Roxley is currently the Fire-Keeper at the Aboriginal Tent Embassy, Old Parliament House, Canberra. He is a young Gumbaynggirr man and activist from Adelaide.
[Photo: Wikimedia Commons]
Roxley presented a wide ranging analysis of actions and policies by government and business which are having an adverse impact on aboriginal groups, and which undermine the possibility of a treaty based on mutual respect and good will. Mining and the sale of land and assets are particularly problematic: Roxley mentioned fracking, the loss of food basins, and government manipulation of Land Councils.
Given that the prime minister had rejected the Uluru Statement of May 2017, the audience was interested to hear Roxley’s comments. He said that the convention’s process had been taken over and compromised by bureaucrats. He was critical of the large number of participants who were hand-picked and not elected delegates. Some aboriginal groups withdrew, unhappy about the final negotiations at Uluru. There were echoes of the now-defunct “Recognise” campaign which had a lot of corporate support but not so much at grassroots level. Roxley is opposed to any move which sees aboriginal people give up rights to sovereignty or the possibility of a treaty, only to be absorbed into a constitutional system. The Constitution is racist and gives no protection for aboriginal law and land. But he also rejects black nationalism or an island of black inside Australia. He wants a movement that brings everyone along with it.
Unfortunately Aboriginal political disunity has provided an excuse for the rest of Australia to dismiss their concerns.
With regard to a treaty, Roxley argued that a single treaty governing all aboriginal people would fail to acknowledge the diversity of aboriginal kin and place and therefore would not work. A completely new model is needed. Multiple treaties with aboriginal people could be negotiated on a local level and within each environment. This could then lead to lots of smaller groups coming together to effect change and create a genuine grassroots structure for aboriginal political negotiations.