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Constitutional Recognition Relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples
05/10/2018
Matters relating to constitutional change

MORAN, Mr Nathan, Chief Executive Officer, Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council

WELDON, Ms Ann, Private capacity

WELDON, Ms Yvonne, Chairperson, Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council

Committee met at 09:28

CHAIR ( Senator Dodson ): I now declare this hearing of the Joint Select Committee on Constitutional Recognition Relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, here in Redfern, open. I acknowledge the Gadigal people of the Eora nation, on whose lands we're gathered, and acknowledge that we're also at the National Centre of Indigenous Excellence, here in Redfern. We appreciate their hospitality and their welcome to this part of the world.

This committee was established by the Australian parliament in March of this year to consider matters relating to constitutional change and recognition. The committee presented its interim report in July and is now seeking further evidence in relation to the First Nations voice, truth telling and agreement making, which arose from the Uluru Statement of the Heart as well as from other forms of recognition. The committee is due to present its final report in November this year. It's not far away.

The committee is pleased to be here in Redfern today to discuss these important matters with members of the community and members of, particularly, the local community. Welcome, representatives from the Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council. I invite you to make a few comments.

Mr Moran : Bujari gamarruwa to everyone. That is simply 'g'day' in the local language of the Eora people. I particularly pay respects and acknowledge that we're on Gadigal country here today. Thanks, Unc, for acknowledging that earlier. Thanks for coming to town. Thanks for coming to the birthplace of the rights movement, as we like to point out to people who may not be aware that Redfern has the quintessential history of founding the first coloured association in 1925 over the hill at Surry Hills in Gadigal country. Then, in 1938, what will forever be known as the day of mourning was hosted and held and facilitated here on Gadigal country—our first quintessential movements towards starting the rights agenda in Australia, not just New South Wales.

As the CEO of Metro Local Aboriginal Land Council, our local land council, I commend you on your work in going around and consulting with our communities about how we can be represented, or at least how our voice and our people, communities and culture can be represented, through the mechanisms of government today. I confess also to being a facilitator at the local dialogue that was held at Rooty Hill—jeez, that seems like a long time ago—at the start of 2017. It's only just yesterday. Our community in Redfern that Metro represents has the backdrop of being the place where community-controlled organisations were born and established from 1971 onwards, until we were established formally in 1984 with the name we carry today. Certainly we were the local land council known as Redfern Land Council that hosted and facilitated the first elections of the New South Wales Aboriginal Land Council in 1977. I am proud to say that was all done voluntarily at the time by our community to give us essentially what we're discussing today, and that is a voice for our people to be represented by their own people through processes.

I point out that one of the strengths of our land rights system in New South Wales is that we have 120 local councils or democratically electing boards who are then electing local zone councillors that feed up towards the state land council. So, if it hasn't been pointed out, I'd like to remind people that land rights in New South Wales have an awesome democratic model of having 120 local land councils connected through nine zones—which used to be known as regions—that form our state land council.

We always feel a bit—if not actually upset—that we hadn't achieved the national rights agenda that we embarked on in the 1970s and certainly even prior to that from the 1930s, when we called out for a national uniformity of a system to represent our people. We feel very guilty that New South Wales has an interconnected system that can truly represent people from Tweed Heads to Tibooburra to Eden to Balranald and, as you said here today, in Redfern. We elect our own representatives to speak on our behalf, and hopefully very shortly the chair, who's the elected representative of our community, will be here.

Our Land Council represents today just on 16,000 Aboriginal people according to the last census. I am very proud to say we've got 560 conferred Aboriginal members who meet the test that we apply in New South Wales, which is the three-part definition test of Aboriginality. We acknowledge throughout time—and certainly in the last generation, since the 1990s, there appear to be a disproportionate number of people who have acknowledged or at least self-identified as Aboriginal. Certainly prior to 1992 the ABS stats prove the disproportion with today's status, when I say there are 16,000 people who identify as Aboriginal. We just put the disclaimer that we know there's been an increase and an emergence of self-identification since 1996's census that's not matched by birth rates, and we just put a little bit of a disclaimer on those numbers. But we certainly represent a large portion of Aboriginal people.

