FEDERATION OF VICTORIAN TRADITIONAL OWNER CORPORATIONS CHAIR’S OPINION PIECE ON JANUARY 26

 

What to change, what to continue and what to celebrate?

WORDS BY: Jason Mifsud - FVTOC Chair

To change the date – or not?

This is the question that continually occupies our national debate each year.

In my humble opinion, it is a legitimate question to be asking but perhaps the wrong question is continually being posed.

Let me be clear, the day needs to change for what it stands to celebrate, but if we want real change then the conversation needs to shift to a meaningful debate about changing the nation.

Rather than a symbolic gesture on a date change, let’s address the real issues that we are facing in this country. Let’s change the date debate to the republican debate, let’s focus on establishing an entrenched Indigenous voice to parliament, let’s combat the real issues. Therefore, creating an opportunity to unify ‘old and new’ Australians. This would seem to be the most logical and pragmatic solution available.

We do have major issues to resolve in this country that continues to lock out – deliberately or otherwise - Indigenous people from equity in the design and development of our own futures.

Futures that reignites our traditional customs and practices in the 21st century.

However, I don’t believe that we should be allocating so much time and energy to the debate on January 26 for several reasons including the fact that if we do change it, what would the agreeable date become?

I believe that we have an amazing country and that largely speaking, most Australians are good, decent and supportive people.

People that once exposed and engaged in Indigenous knowledge, skills and philosophy are embarrassed on how our education system has - failed us all - to date.

This is what we should be changing.

Of course, we have the those in all communities that challenge us with their views and opinions however we are blessed that we live in a country that not only supports but encourages the difference of voice and democracy.

This is what we need to celebrate.

Unfortunately, during this time of year – and increasingly all year round – we sometimes forget to reflect on what we do have, as opposed to what we don’t!

We know that there are major issues that continually divide black and white Australia. Issues such as structural and systemic racism.

Issues that see many of our Indigenous brothers and sisters completely alienated from the basic human rights other Australians enjoy.

This needs changing – immediately.

However, we also know that the past decade or two has seen progress within many Aboriginal communities and many Aboriginal families.

Clearly these successes have been hard fought and built on the back of generations of fierce advocacy and leadership.

This we need to continue.

We know that meaningful social change is hard work and requires many to work together for the greater good.

At best, the world of Aboriginal Affairs is an incremental business.

This is why the current Treaty process in Victoria and Voice to Parliament in Canberra is critically important.

Both strategies are far from perfect – whatever perfect looks like!

Regardless, what Treaty and the Voice both do is deal with the - root cause - of Indigenous disadvantage.

Treaty and the Voice are express vehicles to building equity in the structural and systemic design of Indigenous social, cultural, economic and political rights.

Rights upheld by the United Nations Declaration for Indigenous Peoples and the Victorian Human Rights Charter.

This is the primary aim of self determination!

This requires immediate change.

And that is what our purpose at the Federation of Victorian Traditional Owner Corporations is.

To provide a voice for Traditional Owners to determine their own futures.

This will never change.