Unfinished business: What is being recognised?

Lisa Slater

Lisa Slater

Post by Lisa Slater

Paul Keating recently weighed into the push for constitutional recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, stating the recognition project has lost direction. His invocation of ‘unfinished business’ was a salient reminder that the primary object of repair is the foundation of settler colonialism, and there is a need to transform the political and social relationship between Indigenous and settler Australia. What are settlers failing to see?

A few years back, I was attending Garma festival in northeast Arnhem Land, as part of a research project examining the significance of cultural festivals for improving Indigenous socio-cultural wellbeing.[1] Garma is cultural diplomacy at work: Yolhu (Traditional Owners of north-east Arnhem Land) invite government and non-government agencies, academics and political leaders onto Country to discuss and negotiate issues determined by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander agendas. Alongside the main event, there were a series of other initiatives, one of which was a women’s cultural tourism program. I sat in on a workshop where Yolhu women were teaching Napaki (non-Indigenous) women about Yolhu kinship systems and responsibilities. Continue reading