I acknowledge the backdrop, as I said earlier, of Redfern's links. Our old community, who were here when we started in the 1970s and the 1980s, have been relocated through public housing sell-offs and are now today's community at Mount Druitt, today's communities of Campbelltown and today's communities of Richmond. All can trace their connections back into Redfern after being relocated in the public housing sell-offs of the 1970s to the 1980s. In 1972, I point out, we had a population of over 30,000 identified Aboriginal people in the South Sydney local government area. That is very much today's City of Sydney. Today we have fewer than 200 identified Aboriginal families living in that boundary.

So, whilst we maintain our history, our ongoing battle is to maintain the stability of our community through having housing and services that can allow us to remain in the area that we came to, but also acknowledging through that transition and change we've helped grow the population of Sydney. Redfern's made a major contribution not just in politics but also to the demography of Sydney. But at the same time I'd suggest we as Aboriginal people in New South Wales, whilst land rights has done us well, certainly haven't had a national impact. Whilst we've stayed strong at local, regional and state levels, we haven't been able to have influence nationally without any national rep body. The old people, like my grandparents, would talk about a national land rights system. We can't speak in as strong terms as we could if we had a national land rights system or at least an interconnection of the states and territories having equality with each other through having representatives elected by their communities in a similar way.

Certainly that was highlighted when I went up to Mutitjulu, up to the communities, and was part of the consultations and the discussions that led to the Uluru Statement from the Heart. There was dislocation of the national land rights movement in the 1970s. Certainly representatives of our land council who were there in the 1970s trying to form the national Aboriginal congress attest that it's unfinished business for us. We certainly didn't get the national movement in the 1970s. We hope now in 2018—and certainly from that discussion last year in 2017—that we can recommence and renew the call for a national system to represent us all equitably and fairly so that, whether we are Palawa, Yolngu, Koori, Murri or Yamatji, we can have a system that whilst it mightn't be identical at least gives us the basic framework to have our people elected to represent their communities and to speak with certainty and, more importantly, with authority.

My last point is that our councils are challenged today by an ever-increasing individualism that seems to be occurring across our boundary, at least in metro land council areas, where we see corporatisation of our community organisations being preferred and being put forward as a representative model. There's a great problem with that in that they are simply representing their business model or their aspirations and aims according to their incorporated rules, whereas we in land rights have to foster the best interests of all Aboriginal people. We believe that whatever model is established should be representative of all Aboriginal people. It should be open to all Aboriginal people. But, similarly, it should also apply a test like we do.

The entry point for being Aboriginal is that you pass a test of the three-point definition of Aboriginality. Certainly our council and our communities have been stating that we must get back to that three-part definition, and that is simply that you identify as Aboriginal, you identify the family or community lineage and cultural group that you belong and also lastly—and the third point is the most important bit—the community, cultural group or family that you belong to actually also confers support for you to identify. That certainly, we believe, has been the safeguard for ensuring that self-individual interests do not prevail over a collective community or culture. Embedded in our culture is that only people with authority should speak for heritage, identity, kin and culture generally. Certainly since the late 1990s, our communities in New South Wales and particularly metro land council have spoken out against the use of stat declarations for people to identify as Aboriginal and to then go on and be recognised and achieve and realise benefits that should be reserved for the most needy, those being Aboriginals who are proven and accepted by their community. I'd suggest that's an ongoing issue for us in our community, but we hope by having a national uniform system for each other that one day we can apply it whether you're in the Tiwi, Tasmania, Redfern or whatever part of the great islands that are part of Australia today.

CHAIR: Thank you, Mr Moran. I just need to say some things for the record. Whilst we're not seeking for you to give evidence under oath, this is a legal proceeding of the parliament and therefore has the same standing as proceedings of the respective houses, and the giving of any false or misleading evidence is a serious matter and may be regarded as a contempt of parliament. The evidence given today will be recorded by Hansard and attracts parliamentary privilege. There will be a record of your presentation, and you can check that later; if there are corrections to be made, please contact the secretariat. Are there any questions that you would like to raise?

Senator McCARTHY: Sure. Good to see you, Nathan Moran, and thank you for being here this morning as CEO of Metro. You mentioned in your opening statement that you were involved with or included in the process of the dialogues, and you went to Uluru. We're here, obviously, to have a look at a number of things, one of which is a voice to the federal parliament and the shape of that. Would you be able to inform the committee of what Metro's views are on a First Nations voice to the federal parliament?

