement to the former Prime Minister Bob Hawke. He promised that there would be a Treaty at the time of his current serving government - a promise that gave Aboriginal people hope.

Aunty Alison says "I’ll repeat the words of Bob Hawke."

"He promised that there will be a Treaty with Aboriginal people and that he will get a group of people to go out to each community to talk about it -  to let Anangu people know. Do you know what?

"That didn’t happen.

"It’s still standing, it’s been taken away with the wind it was just a talk. Just a promise as usual." 

Do you think you will see a Treaty in your life time?

Aunty Alison says "Maybe we have to say maybe.

"We are too used to empty promises so we just just focusing on Uluru.

"Take the name off, don’t use that."

She says "If the Referendum Council want to pick a name and move on for their Referendum on the Constitution go ahead."

"But leave our scared land out of it, that’s what my people are asking.

"I’m only a messenger, so don’t shoot the messenger."

As a tribal Elder of the APY Lands, Aunty Alison says she couldn't speak to the media on the site of Uluru if she didn't have full support from her Tribal Elders and the Board of Management of Uluru Kata-Tjuta National Park.

"If the Referendum Council want to pick a name and move on for their referendum on the Constitution go ahead, but leave our sacred land out of it." 

Anangu Senior Tribal Elder and former Chair of the Uluru Kata-Tjuta National Park Board of Management Mr Donald Fraser explains to NITV Radio why deep consultation was required for the name of Uluru to be used for the Uluru Statement From The Heart.

Mr Fraser says "The concern that floats around the country here is the Uluru Statement."

"There should have been another name instead of Uluru.

"If it’s going to be Uluru it should have been consulted or written a letter from that organisation to Uluru Kata-Tjuta Board of Management.

"That’s the area that we are concerned about."

"English isn't my peoples' first language. Interpreting the Referendum recommendations and the Constitution would have to be explained in detail in Anangu so people can all work together."

On the matter of the request to change the name of the Uluru Statement, Mr Fraser says "There should have been strong consultation so all the families of the Central Desert could learn the processes of Constitutional Recognition."

He also says "English isn't my peoples first language."

"Interpreting the Referendum recommendations and the Constitution would have to be explained in detail in Anangu so people can all work together."

Would it be normal for customary law and constitutional law to be contractual in an agreement?

Mr Fraser says that to use the name Uluru, the referendum would have to make decisions for all of the people based on the land right of the Rock.

He says that the statement is totally new to the Anangu people and that if there was a deeper understanding of the process then there's no reason that the Anangu people would not accommodate it - "if we can understand the depths of it through a consultation," he says.

"There’s a lot of people to cover and that’s what we used to do to get the Land Right right."

"We’ve have the Kalkaringi Statement,we’ve got the Redfern Statement. It’s not unusual to have the name of that meeting place and where the statement comes out."

Gurindji Co-Chair of the Uluru Statement Working Group Josie Crawshaw says the name of 'Uluru Statement From The Heart' is crucial to her working group's existence.

She also says that she is aware of the request for the name of Uluru to be taken off the statement and that if the Anangu Traditional Owners make that decision then she will respect it. 

Josie says ''respecting people's cultures and place names it’s critical."

"We’ve talked about this issue," she says. "In the event that the Kata-Tjuta People and their governing body actually make a decision that says that we can not use that name, we must respect that.'

The Uluru Statment working group is made up of 29 delegates, including three young people who were elected at the First Nations Convention after a series of community and regional dialogues leading up to the final meeting at Yulara in May.

"We’ve looked at how will we rename ourselves and it will be something like 'The First Peoples Statement From The Heart.'"

Josie Crawshaw says the working group an is an outcome of the convention, who were given the mandate to progress the 300 delegates aspirations contained in the Uluru Statement from the Heart.  It is important for the Australian people to understand that the Uluru Statement From the Heart is separate to the Australian Government's Referendum Council's Final Report and recommendations. 

The Uluru Statement Working Group's legitimacy is to progress the Statement From The Heart's aspirations.

The group is not funded and members work in a voluntary capacity. Up until a recent three day Think Tank meeting at Brambuk Cultural Centre in Victoria the group have been working with other key stakeholders to identify alliances, given the shifting political landscape on this matter since the First Nations Convention at Yulara. 

Since the Prime Minister's rejection on a referendum on a Voice to Parliament Josie Crawshaw says 'Our view is to put our energies into two other pillars of developing and campaigning for a Truth Telling Commission and and Treaties Commission.'

Respecting protocol

Josie says the working group are aware of a meeting between a member of the Referendum Council and Traditional Owners at Mutitjulu has taken place and that her group are prepared to respect the request. 

"We’ve looked at how will we rename ourselves and it will be something like 'The First Peoples Statement From The Heart,'" she says. "We are looking at that to see where it will fall and hopefully we will see that decided shortly."

"Respecting people's cultures and place names it’s critical.

"It’s not an unusual practice around the world even for us as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

"We’ve had statements called the Barunga Statement because we had the big meeting that happened there, we’ve have the Kalkaringi Statement, we’ve got the Redfern Statement.

"It’s not unusual to have the name of that meeting place and where the statement comes out."

Josie says that it's time to make the change now there has been a request from Anangu Tribal Elders, "However what is clear now and I think that it’s timely those discussions are had upfront and maybe we look at another way that we name that.

"I’m not sure - but it's up to them for their cultural reasons and their concerns around that, you know we have to respect that.

"That’s absolute protocol."