National Act of Recognition

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A National Act of Recognition with the First Peoples of Australia:

An Armed Attack, Entry and Theft – on Country
It was the first day

The year was 1997. A lot of attention was being given to the forthcoming 2000 Olympic Games to be held in Sydney. In the early months of that year I read a newspaper article claiming that some of the First Peoples of Australia planned to hold a major protest rally in the heart of Sydney while the Olympic Games were being held. Their objective was to bring the plight suffered by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in their own country to public attention whilst the world was visiting our shores. This cry for help touched me to the core.

“They shouldn’t have to do this. It is their country. They are in their own home!”

Three months later as a result of prayer – and answered prayer – a clear response began to form. Over some months I spoke of this to several well-known First Peoples’ leaders (five in all) seeking their guidance, and approval to pursue this response that was taking shape.

Pastor Tim Edwards of Cairns QLD and Pastor Ossie Cruse of Eden NSW were two of those original five. This consultation took place well before any other person in the wider community was told of what had happened. Thus, the First Peoples have always been at the forefront of leadership regarding plans to hold ‘A National Act of Recognition’ with the First Peoples of Australia at Kamay Botany Bay.

In effect, I have been acting as an advocate for them, always acting under the authority of First Peoples elders, whether it be the original five at the beginning, or the Recognition National Leadership Team that followed them. Any decisions I have made have always been in full consultation with First Nations People. I have always been subject to their authority.
Many months later, in 1998, the wider community began to get involved, with several leaders being apprised of this developing initiative. Those leaders saw the need to educate the wider community about the impact of the arrival of the British in Australia, and the subsequent challenges that First Peoples have had to face. They included Reverend John Blacket of Khesed Ministries and Mr Tom Hallas of Youth With A Mission.

In a classic example of first and later Australians developing a joint venture together, these leaders formed a National Leadership Team, and side by side we all began working on a project under the name of ‘A National Act of Recognition’.
Realising that the Team needed to be meticulous in their research, I invited Pamela Lane to undertake the documentation of primary and secondary sources that would become the basis for the Team’s claim that A National Act of Recognition is needed. I wanted to find the answers to the following questions that span four time frames:

  1. 1750 – 1768: What was happening in the United Kingdom during these years that prompted the commissioning of Lieutenant James Cook to explore the South Seas?
  2. 1768 – 1771: (a) What were Cook’s instructions? (b) What happened on that journey of the Endeavour? and (c) What did Cook and Banks report on returning home?
  3. 1771 – 1787: What took place in the United Kingdom during this period that prompted the commissioning of the First Fleet in 1787?
  4. 1788 – 2021: What is the real truth about what happened on all these lands in Australia following the arrival of the First Fleet in January 1788 – then and ever since?

In the course of researching the answers to my four original questions, researcher Pamela Lane asked a number of supplementary questions, including :

5. What is the significance of the British invasion into Country?

6. What has been the impact of invasion on the First Peoples?

7. The final question was an elephant-in-the-room’ question asked by many Australians of non-Indigenous descent – Why weren’t we told?

The paper that follows sets out answers for all the above questions and reflects on the significance of their long-term impact on all Australians, especially our First Peoples.

Lindsay McDowell
Co-Chair, A National Act of Recognition.
Canberra, September 2021.