Mr Moran : Yes. I would state openly that the Metro land council was invited to Rooty Hill; our board and I, as CEO, were invited to the regional dialogue. At that regional dialogue at Rooty Hill, we did state some up-front concerns about the process for selecting people to attend the dialogues. We identified the fragility and the limitations of only having two consults in New South Wales, acknowledging the fact that we've got one of the largest populations across the country. To try and put us into Rooty Hill and Dubbo to service all of the needs of Aboriginal people, to get everyone represented, was a very high bar, if not a nearly impossible task. So we acknowledge that there was some fragility with those who were selected to go along. There was a bit of contention about people going along. Were they representing community? Were they representing themselves? Were they elected representatives? Were they cultural representatives, or other?

I'd suggest that our land council had made that open—that we hoped that whatever processes for consultation happened were open consultations so that everyone was invited along and there were certainly not limits placed on only representing an organisation or a group. We just stated up-front that we felt that the way that that was conducted was probably not the best. It didn't allow for everyone to get along. It didn't allow opportunity for everyone to attend—and the limitations on the attendee numbers really restricted it—to be a reflection of everyone being involved.

But, as the local land council, we certainly attest that, in New South Wales, we have the beauty of having those 120 elected representative councils, and, through our nine-zone elected councillors at the state land council, we have the suitable body to engage on behalf of New South Wales Aboriginal peoples. We found that there may have been a bit of duplication, in that sense, by having dialogues that elected people from the floor rather than sticking to the old ethos of people being elected openly, with authority to represent us, such as the state land council's nine zone elected councillors and the 120 local land council chairs who represent those independent communities. We've stated up-front that we feel that, whatever goes on, at least the state land council and the land rights system of New South Wales serve as a great outline as to what any representative model could potentially look like, and that is that people are represented from the grassroots level right to the top. They have an ability to elect and be part of the election of anyone going into any national representative body. Call it whatever we like—council or first nations group—it's actually linked to the common people on the ground. They're electing local representatives who will go forward to be our true representation to the national level. I'd suggest that that was a tough thing. I acknowledge that outside of New South Wales and the Northern Territory there isn't an integrated or active land rights system to give them those similar systems. We had to acknowledge that when bringing together all the states and territories to get those regional dialogues done. We acknowledge the Referendum Council's approach, but we also wanted them to acknowledge that we don't want to duplicate our existing representative bodies.

In our sense, very openly, Mr Roy Ah-See is the elected councillor for the Sydney Newcastle region. He's elected by our local land councils democratically to represent us and is given authority to speak for us. Underneath Roy are our 11 local land council chairs, who are elected by their local communities to represent their local interests. Unfortunately what was certainly put forward as the metro land council's position is that they weren't the representatives who went to Uluru. What we saw was people being elected from the floor—people who were not verified as representing anything other than themselves when they went there. We raised questions about how people were given invitation to attend those forums, because we were told on one hand that it was about the land council system.

Certainly we acknowledge that besides land rights in New South Wales there are a number of prescribed native title holders. Certainly our council's position is that only land councils and native title holders are the prescribed representatives of Aboriginal people. They are the duly elected representatives for Aboriginal people and Aboriginal culture and heritage. Those with native title status have been proven to meet the test of native title at Commonwealth rights level and should be included, but we certainly acknowledged that was not what was undertaken in those dialogues. We did not see a clear representation of native title holders. What we saw was a loose fit of individuals, community, land councils and some native title holders. Our council believes it should be just local land councils and the native title prescribed bodies who represent our people.

Mr LEESER: Mr Moran, one of the learnings for me in this process has been that the land councils in different states do very different things. I think New South Wales is a very well-developed system and quite a good system of representation. I'm the federal member for Berowra, so you're probably the land council for my area.

Mr Moran : You're my backyard, so to speak.

Mr LEESER: What are the geographic boundaries for the metropolitan land council?

Mr Moran : Just affirming the local land council I represent, we cover 23 local governments in New South Wales. We cover from the township of Canterbury Bankstown in the south-west, which we know as Bidjigal country in culture. We extend all the way to Wonnarua council, which is at the edge of Singleton and Cessnock. We go all the way to Wiradjuri country, out to the Mellong valley. We include your area of Berowra in its entirety.

Mr LEESER: You're bigger than the geographic boundaries of Sydney, as it were.

Mr Moran : Yes, and we cover up to three different state government district areas and 23 local government areas.

