What is 'Queers for Reconciliation'?
This group was formed in response to the need for a presence in the 1998 Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras which expressed our communities support for Reconciliation and for the Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Communities. 

This year marks not just the 20th anniversary of the Mardi Gras parade but also ten years since the first organised Aboriginal presence in the parade, organised by Malcolm Cole.  (A group marched in the 1980 Parade under a 'Black Gays' banner.) 

1998 is also being touted as the year of the 'race-based election' following the government's decision to pursue its racist 'ten point plan' opposing the High Court's Wik decision. 

For many thousands of Australians, in every city and town, it is vital to the future of this country that the Reconciliation process occur. We believe that it is vital that our communities play their part. 
 A number of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender organisations have already made statements this year supporting Reconciliation and organisations are involved in practical and ongoing support - we are not the only ones taking action. 

Queers for Reconciliation is an inclusive collaboration between indigenous and non-indigenous people from a variety of cultural, educational and socio-economic backgrounds­truck drivers; lawyers; students; child care workers; high level bureaucrats; dancers; musicians; artists­the usual suspects. 

The float intends to incorporate a goanna that was built by Moree Council for a local reconciliation celebration in 1997.  That particular project involved skill-sharing between Mardi Gras artists and Aboriginal artists from the Moree area, and represents positive links between indigenous and non-indigenous communities.  Bringing the goanna to Mardi Gras highlights the many different ways in which reconciliation can occur at local levels and between diverse communities. 

Queers for Reconciliation intends to run a stall at Mardi Gras Fair Day, where fair-goers will be invited to contribute to the float's decorations. 

The project will be advertised through indigenous and non-indigenous media, through queer and mainstream media, thereby drawing attention to the issues surrounding reconciliation, and encouraging wide-ranging participation.   

The website that the group has established invites users to exchange ideas and publicise the issues. 

Mardi Gras is a cultural festival that celebrates diversity and strives for equality for gay men, lesbians, queers, transsexuals and bisexuals. Queers for Reconciliation links reconciliation to the struggle for equality.  

Reconciliation is a commitment to initiating positive change in the relationships between indigenous and non-indigenous communities. We believe the Mardi Gras parade offers a unique opportunity to show links between these communities in ways that are joyful, involve humour and wit, while remaining deeply committed to political change. 

All participants in Queers for Reconciliation have the opportunity to develop artistic and organisational skills, an increased understanding of the issues surrounding reconciliation in a queer context, as well as personal links across indigenous and non-indigenous communities. The float is also testament to the fact that collaborative processes can involve fun, frivolity and humour ­ not to mention the production of a damn fine float ­ thereby encouraging participants to take risks and extend their cultural comfort zones. 

People watching the parade will have an opportunity to witness the result of a collaborative process between communities, and to access information about reconciliation. 

People participating at Fair Day have an opportunity to contribute to a statement of reconciliation, and to join the groundswell of support for indigenous rights occurring around Australia. 

Queers for Reconciliation believe that a reconciliation float is a unique opportunity to draw local and international media attention to the struggle for native title and justice in this country. 

Our large entry in the parade needs funding and other in-kind support. Your support is vital. You can join the entry - see the DIARY for information on when and where we meet and an contact points to find out about rehearsals.  

If you can financially support in any way this would be a great help. Please send donations to PO Box 121, Newtown NSW 2042 Australia, making any cheques to 'Queers for reconciliation'.

 Black White and Pink's Forum:
 HARMONY - An Afternoon of Reconciliation

What's in the float?
"The dance will enact the construction and destruction of fences in order to convey the ways in which non indigenous people have used their land, as well as the barriers which prevent reconciliation, and which must be broken down in order to achieve it." 

Leaping lizards: the giant goanna of peace  
Bridging gaps ... the seven metre goanna created for Moree's reconciliation festival by Sydney lesbians and local youth  
Goanna Photograph by Nick Moir 

Lesbians & Gays for Reconciliation (Melbourne) 

Mick Dodson's remarks at the launch of Black + White + Pink indigenous anti-homophobia campaign 

Reconciliation statement by Sydney Gay & Lesbian Community Organisations 

Reconciliation statement by the bisexual & transgender communities 

Reconciliation statement by Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras 

Reconciliation statement by Gay & Lesbian Welfare Association (Brisbane) 

What is Reconciliation?
Photograph by Amanda James
Reconciliation is a process which strives to improve relations between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and the wider community. It is based on recognition of: 
    the unique position of indigenous Australians as the original inhabitants of this continent; 

    the need to overcome continuing disadvantage they suffer as a legacy of policies and practices which dispossessed them of their traditional lands, separated indigenous children from their families and actively discouraged their participation in Australia's economic and social development; 

    and the wish of the vast majority of Australians to participate in the creation of a confident, harmonious nation as we approach the Centenary of Federation in 2001.  

