Perhaps it should be of no surprise to anyone but the twenty Senators in the 45th Parliament who have indicated their support for the removal of Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975, are all white people - every last one. At the same time, in the House Of Representatives, we have just had the maiden speech of our first indigenous MP, Linda Burney.
This speech would have gone unnoticed by the vast majority of media if it hadn't been for the choice of one hot button word "invasion". The speech sat relatively dormant for about twelve hours into the publication of the daily Hansard transcript and then everything just sort of kicked off and went from smouldering to absolutely cat scratch insane.
Let me tell you a little of the Wiradjuri story. In Wiradjuri lore Biami is the creation spirit. He is the source of both our physical and moral landscape. The story of invasion and conquest for the Wiradjuri is a brutal one. The deadly art of poisoning waterholes and flour began in Wiradjuri country. Massacre sites are dotted all over my lands
In Barton, from the beach in Brighton-Le-Sands you can stand and look towards Botany Bay where the First Fleet in 1788 first entered these shores. Settlement or invasion is a matter of perspective—of whether you were on the shore or on the boats in the middle of the bay. I spoke earlier of truth-telling. Perhaps another great act of honesty and healing would be a permanent remembering of those frontier wars, just down the road at our national war memorial.
- Linda Burney, Maiden Speech, 31st Aug 2016
So I thought I'd add even more wood to the glorious bonfire of public insanity by throwing on logs of actual truth and then standing back and letting the flames burn even higher, Wilder and hotter.
Let's do this in the style of a Year 9 Debate. I define the word invasion to be:
Hostile actions by a military force with the intention of gaining territory and occupying it in the name of one entity while depriving another entity of its use and enjoyment.
I don't honestly see how by any possible practical definition of the word invasion, how the events of 26th January, 1788 were anything but an invasion.
The First Fleet which came sailing through the heads in that balmy January, late in the eighteenth century consisted of six transport ships, three supply ships, three Royal Navy escort ships and the ten-gun HMS Sirius, which was Commander Arthur Phillip RN's personal ship. The whole thing was a Royal Navy operation and if the sight of eleven Royal Navy ships didn't suggest that this was an invasion, then the deployment of redcoats who were to become the New South Wales Corp's should have done.
Even if you discount the fact that the convicts probably came against their will, the suggestion that this wasn't an invasion is both ignorant of reality or deeply dishonest and denies the facts of the matter. A Royal Navy operation with the intent of taking land away from the native peoples and at the point of gun isn't an invasion? Seriously?
One only needs to look at the set of instructions which is were given to Commander Arthur Philip to get a sense of what they were tasked with.
It is therefore Our Will and Pleasure that you do immediately upon your landing after taking Measures for securing Yourself and the people who accompany you, as much as possible from any attacks or Interruptions of the Natives of that Country, as well as for the preservation and safety of the Public Stores, proceed to the Cultivation of the Land, distributing the Convicts for that purpose in such manner, and under such Inspectors or Overseers and under such Regulations as may appear to You to be necessary and best calculated for procuring Supplies of Grain and Ground Provisions.
It is our Will and Pleasure that in every such case you do issue your Warrant to every such to the Surveyor of Lands person as you may think competent to the discharge of that trust to make surveys of, and mark out in Lots such Lands upon the said Territory as may be necessary for their use; and when that shall be done, that you do pass Grants thereof with all convenient speed to any of the said Convicts so emancipated.
There is no sense of negotiating with or even recognising the existence of first peoples, let alone any claims that they might have on the land. Not that the Eora people who first witnessed the arrival of eleven ships coming up Sydney Harbour would have even the slightest idea of English civil and common law. As it was, it took until Mabo v Queensland (No 2) in 1992 for the nation state to recognise that the de facto ruling of Terra Nullius was invalid; so what hope would have an illiterate people who didn't even speak the language have, some 206 years earlier?
What I found almost bizarre was the reaction on talkback radio that the suggestion that the 26th of January as an invasion was racist against white people. I mean technically you could argue that that sort of language was meant to humiliate and offend and therefore be a trigger under 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act but that actually denies that other rule which lives in conjunction with that same act in that it is legally impossible to defame the dead because they can not personally take any offence whatsoever. Unless you have access to time travel or have the ability to reanimate or resurrect the dead, then such a claim would fail over instantly.
Quite obviously rolling back the effects of 228 years of settlement is both as impractical as it is impossible but I don't think that such a thing has been suggested. What Ms Burney's speech has done for only a few and rare select times in the nation's history is speak words about an injury from the perspective of the ones who have suffered an injury. It always seems weird to me that the person responsible for things like indigenous affairs of women's issues should be someone who isn't indigenous or who isn't a woman. I have said in the past that I hate the idea of recognising indigenous Australians in the Constitution because I see that as a token and rather pointless gesture*; what Ms Burnley's speech illustrates exactly why we need indigenous representation not in the words of the Constitution but with footsteps and voices from the floor of the Parliament itself; even if people don't like what they have to say. I would rather truth be told by the people who need to speak it, than voices speaking to them who really do not and can not sympathise with their experience.
*See Horse 1534: http://rollo75.blogspot.com.au/2013/08/horse-1534-aboriginal-recognition-in.html