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Sydney Star Observer, 22 January 1998

Queers for reconciliation float


One of the first actions of Queers for Reconciliation was to write to the Vice-Chancellor of Sydney University to ask him to acknowledge the cultural significance of Victoria Park (it was an important corroboree site and is next door to the University), to fly the aboriginal flag and to guarantee that funding to the Koori Education Centre would be maintained. 

The new group is still waiting ion a reply but it shows what queer groups can do to further the process of reconciliation. 

They are now working on a float for the Mardi Gras parade and has invited people to get involved. 

"A lot of people responded very positively to the Pauline Hanson float last year," said Queers for Reconciliation spokeswoman, Gina Laurie. "That float took up a dangerous political phenomenon and satirised it." 

Laurie said that while a float in the parade would not change the world, it was important to get the message out. "Reconciliation is a very important issue," she said. "And I feel like we are running out of time to get it right." 

While the final form the float will take has not yet been decided, the group has already dispensed with the idea of a burning effigy of John Howard. "We thought about putting his head on the body of a giant prawn and throwing the shrimp on the barbie," said Laurie. 

"But it is too easy to come up with negative images. We want to come up with a positive image that celebrates reconciliation." 

Laurie said her queer identity was tied up with making connections with all sorts of groups on various issues. 

"I can't wait to be in the parade under the banner of Queers for Reconciliation," she said. 

"I would love it if the whole parade marched under that banner." 

A queer guide to Mabo Wik and Native Title

When worrying about Wik it is important to remember that the High Court expressly ruled that when there is a conflict between the rights of native title claimants and pastoral leaseholders, the rights of pastoralists prevail. 

The decisions should be seen in the context of how little they give to indigenous Australians and how much they guarantee for white landholders. 

What did the Mabo High Court decision mean? 

In the Mabo decision, the High Court held that Australian common law recognises a form of native title to land. 

The Court rejected the notion of terra nullius (land belonging to no-one). 

The Mabo decision did not create a new form of land title, instead it more explicitly recognised existing legal rights. 

To make a native title claim, indigenous people have to prove that they have a relationship to that land; prove that the connection has been main- tained (which makes it nearly impossible for the members of the stolen generations) and that their native title rights have not already been extinguished. The Mabo decision did not grant any land to indigenous people nor did it grant any new rights, it merely recognised rights which already existed under common law. 

What is the Native Title Act? 

The Native Title Act was drafted to give legal expression to the Mabo decision. It came into force on January 1, 1994. 

The Act validates past grants of interests in land or water that would otherwise have been invalidated by the Mabo decision. 

The Act established the National Native Title Tribunal which rules on native title claims. It created a Land Fund that can allocate money to help indigenous Australians to acquire and manage land. 

In some cases where indigenous people are able to prove native title, but they cannot exercise those native title rights, compensation can be paid to them. 

The Native Title Act grants indigenous people the right to negotiate over land use. This is not a right of veto. 

What did the Wik High Court decision mean? 

Again, the Wik decision did not grant any land or special rights to indigenous Australians. 

What it did was rule that the Federal Court was wrong when it said that the Wik and Thayorre people had no right to claim native title to the land, because a pastoral lease had also been granted on the land. The court ruled that pas- toral leases did not auto- matically extinguish native title. 

The High Court instead ruled that native title could co-exist with pastoral leases - in other words pastoralists and indigenous people could share the land. 

However, where there was a conflict the rights of the pastoral leaseholder would prevail over the native title holder. 

What is Howard's ten-point plan all about? 

The ten-point plan is racist. It would extinguish only those property rights held by indigenous people. 

  • Instead of promoting co-existence between native title holders and pastoral lease holders, the ten-point plan would extinguish most native title rights.
  • The ten-point plan would also extinguish native title on public land even when there was little or no conflict between the public use and native title uses.
  • It would allow the Federal Government to validate hundreds of unlawful mining licenses and pastoral leases.
  • Native title rights which are inconsistent with pastoralists rights would be extinguished forever on all land which has ever been pastoral leasehold.
  • It also severely curtails the capacity of indigenous groups to claim compensation for lost native title rights.
  • The rights of indigenous people to negotiate would be gutted, leaving traditional owners little ability to protect their heritage.
    • Sign the Australians Citizens Statement on Native Title. []
    • Talk to ten realtives and friends and ask them to sign the statement.
    • Write to ploiticians especially the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition, the Democrats, Green Senators Bob Brown and Dee Margetts and Independent Senator Brian Harradine. Ask them to reject the ten-poin plan. Send letters to Parliament House, Canberra, ACT 2600.
    • Write to, or visit your local federal MP.
    • Join Women for Wik Call 9552 1427.
    • Run a community information stall at your local market or shopping centre. Australians for Native Title and Reconciliation [ANTaR] will supply you with a market kit, all you have to supply is a couple of volunteers and a few hour of your time. Call ANTaR on 9555 6138.