On 7 June 2022, The Guardian reported that the Andrews Government was establishing ‘an independent authority to help oversee the nation’s first treaty negotiations between a government and First Nations people. They were to introduce the Treaty Authority Bill after they ‘struck an agreement with the First Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria, the body elected by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to help develop a treaty framework.’ In the meantime, one must assume that the authority is in full working order and the Bill is making its way through parliament.
The Guardian also reported that ‘First Peoples’ Assembly co-chair, Marcus Stewart, a ‘Nira illim bulluk man’, said the creation of the authority ensures treaty negotiations aren’t restrained by western concepts.’
Below is a photo of ‘Aboriginal’ Marcus Stewart. Now one would be struggling to find a more European-looking white skinned man than Marcus. Marcus evidently has no problem with the disjunction between his appearance and his claim to be an Aboriginal man. Unblushing, he presents himself everywhere with an animal skin draped around his shoulders. Of course, I’m assuming the animal skin is genuine and not fake like his pretensions.
But the disjunction between appearance and claim is not the only one. There is an even greater disjunction in his rhetoric about decolonization and treaty that leads into betrayal and treason by the Andrews Government.
Marcus explained: “This is about stepping outside of the colonial system. We’ve said to government, if you’re serious about treaty, you’ll do it our way, and to their credit, that’s what they’re doing. This is decolonisation in action.”
“The government is relinquishing some of its control and power and together we are creating new institutions that will be guided by Aboriginal lore, law and cultural authority that has been practised on these lands for countless generations.”
Marcus is guilty of spouting arrant nonsense. First, he invokes the categories of Western/European political discourse to justify the incoherent demand to regard his political faction as a separate nation. Second, there is no existing colonial entity in Australia. Australia (see my definition of what constitutes a nation) ceased to be a colony, de facto in the mid-19th century, and formally at Federation in 1901.
Third, Australia, whose development had absolutely no input from the sparse Aboriginal tribes pre-settlement, is a fully fledged nation with the complex of laws, government, science, technology, and so on, that one understands under the concept nation. Whereas the groups of Aboriginals (a European designation) pre-settlement were primitive tribes that continually warred with each other. Violence was a way of life within tribes and between tribes. Traditional tribal aboriginal life ceased in the 19th century – except perhaps for small groups in Northern Australia.
Finally, the is no direct line of development from pre-settlement Aboriginal life to a group like Marcus’s. Marcus, and those pretend Aboriginals like him, are engaged in crude cultural reinvention and mythmaking. And the Andrews government is supporting it – supporting a virtual insurgency.