Mr LEESER: So if one of my constituents in Berowra had an issue with the government and they wanted to come to the land council and talk to the land council about dealing with the government rather than seeing me, how would that happen? How do local Aboriginal people within your council regularly interact with the council and regularly interact through you to government?

Mr Moran : Broadly, in our model, we are to foster the best interests of all Aboriginal people. We're the body that advocates for all Aboriginal people. Anyone within our prescribed boundary will come in and either contact us in person at the office here in Redfern or, of course, in today's world, they will use telephones and emails and other communications to write to us to bring to our attention a matter of concern. Then they ask us to advocate on their behalf. We primarily like to meet with the individual Aboriginal person to affirm that they are confirmed as Aboriginal or to affirm how they identify as Aboriginal before we represent them. Then those issues that they raised—

Mr LEESER: Do you have any formal public meeting? I want to see how you operate. I want to see the difference in what you do in terms of operating compared to the Murdi Paaki Regional Assembly, for instance.

Mr Moran : Structurally we are required to meet at a minimum of four times annually with our general public community and members. We're also required to have an annual general meeting. We are required to have six board meetings to deal with business. Of course, in our case, being a little bit larger than the average land council, we actually have over six local meetings annually with our members and we have 12 board meetings annually. The demographic being larger, obviously, in the most populated part of Sydney, we also have other functions that we utilise, such as subcommittees for culture and heritage, land and housing, or events to deal with business, given that the mass of business is a lot larger in the CBD area of Sydney.

Mr LEESER: Unlike land councils in other states, you've got your own finance; you don't rely on government finance. Is that right? That's as I understand it.

Mr Moran : Under land rights, I'd suggest that that's probably the most minimal benefit to us. The system of New South Wales land rights allows us to make claims on vacant crown land that can be turned into freehold title. In the introduction of the act, it was said that crown land would be returned as recompense for the loss of New South Wales. That actually is the greater benefit. We do receive an annual dividend according to performance, and I'm proud to say our land council today receives the top dividend of $148,000 per annum to service the 16,000 Aboriginal people and to service all of our assets every year, to maintain public liability insurance, to provide social housing, and to provide community benefit schemes of funeral assistance, social housing, events. We receive $148,000. That's probably the most minimal. We self-generate just over 80 per cent of own funds annually.

Mr LEESER: Mr Moran, I think it would help us in terms of looking at your model as a model for New South Wales, at least for the metro area, if you could, on notice, give us a little bit of that information in a written submission to us. I think that would assist us a great deal and would save a bit of questioning time here for others. I'm very interested in the structure, the financing, your interaction with your constituency and so on, and how we might use your bodies in a way that could potentially be the voice. I know it's not your region, but could you also address how a land council interacts with the regional assembly that exists at Murdi Paaki, if you're able to help us with that too. Take those on notice, because I know we're a bit short of time and others will have questions.

Mr Moran : Certainly you took the words out of my mouth about the written submission. I was going to ask if we could have permission to make a written submission after today. My chair certainly has made clear to me that we'll be making a written submission to outline our role, to articulate what we do. I would just go back a step and say probably the difference between us and other bodies who claim to represent Aboriginal people is we're open to anyone over the age of 18 to come in and make an application. They're able to come and submit themselves to the council and request that their application for membership be approved, as long as they meet the three-part definition test. That's something that's different to many corporations and private companies, in that we see today most Aboriginal companies and corporations are closed; they're private membership and they're controlled by only a board, and in some cases you have unique relationships where someone may be the CEO and the chair. We're governed by best-principle standards of not only government but also governance more generally and broadly across the mainstream. For instance, we meet all the required separations of administration and governance requirements of the Australian Institute of Company Directors. I as a CEO can definitely not approve myself to be awarding my own wages—to pay myself—or benefits. All of that is conferred through a process by a board, as delegated through the chair, the deputy chair and the other members of my board.

In terms of the land rights system and its interaction with Murdi Paaki, I would suggest that's a nuance that isn't really clear, and, given that the fact is that Murdi Paaki was the remnants of the old Commonwealth system, the ATSIC system, we don't have any similar or equivalent council in Sydney as such. So it's a very hard comparison to make.

Mr LEESER: Speaking for myself, I was impressed with the Murdi Paaki model. One of the questions we have to ask ourselves is: how would the voice interact with existing things that are there? I'm just interested in your turning your mind to that a little bit—not now, but in your submission.