Reconciliation in Australia essentially depends on the ideas, the effort and the goodwill of people in the community. 


Church split emerges over lesbian leader  
Sydney Morning Herald story documents support from Sydney-based Aboriginal  women affirmed their support for an out Church leader Ms McRae-McMahon and other homosexual leaders and members of Australia’s third largest church. 

There are many other ways in which you can support Reconciliation. See the SUPPORT section.

What is the Wik legislation and why is it a bad thing?


In 1992 the High Court of Australia recognised the traditional rights of indigenous people to land in the Mabo case. 

These rights are known as native title.  

    Many people are familiar with freehold and leasehold title to land. 
    Native title is another form of title to land. It recognises that Aboriginal people originally owned all of Australia, and that some of these ancient rights have survived.  
    Native title may include rights of ownership, possession, occupation and enjoyment of land. 


    Many mining leases have been issued on pastoral leases since 1994 without taking into account native title.  
    Miners and indigenous people recognise the importance of reaching agreement to enable development to proceed. 
    The Minerals Council of Australia has said it will negotiate and does not support the extinguishment of native title.  


    Certainty and clarity are best achieved by people sitting down together and negotiating fair agreements for land use which will benefit all parties.  
    This is already the case with many development proposals in Australia. 
    In Canada, New Zealand and the USA, wide ranging agreements which respect the rights of indigenous people, developers and the wider community have been successfully negotiated.  



Myth - The Native Title Act should be changed to allow pastoralists more activities 

    Pastoralists have always had to obtain permission from government if they wished to expand their activities - e.g. tourism ventures, or sub-division for sale.  
    Clearly these ventures, and potential mining or other developments, may affect native title rights.  
    Native title is now recognised by law, and negotiations must occur before these activities proceed.  


Myth - The Native Title Act should be changed to reduce the 'right to negotiate'  
    Negotiating agreements is the only way to deliver certainty to all parties.  
    Without the right to negotiate, indigenous people will be forced to go to the courts, which will create delay and uncertainty for industry.  


Myth - The Keating Government extinguished native title on pastoral leases 
    Neither the Mabo decision, nor the Native Title Act dealt with the pastoral lease issue.  
    Paul Keating told Parliament in October 1993 "pastoral leases extinguish native title to the extent of any inconsistency. That is they do not extinguish absolutely".  
    It was always understood that the Wik decision would resolve the issue.  


Myth - Pastoralists will lose rights 
    The pastoralist has not lost any rights. Pastoralists have the same rights that they have always had under their lease.  
    Graziers can continue to run cattle and do all things incidental to running a cattle station.  
    The High Court explained that pastoralists have an exclusive right to pasture, but not exclusive rights to possession of land.  
    Pastoral leases were introduced because there was no law to cover squatters taking over large tracts of land in the early part of the nineteenth century.  
    Justice Toohey wrote that land tenure history "reflects the desire of the pastoralists for some form of security of title and the clear intention of the Crown that the pastoralists should not acquire the freehold of large areas of land, the future use of which could not be readily foreseen".  


Myth - The Wik Decision created uncertainty 
    The Wik decision has delivered certainty.  
    Indigenous people now know that their native title rights can co-exist with current pastoral leases, and may still exist on vacant Crown land which used to be subject to leases.  
    Pastoralists know that their leases are valid and take priority over native title.  
    Governments and the mining industry know that they must use the Native Title Act 1993 and negotiate with indigenous people regarding future development. 


Myth - The value of a pastoral lease will fall 
    Banks have advised that the Wik decision will not affect the value of pastoral leases or cause difficulties for pastoralists in borrowing money.  
    This is because financial institutions loan money on the basis of the value of the stock and equipment (a 'stock mortgage') - not on the value of the land.  
    A representative from the Australian Bankers Association has explained: "invariably a bank will look to the stock that is on the land rather than the land itself as its primary source of security".  
Myth - Extinguishing native title is the best option 
    Extinguishing native title would lead to lengthy litigation and a massive compensation bill - indigenous people are protected by the Racial Discrimination Act 1975, and by the Australian Constitution which requires 'just terms' compensation for any property acquired.  
    Any attempt to override the Racial Discrimination Act will lead to national and international outcry and extensive litigation.  
    The negotiation of agreements in good faith is the only way to deliver certainty to all Australians.  
    These agreements are well established in Canada, New Zealand and the USA and there are many examples of successfully negotiated agreements in Australia. 
*(from a brochure produced by the Northern land Council (NLC) for the Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) for distribution throughout Australia in Jan 1997).
The Agreement on Native Title compared with the Ten Point Plan (Attachment to NIWG Media Release 5 July 1998) 
  (for more information about the High Court's Wik decision visit the Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Commission's 'Plain English Guide to the Wik decision' or the site of clippings from 'The Age' newspaper) 

stick with Wik 

Read about who will gain from the government's racist Ten Point Plan  

"..  if Aboriginal people get to share the riches that are still left in this country, what is wrong with that? because it's only been 125 years since they took all the riches .."  

