Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner Mick Gooda has rejected the idea that acknowledging traditional owners is tokenistic, saying it is an accepted mark of respect.
Responding to references by the Federal Opposition leader Tony Abbott, on the weekend that the practice was tokenistic and paternalistic, Commissioner Gooda said such acknowledgements were a statement of fact and critical to the nation’s ongoing reconciliation process.
“The High Court of Australia in the Mabo decision recognised the fact that Australia was occupied when the British came here and that the land (and the seas) continued to be cared for, occupied, utilised and identified as the land of different tribal groups, operating in accordance with their customary laws and traditions,” Commissioner Gooda said.
“It was more than 200 years before the courts finally recognised this fact in 1992 and it, along with the National Apology to the Stolen Generations, has steered us along the reconciliation path that we are still travelling on.
“Acknowledging Traditional Owners is a contemporary and practical way of enshrining the High Court decision in Mabo,” Commissioner Gooda said. “As a nation, we have now moved beyond debating what is a self-evident truth about our history. Acknowledging Traditional Owners is a matter of respect,” Commissioner Gooda said.
Media contact: Louise McDermott on 0419 258 597 02 9284 9851
Australian Human Rights Commission, Media Release, 15 March 2010