Mr Moran : I suppose the main difference is that we're a democratically elected organisation,. Our members every four years get the choice to elect their board. I'm aware that there are regional models out there that will say that they have a representative of a community, but as to whether that community goes through a formal process of election through the Australian Electoral Commission, such as what we do, I'd suggest that they do not, and that's the fragility of those models. Those models are non-incorporated representatives—not following standards of elections for democratic elections, that is—and that leaves them very fragile and open to exposure that they're not actually representing, authentically, the people or the community that they may operate in or operate for; whereas with land rights you can clearly say: 'We are tied to the responsibility of our local members and the communities. They have the right to vote them in or out every four years.' The same applies to our zones, to our elected councils at the state land council. They can openly attest that they're elected representatives rather than being selected.

CHAIR: I welcome Yvonne Weldon, the Chairperson of the Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council, who has rushed across the city from another event to be here. We acknowledge that, and we acknowledge your mum, who's here as well, Ms Ann Weldon. We've had a fairly good presentation by your CEO, Mr Moran.

Ms Y Weldon : Of course!

CHAIR: He was quite confident that he would be able to present the position, and we're very grateful. We have a few more minutes, so if there is something you would like to say, Ms Weldon, we'd be happy to hear it.

Ms Y Weldon : I'm not sure what's been covered, but I certainly hope that the CEO asked if we could get some time to submit something formally.

CHAIR: Yes. We're on a tight time frame, but if you can do it by 12 October, that would be most appreciated.

Ms Y Weldon : That would be great, without a doubt. In terms of thoughts, prior to today, I certainly went to your country in Broome roughly in June 2016, which was an initial delegation of sorts. It certainly was a hand-picked selection of people. There were four people selected from New South Wales. I was one of those. As to the conversation that took place on that day, I'm not sure if you're aware of or have been provided with any of those records, but certainly what was put forward to the delegates in Broome in June 2016 is very different to what we've ended up with—not in terms of the actual intent but certainly the conversation that took place. Actually the number of people around the table did not want constitutional reform. They spoke about sovereignty. They did not actually want to be concerned about the Constitution; that was very clear around us as sovereign people. There was certainly an element of this—some of the organisers, I suppose, if you want to call them that, were very clear that they wanted constitutional reform only. In terms of my involvement since that meeting in Broome and what I have seen take place, it hasn't varied from those so-called leaders, self-appointed or otherwise, but certainly those leaders that sat down and made clear what their direction was—it was going to be that direction without the people and without the people's voice.

What took place at Rooty Hill—the Sydney dialogue—started from 10 March 2017. The actual preparation for that and the information being conveyed to all those delegates was very vague. In fact, it was quite late. When questions were raised from the delegation, they were not given the respect of answers. For me as a Wiradjuri woman, I was extremely insulted by the process and what took place at the Sydney dialogue. I was very unclear about how people were selected, why they were selected and who was selected. The actual numbers of what you may have seen in your final report certainly varied and varied a lot in terms of both the information that's been conveyed in the reporting versus the actual conversations that took place. There were quite unfortunate behaviours that took place from some of the facilitators, and I was extremely insulted by some of the behaviours. I'm quite happy to put pen to paper around that. But my concern, which I did raise from very early in the piece, is that words were being used that, 'These are the rules of engagement.' I don't know, as Aboriginal people, I've ever heard any of my very respected elders have ever been told, 'This is about rules of engagement.' This is actually about how we are as people and how we interact and how we have always interacted for 60,000, 70,000, 80,000 years. I've never been taught to be disrespectful, and I certainly was disrespected in the process.

In terms of Metro's representation at that dialogue, it was very vague. We certainly had a number of people attending, but the actual distribution around the attendees at the meeting—you had people which I thought went to the first one, which was held in Dubbo. We thought that was that area, but we had people from Dubbo actually present at the Sydney one. I'm not sure why that took place. As far as the participation and how we can have real conversations we were told that there were observers in the room that came from other dialogues, but we were prohibited from speaking to them. Again, I'm not sure how that works as Aboriginal people but certainly they were the rules of engagement or lack thereof.