Read 'A Black view of Howard's way'  

"I don't think there's ever been such ill-will about the administration and policy development in Aboriginal affairs ever in the 20th century, having due regard to previous historic periods and different ways of thinking. I mean, these blokes are reinventing the 19th century." 

Indigenous people's Law-Ways: Survival against the colonialist state  
by Irene Watson  
the true story of Hindmarsh  "To those who say as they did when they planted the theory of terra nullius upon our lands that we were peoples without law, and to those who say women's law-business is a fabrication, I say: you are ignorant, and have much to learn."  
Photograph by Amanda James
OTHER RESOURCES ON WIK Wik - No cause for extinguishment. Monash Law lecturer Pam O'Connor cuts through the political hype and offers a more rational analysis of the judgment and its implications. Malcolm Farnsworth's page contains links to a huge back catalogue of media coverage amongst many other pages and links. Australians for Native Title explanation. 
ABC RN 'Background Briefing' story on the claim of the Yorta Yorta people. Documents on the Northern Land Council's (NLC) site include: The Mabo decision and Native Title Act; A Guide to Native Title; Comparison of the Native Title Act and the NT Land Rights Act; Pastoral Leases and Native Title; Recent statements on Native Title; Native Title "Political War"; Yunupingu's proposal over Native Title - 22/1/97; Explaining the myths regarding the Wik decision; Native Title, Pastoral Leases & Models for Co-Existence; NLC response to the Wik High Court decision; Opinion piece by Professor Marcia Langton for the Financial Review - Jan 1997; Yunupingu's paper to the Wik Summit - 21/1/97; Legal risk: from The Age
Who are the 'Stolen Generation'?

"Being taken away is like a death, and coming home is like a birth," said an Alice Springs man to the National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from Their Families. "Coming home is a rebirth of the spirit."   

"Home" means many different things to the generations of Aboriginal people who were forcibly removed from their families as children. Home can be a physical place, rediscovering family ties, a feeling of belonging, even the return of one's real name. Home, in all its manifestations, is what the "stolen generations" were denied, under Government laws, practices and policies designed to break down Aboriginal family and culture, and assimilate an entire race of people into mainstream white society. But   
the journey home is, for many, the most difficult to make.   

The forced removal of Indigenous children happened in every state and territory in Australia. Laws sanctioning the separation of Aboriginal children were in place in Victoria and New South Wales as early as 1885 and in some states were not formally abolished until the early 1970's.   

Every Aboriginal family has been affected in some way, either by having children taken or by being forced to make drastic life decisions to avoid having children taken. The Inquiry has heard of mothers who smeared black clay on fair skinned children, hid their children in trees, behind sand dunes, in hollow logs; of whole families who were constantly on the move to keep one step ahead of "the welfare"; of people who said they were Italian, Maori or Greek, concealing their true identity to escape the strict control of the Protector. The Link-Up organisation of New South Wales told the Inquiry in July "the threat of taking children was deliberately used by the (Protection) Board to control the behaviour of Aboriginal parents and other adults. as Bruno Bettleheim points out in his analysis of Nazi tactics during the Holocaust, terror which relies on making an example of only a few people is one of the most effective means of controlling an entire group."  

However, forced separation affected more than a "few people". During the Inquiry's public sittings in Sydney, the New South Wales government estimated that in that state alone, at lease eight thousand Aboriginal children were removed from their families between 1885 and 1969 

Similar estimates have been made in other jurisdictions but an overall figure is impossible to determine based on surviving Government and Church records. 

The effects of this massive dislocation are far easier to determine, if only because they are so visible in Aboriginal society today. 43 of the 99 deaths investigated by the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody were of people who were separated from their families as children. Many of them had experienced a lifetime of institutionalisation and severe psychological distress related to their removal. 

In every jurisdiction, people have told the Inquiry these laws, practices and policies constituted genocide. There is mounting evidence received by the Inquiry to indicate this was the case, if not in outcome then certainly in intent.  

*extracts from 'Bringing them home: National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from Their Families'. 
READ Canada's apology to their 'Stolen Generation'

There are many other ways in which you can support Reconciliation. See the SUPPORT section.


Don't forget to sign in to the Guestbook with your thoughts and comments!


sorry ribbon ONLINE APOLOGY to the 'Stolen generations' from the lesbian, bi, trany, gay and queer identified communities 


The entire text of 'Bringing them Home' is available from the Human Rights & Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC) website along with facts about the Stolen Children Inquiry, information about 'Who spoke out at the time?' ("It is not true to say that people 'did not know'. People did know, but the warnings went unheeded") and Articles and Stories. Malcolm Farnsworth's page contains links to some 'stolen children' media coverage. Read Kirsten Garrett's ABC Background Briefing story on the 'stolen generation'.

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