These same people have been involved with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) which proved to be a failure and cost billions of dollars. It has achieved little and has not improved the quality of life for Aboriginal people. It must not be allowed to reoccur. There has been a lack of accountability, inefficient organisation and a squandering of public funds with consequent hostility from mainstream Australia.
I remember sitting outside a ministerial office at Parliament House with a relative around the age of 11 when an Aboriginal woman came out in conversation and mutual agreement. I recall hearing Aboriginal women complaining about the corruption, gambling, drunkenness and bad behaviour of the elected members who made many non-Indigenous Australians Aboriginal people in order to increase their vote and ensure their return to power. I recall this lady saying, John Howard has so many black fellas ringing him, telling him to close it down, but he has no choice.
Most of the ASTIC members had high paying Aboriginal positions. One man went on to run the State Aboriginal Land Council (which holds a billion dollars in cash but cannot maintain the repairs and maintenance of their housing stock and he does not make it easy for Aboriginal Land Council members to own land. The then Commonwealth Ombudsman Philippa Smith AM said this man should never hold a commonwealth role again yet he went on to be the CEO of the National Congress of Australian First Peoples which spent $38 million in a few years and is now the CEO of one of the wealthiest Land Councils in NSW. This is after he engaged in corrupt procurement practices at Burnt Bridge Aboriginal Reserve which has caused the community to suffer for decades from substandard housing and the mismanagement of housing allocation. ATSIC allowed bullying and rioting which resulted in a relative of mine almost dying.
No publicly funded organisation should consider itself immune from accountability. Yet ATSIC sidestepped accountability by hiding behind the veil of racism. During 25 years of change, things remain unchanging and the flow of public money continues to reach the same Aboriginal elite industries and voiceless Aboriginal people and the public are called racist. The Uluru Statement concludes with an oratory elaboration: In 1967 we were counted, in 2017 we seek to be heard.
There has been $55 million spent on this Uluru process and Aboriginal people on the ground have not been consulted.
Despite the millions of dollars showered upon these elite Aboriginal groups over the past 50 years, there has been little improvement to the real problems such as economic improvement, housing affordability, education and the safety of our children.
Megan Davis, Noel Pearson, Rachael Perkins and Thomas Mayor (union representative) together with others involved behind the scenes such as Marcia Langton and Bruce Pascoe (an unverified Aboriginal person) organised the Uluru Statement convention. However this leadership group failed to comprehensively consult with Indigenous people living in communities, despite the fact many Aboriginal organisation leaders had been invited. In May 2017, twelve meetings were held across Australia and 250 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were chosen from 1200 possible candidates to participate at the gathering. However no independent process was enacted to determine who should attend. The chosen group met for four days at Uluru and the Statement was not verified.
Nonetheless, the convention organisers claimed the gathering had reached a consensus however, delegates from Victoria and NSW walked out claiming they had been threatened by the organisers.
Josephine Cashman: What do you like about Wilcannia Micheal?
Michael Kennedy: It is where all my people are from we are the Barkandji people. The one thing we love most here is the river. It is full at the moment, isn't it? Yeah, it is good, real good.
Josephine Cashman: How many children do you have?
Michael Kennedy: Four.
Josephine Cashman:What are their ages? The oldest ones 18, youngest ones is two.
Josephine Cashman: Have you heard of the Uluru Statement?
Michael Kennedy: Yeah, I have heard of it.
Josephine Cashman: Has anyone asked you what your view on it is?
Michael Kennedy: Nah. We have had no consultations.
Josephine Cashman: Do you know a person call Noel Pearson?
Michael Kennedy I've heard of him.
Josephine Cashman:Marcia Langton?
Michael Kennedy:Yeah a little bit about her.
Josephine Cashman: Megan Davis?
Michael Kennedy: Yeah, same.
Josephine Cashman: Mark Leibler?
Michael Kennedy: Yeah.
Josephine Cashman: Do any of these people speak for you?
Michael Kennedy: I would like to think I speak for myself and for my people, where I live here in Wilcannia. They're saying that the majority of aboriginal people want the Uluru Statement. Yeah I don't think that's entirely true.
Why can't aboriginal people own their own homes? Individually yeah not individually.
Josephine Cashman: Do you think that would make a difference to people's lives if they could have their own home?
Michael Kennedy: Yeah a lot of them it would yeah.
Josephine Cashman: What do you think needs to happen in aboriginal affairs?
Michael Kennedy:People that actually make decisions need to come and sit at the table with us. And heard straight from us as on the ground people that live here. You know people outside and probably never been here making decisions on a lot of the stuff in the community.
Josephine Cashman: A lot of people say well aboriginal people should take responsibility and all this but if you've got no decision making do you think it affects people like psychologically you gotta wait for someone else to repair your home you don't own your home you have someone else comes in and tells you what to do you think that's part of the problem?
Michael Kennedy: Yeah well you know it takes away that sense of leadership ownership. You know I grew up around a lot of aboriginal politics showing me grandmother and grandfather and my aunties and uncles gone back a few while there was a lot of decisions they made that used to be directly impacted on the community and now a lot of that decision making was it has to go through you know different organisations or different levels of people and before a decision can be handed down to the community. That decision used to be made with underground people. I used to work on properties for a lot of years like contracting with mustering, and fencing and stuff like that.
Josephine Cashman: Do you enjoy it?
Michael Kennedy: i used to love it, yeah and that's why I did it I didn't do it because of the money and that it was just a lot so peaceful at times you know you go to work and it's peaceful at work after work or when you get up early in the mornings it's just so peaceful being out bush on country.
Michael Kennedy: Since my involvement with the Land Council and you know being the chair role and that it was always my vision to get to that stage where we do have control over our lives basically. You know the decision making what we want to do being told or how to run our own affairs. A lot of the people around here, they went off the land and back into town and that's when a lot of not so much that generation but as generations went on it slowly drifted out of our people that that work mentality and not having a job. You know because station hands was a very very big part of the job industry around him like every family around he was working on the land you know like there's not one family here their grandmother or grandfather didn't work on the land everyone around in this community their family worked out on the land. And that's how I have it instilled in me because, true nan and pop with Ben Terrigar and you know my old great grandfather before that you know they used to work like Uncle Les he was a full-time fencer, wasn't he?
And Aunty Glad up there and as time went on and things started changing like they could not afford or did not want to pay them they came back into town. And as generations went on it slowly drifted out of them it impacted us a lot because there was a lot less employment. I know me being a man. I love to provide for my family that's, I've always been I felt I needed to be the one that's you know put the bread on the table and that's just my pride. You know like I hate it if I can't provide my family with a meal or you know keep the lights on in their house like I feel like that's my responsibility you know, that's my job.