In 1992, Indigenous Nations celebrated the Mabo Judgement, which finally recognised, partially, their traditional ownership of their country. Since then, both major parties have stacked the High Court with judges hostile to civil rights in general and Indigenous rights in particular. On December 12, a five-to-two majority effectively annulled Mabo — part of a ruling class campaign to deny the fact that the Australian State occupies land stolen through attempted genocide.
White Australia has a Black Present. Central to the court’s ruling is its denial of the ongoing connection of the Yorta Yorta with their lands, and so of their existence as a Nation. This is a contemptible judgement, a ruling for the thieves; a ruling written in the language of thieves, a ruling backed by the illegitimate authority of thieves. Indigenous peoples draw on cultural traditions at least 75,000 years old — traditions which hold that custodianship of land is much more than putting a fence around a patch of scrub. Far from being “washed away by the tide of history,” Indigenous Nations are skilled navigators of its currents. Their cultures and economies have continuously evolved as they’ve managed and changed the Australian landscape. The fact that their relationship to their country has been modified to cope with invaders does not for one second alter the fact of their ongoing right to it. Cultural change is not cultural extinction.
Organise and fight. Indigenous Nations and the working people of this country, whose needs also remain unmet, must reach out to each other, demanding legal and economic rights for all. But we must do this in the knowledge that only we can right the injustices of the past and the wrongs of the present. The lesson of December 12, 2002 is that Indigenous sovereignty is a revolutionary demand. Very well! Time to drown our mutual oppressors in the tide of history!