Reconciliation has been successfully colonized by a white agenda, Aborigines are the Fringe Dwellers Again.

These two government appointees have effectively sidelined the Aboriginal agenda to focus on putting on a show of tolerance for the world.

Reconciliation, as promoted by the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation, has become a traveling road show of positive multi-coloured photo opportunities with no substance allowed.

Like Australia itself, the process has been successfully colonized by a white agenda.

Aboriginal concerns have been shunted aside and black leaders are being told that if they don’t stop talking about their issues they will endanger Reconciliation itself.

The Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation (CAR) is now in direct confrontation with most [if not all] the important Aboriginal leaders in this country.

This last week has seen Evelyn Scott venturing into print to condemn the “Boys Club” of Aboriginal leaders ( Pearson, Mansell, Clark, Ridgeway etc) for excluding her from their meeting called to discuss strategies for pushing the treaty debate along.

However Evelyn Scott has excluded herself from the treaty debate by reneging on her responsibility as Chair of the CAR to lead this debate.

This turn of events could not have been imagined under the leadership of their predecessors Father Patrick Dodson and Ian Viner. These two men worked tirelessly, developing strong community awareness about what is required for a REAL reconciliation.

That real reconciliation involved ensuring delivery of basic services to Aboriginal communities, constitutional change to recognize prior ownership, compensation for the Stolen Generation and a treaty or (more likely) many separate treaties with Aboriginal Native Title holders.

In those early years,, it was hard and emotionally exhausting to be constantly fighting against the racism that seemed to be permanently blocking the road to equality.

Now Australians are creating a sea change from the grass roots up and the conditions for speading the good word of reconciliation seems never brighter.

How frustrating it must be for Father Patrick Dodson and Mr Viner to see the current leadship failing to build on their good work. Dodson and Viner tilled the soil and planted the seeds, only to watch their successors fail to water the blooms that are now appearing.

The Council’s 1991 charter bound it to developing a form of words for a treaty by January 1 2001. However, this task will now not be completed. In fact, the Council is actively opposing the development of a treaty.

This week, Scott and Nossell have been at pains to repeatedly tell the media that most non-Aboriginal Australians do not support a treaty and that Aboriginal leaders “were jumping ahead of the community’s expectations.” [SMH 6.6.2000]

Nossell even resorted to using the divisive “two nations” rhetoric in a concerted attempt this week to pour scorn on the long repeated concerns of the elected leaders of Aboriginal Australia.

Geoff Clark, elected Chair of ATSIC replied with the obvious statement, “the practical needs of our communities must be addressed alongside the campaign for true reconciliation.” This statement is the same sentiment that has been expressed by Aboriginal leaders since 1991 when the CAR was first established by PM Bob Hawke to bury the treaty debate. A debate he himself put on the political agenda when he promised a “compact of understanding” by the end of 1988.

Hawke picked up on recommendation 339 of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody,(a non-partisan reconciliation process) and made Pat Dodson the first chair of the new CAR with ten years to prepare Australia for a document or documents of reconciliation.

Just six months from the deadline, Howard appointee Evelyn Scott is refusing to advocate a treaty and apparently will not recommend any form of words for a treaty in the final report due at the end of the year.

Instead Scott and Nossell seem to believe that reconciliation can survive and prosper on a diet of staged assemblies of smiling black and white Australians.

But as the traveling road show rolls on, it is becoming sickeningly clear that Reconciliation is no longer about real solutions to real problems, but about pretty pictures and positive international media coverage.

Sydneysiders were not asked to walk for compensation or a treaty, simply to “show the world how tolerant we are.”

Having the opportunity to wipe away our racist international reputation is white Australia’s reconciliation dividend. By saying sorry and walking for reconciliation we, white Australians, can again be proud to call ourselves Australian. The invaluable media images captured at Corroboree 2000, just three months out from the Olympics, could not be bought with the entire Olympic budget.

To their credit, A.N.T.A.R. (Australians for Native Title and Reconciliation) and thousands of individual walkers filled the vacuum of leadership and loudly expressed their view that whites must do more than say Sorry.

But with White Australia now basking in a warm inner glow of tolerance why does Nossell and Scott continue to deny Aborigines a reconciliation pay out?

Nossell claims that most Australians do not support a treaty, yet the latest polls prove just how wrong he is. Less than 40% of Australians now oppose a treaty with almost an outright majority in favour. This level of support has been achieved without support from the nations’ leader or the current leadership of the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation.

But Nossell can not be expected to be in touch with the community’s feelings on this matter since he and Scott have dropped the treaty question from the Council’s own private polling surveys.

In the face of all the evidence, Nossell even declared that those Australians who walked for Reconciliation do not support Aboriginal calls for compensation for the stolen children or a treaty.

The good work of Scott and Nossell’s predecessors Father Patrick Dodson and Ian Viner cannot be undone. They deserve the credit for the ever-growing community support for real action, not words, to right the wrongs of the past. Support that can only be lost through lack of leadership.

The Council must now seriously ask itself what real contribution it is making. Without real outcomes for Aboriginal people, Reconciliation must be considered a failure.

If the leadserhip of the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation can’t recognize that then they become yet another tool in the colonization and dispossession of Aboriginal people.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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