From my perspective, it was supposedly about a dialogue. It became more of a dictatorship. It was about how you actually want to think not actually how you're going to think. The viewpoint and the information that was being put forward to those who were in attendance was very clear about what the end result was going to be. If you have received a report that states that, 'This is the voice of people across the land,' not all nations in this state, not even all clans in this country, were represented at any of those dialogues. It is not a true view that there is clear guidance around what people have put forward from all the nations, tribes and clans. It's been a select few and those who were selected were clearly selected for a reason. I was very embarrassed that my elders were not represented at the table, particularly a man that all I think is a legend and should be given the due respect, being Paul Coe. He was not present. He was not invited. His viewpoint should be heard, because he has taken the struggle for these people long before a lot of these people that call themselves leaders today.

I think that we need to be very clear about what the voice is. The voice has been orchestrated by some people who are either paid employees of those people—maybe speechwriters, who clearly believe that the speech that was transformed into a statement— it is not the voice of me and is not the voices of all the people that they say they represent. It's the voices of very few.

I'd like to leave that with you that in terms of the outcomes for our people we do need to have a voice, but it should be a voice that we all are allowed to have rather than being told what we can have. I left the Rooty Hill dialogue, and Metro had an open event—I don't know if you spoke about that Nathan—

Mr Moran : Not yet.

Ms Y Weldon : We had an open event at the day of mourning site, the Australia Hall, where the first protest took place in 1938. We had an open forum for anyone. We put it on out of our own budget. I don't know what other people were funded. I know that we weren't funded for it. I think we get about 3c per person that we represent. We had an open forum for people to come and speak about their views. We had a fairly considered voice. We had people from the big R. We had people that are about treaty—

Mr Moran : Melissa, who is working on the Victorian model that's currently going on, came and spoke. We also had Uncle Paul Coe speak on the day. They were the people who spoke and led the discussions around different models for representing our people. As a result of that workshop, at its next meeting our members resolved to pass a motion that we support Aboriginal peoples' rights to sovereignty and their right to assert, renew or otherwise practise their sovereignty. It's up to those individual sovereign peoples as to whether they would like to discuss any representative model. Certainly, our council resolved on the basis of our workshop that our role is to support sovereign people, to acknowledge, to recognise and to realise their sovereign rights.

Ms Y Weldon : In closing and before I make a clear aspect in this journey, the local Aboriginal land council is clearly a part of the New South Wales Aboriginal land rights network and we also come under a zone. About six to eight weeks ago there was a zone meeting that was held up the Central Coast. Our regional rep, who is also the chairperson and I understand the co-chair of the Prime Minister's advisory or whatever they want to call themselves today—that fellow with the speedos or whatever, who knows. In terms of the consultation that took place, there was a clear understanding from us as a local land council that we were to get together. We have. It's varied over time.

There was a recent engagement that took place up at the Central Coast. I'm not sure if you're aware, but there was a recent protest that started at Hyde Park and went to parliament a few weeks ago. That was supposedly about some of the changes around culture and heritage in this state and some of the legislation that they were trying to introduce, and the watering down of some of this legislation from the Aboriginal Land Rights Act versus some of the other entities within government.

At that meeting, the chairperson or the rep raised a matter. Unfortunately, I came a bit late into that session but there were issues raised around the protest that was about to take place about five days, two or three business days, later. Roy Ah-See had spoken about and done a presentation around makarrata. Questions were raised about why it's being raised here, because we need to go back to our members and talk about this with our members and get endorsement from them. 'We don't have the right to come here today without being informed and making an informed decision around that.'

There was some conduct that happened, unfortunately, at that meeting, and metro actually walked away from that meeting as a result of the disrespect that took place. When we left the meeting we were advised that the whole of the zone had rejected makarrata, that it wasn't an issue to be dealt with at the last minute. The New South Wales protest that was about to take place was about culture and heritage in this state. Then we got an email at 3 pm, prior to the protest that was scheduled, where it changed from a cultural and heritage issue to makarrata being the voice of the people, the Walk for Makarrata. That was not endorsed by the zone. It certainly is not endorsed by the people we represent. And, as far as I'm aware, it's not endorsed by any other local Aboriginal Land Council across this state.

CHAIR: I'm just trying to get it clear. There's a lot of information you've given us. Would the record for these things be in the New South Wales land council records or in your records?

Ms Y Weldon : Records in terms of what was presented?

CHAIR: There seemed to be a chopping and changing of positions. There's makarrata—

Ms Y Weldon : Exactly. We certainly have records to that effect, yes. We can produce the email. In terms of the voice, I suppose, for this committee and the voice and what people are saying and how people are consulted, it is not consistent and is not being represented in the reports that have been provided and the information that's been conveyed. It is not consistent with what decisions have been made. They have been made ad hoc and certainly not within powers of, say, a state committee versus a local community or a regional committee.

