Illawarra Greens. Social justice, environmental sustainability, peace and non-violence and grassroots democracy.

Sandon Point Tent Embassy

Monday 19 February 2018: Council Meeting Discussion of Sandon Point Tent Embassy

Speaking Notes of Councillor Mithra Cox

I want to start by acknowledging that We are standing on Aboriginal land, and pay my respect to Elders past and present, and particularly to those in the room with us tonight.

Sovereignty was never ceded, there is no treaty and this land was stolen from Aboriginal people.

I would like to quote from Paul Keating famous Redfern speech:

“It begins, I think, with that act of recognition.

Recognition that it was we who did the dispossessing

 We took the traditional lands and smashed the traditional way of life. We brought the diseases. The alcohol.

 We committed the murders.

 We took the children from their mothers.

 We practised discrimination and exclusion.

 It was our ignorance and our prejudice.

 And our failure to imagine these things being done to us.”

Any of us who owns land today - and that includes this council - has benefited from the act of dispossession.

Paul Keating goes on to say that there has been no shortage of guilt for the actions of our governments and our forebears. But guilt is not productive and will not heal the wrongs done. It is our job to listen, to form partnerships with our Aboriginal brothers and sisters, and to give meaning to the words equity and justice.

I felt sick when I saw that we were to be voting on this matter of Sandon Point. Because what right do I have, as a non-Aboriginal person to determine the future of this site, which has been declared as sovereign Aboriginal Land? There is something fundamentally wrong with our system when a council made up of non-Aboriginal people is making decisions about the Sandon Point Tent Embassy.

The tent embassy was set up in 2000 to stop Stockland developing a housing estate on a 6,000 year old burial site. Countless artefacts are buried on the site, many of which have been dug up during the Stockland development.

Stockland was ordered by the Land and Environment Court to build a Keeping Place for those artefacts. It is a disgrace that this has not happened. The Joint Management Committee made up of 5 Aboriginal groups was set up to oversee the building of that keeping place x and always the excuse has been that the groups did not have consensus so the keeping place could not proceed.

Well those groups do not have consensus on demolishing the tent embassy, so why should that proceed when the keeping place cannot?

I would like to suggest a variation to the motion, to recognise that this is sovereign Aboriginal Land, and that any action council takes must be under the direction of the traditional owners.

There is considerable confusion about protocol, and who are the correct traditional owners to consult. The Aboriginal Lands Council, in its statement in the minutes of the meeting where it was decided the structures should be removed identifies “Sandon Point Aboriginal Tent Embassy (S.P.A.T.E) as the recognised and documented entity with oversight of the structures.”

But even if the Joint Management Committee is the governing body, and there are questions about that: we have heard from speakers tonight representing the Lands Council who don’t agree with the position the Lands Council took at the meeting. If there is a meeting of the Lands Council this coming Wednesday, surely we should wait until that has happened so that it can be discussed by the membership and a position is determined.

Whatever the case, this decision should be in the hands of Aboriginal people. We should authorise our GM to give assistance and resources where requested, but we should not be stipulating which, if any, structures should go. That

Variation to point 3:

That the General Manager be delegated to utilises council resources under the direction of the Sandon Point Aboriginal Tent Embassy.

Variation to point 4:

Change “removal of structures” to “any works by council”