CHAIR: So the due process—

Ms Y Weldon : The due processes are not being applied here. Yet in terms of our people, I must say, at this meeting that took place there were a number of Aboriginal people who spoke up and said, 'Makarrata is not a word for us.'

CHAIR: No. A number of people have raised that with us as well.

Ms Y Weldon : They said, 'That is not what we endorse.' And other people have said, 'We think it's a great term because it represents'—I think what we have to be very mindful of is that there are terms being used and, from my perspective, abused around what's been put forward around the original notion versus the present day notion. That's my concern.

We've got elders and we've got older Aboriginal people and also young ones who are reading a history or something and thinking it's applying in the present day. Let's not bastardise these terms at the expense of us or what we know is not about our culture and certainly not about the viewpoint we're hearing from some of these self-appointed or used leaders. I know there's something called Empowered Communities across this country. In fact, these types of processes are disempowering us. It's about those self-serving without-transparency processes, that are disadvantaging us, that are providing the open transparency that does not exist in this country. We had non-Aboriginal people doing it to us; now we've actually got Aboriginal people doing it to us. Now, we need to own that, but we also need to call it out.

Ms A Weldon : I'm a board member of the Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council but a very active member—and a proud Wiradjuri woman—and I have been one in Sydney for a long, long time. I've been involved in the struggle from day one when we hit the streets here in Redfern to shake what needed to be shook in this country.

I was invited—there were only a select few who were invited—to Rooty Hill. What was so tragic is people were not allowed to come in. They were Aboriginal people that were passionate and wanted to contribute one way or another. They were turned away—turned away. The facilitators were absolutely insulting in the extreme. We were talking about our rights in this country, which you know as well as I do that we didn't get. We still really don't have proper rights. We don't have the rights to our country. We don't have the right to make decisions. We're always told. We're told that this is what will happen. Sadly and tragically Aboriginal people have been brought and sold to tell us what should and shouldn't happen. I grew up in an era where we always had to do what we were told by the mission managers. Sadly, what's happened is that we now have black mission managers that are telling us what to do.

We've made certain gains in this country, but we're being pulled back all the time by people that are ruthless and want power. I live in a community. I certainly walk beside people in my community and in my family. I've asked them, 'What do you think about constitutional recognition?' They don't know what you're talking about. Walk down the streets of Waterloo and ask those poor people that live on the streets of misery exactly what constitutional recognition is going to do for them. They will tell you, 'We don't know what you're talking about.' Ask somebody whose son has died, who died as a result of falling down 13 flights from the balcony at Waterloo over something so inhumane, what constitutional recognition means to them.

Basically, from what I've been informed by top legal experts, it's going to look nice for non-Aboriginal Australia. We have the basis of a constitution, which did not arrive in this country and which did not arrive with people that have come from all corners of the earth, that's been developed by us—a new constitution, a new guidance as to where we should go as a nation or as many nations of people. The Constitution was founded and based on England. What they brought out here in those ships they implemented at that particular point in time to rule us. We have never relinquished our rights. We have never ceded our sovereignty. What I ask you and the government to do is stop hand-picking Aboriginal people that are going to misrepresent us.

Our local Aboriginal land council, love it or hate it, is at least open. A lot of the community controlled organisations are controlled by exclusive participation through membership that they have the right to reject. Those board members have the individual right to reject the community. There are concerns in our community about what we all do, be it the land council or other service providers. At the same time there are people out there that live day in and day out without knowing one of their rights, but sadly they are never asked, 'What would you really like?' So I say to you: don't walk ahead of us; walk beside us and listen and allow us—more importantly, allow those people out there that don't have a voice—to make a decision. That's certainly going to change not only their lives but their children's, their grandchildren's and their great-grandchildren's lives.

CHAIR: Thank you. I look forward to your submission. Please include all of those matters that you've raised today. I want to thank you for your welcome and for your attendance before this committee. This committee has been challenged with many different views. I can assure you that it's not an easy task, but we come to this with an open mind and a desire to find some way forward, whichever way that's going to be. It will certainly be in collaboration with the First Nations, whichever way things pan out; so be assured of that. Thanks very much. As I said, the transcript will be available, and you can check it for anything that needs to be done.