A couple of weeks ago, I was a guest at the NSW Parliament House for an Indigenous Chamber of Commerce event. I saw an elder go up to the podium, get his digeridoo and things ready. I honestly thought he was going to do the Welcome to Country, play his didgeridoo to set the mood, say a few words of thanks and then on with the show. Well, I will be the first to say I was quickly jolted up in my seat and was so enthralled and moved at what was being said and how it was being said. Whilst on paper, the words might seem a bit harsh, the way he delivered it was so eloquent, articulate, genuine, gentle and balanced. Not one person was squirming uncomfortably. Everyone in the room knew he was talking the truth even if it was the brutal truth yet they didn’t feel confronted, insulted or ashamed. The way he brought the crowd together by talking the truth in his gentle but intelligent way, is a skill that not many people have. A few people were talking about how great the speech was after the event. I thought it was so great, I asked the speaker, Mr Walangari Karntawarra, a very lovely Elder from the Central Desert, for permission to put his speech on my Linkedin. He agreed. I wished I had filmed it as I don’t think there is anyone in this country that could deliver that kind of speech in the same way.
I felt a form of vindication that I was doing the right things, saying the right things and posting the right things, as his views were exactly as mine are. We as Indigenous business leaders must not leave our people behind. Mr Karntawarra, represents the very people I try to advocate for, the unheard, the unseen and the forgotten. They are the very people all of these policies like the IPP, RAP plans and the rest have been designed to help. The Indigenous business sector are at the coalface of these policies, not those people out in the Desert, they don’t even know anything about these policies, so it is up to us as Indigenous leaders to not forget about them, just like Mr Karntawarra said, we have to lift our people up and bring them with us.
This is the electronic version of his speech that he emailed to me a couple of days ago.
The Aboriginal Chamber of Commerce
NSW Parliament House Theatrette
Speaker: Colin Walangari Karntawarra McCormack
Welcome to the launch of the NSW Indigenous Chamber of commerce Road map. Thank you Debbie Barwick for inviting me to give you an Aboriginal business person’s perspective of the challenges and rewards of Aboriginal commerce today.
I would first like to take this opportunity to pay my respects to the Traditional Owners, Elders past and present, their families and the lands of the Dharug the Gadigal and the Thurawal Clans who are the caretakers of Sydney Harbour and including all other clans who are Eora, which of course means “The People” As an Elder of the Arrernte Nation from Central Australia, my cultural attachment to this place comes from the Yam Dreaming of Central Australia which travels underground all the way here to Sydney and to the people of the yam Dreaming , the Dharug Nation and the Gadigal Clan, Gadigal in fact meaning people of the Yam.
It is through the currency of our Dreaming Stories that we as a people living in this beautiful land have exchanged and traded goods and services for well over 80 thousand years. This is something that should be admired by us all because it shows very clearly that we as a culture, without guns and machines have conducted business in a fair and honourable way for such a long time, without involving ourselves in major conflict over resources. Our traditional laws, which have never changed since our Creation still have a very important bearing on our lives today. These laws which are a very big part in our kinship systems have always insisted that we conduct ourselves with the great respect for each other, thereby ensuring the wellbeing of all. We are a peaceful, humble, and learned culture and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. This is how it was, this is how it is and this is how it will always be.
We as a people have worked extremely hard with little or no reward under a government that continues to deny us our rightful place in this Nation we call Australia. The engagement of Aboriginal people of this Land in a respectful and dignified manner is not being addressed appropriately and our Leaders in Government should be ashamed. Our right to self-determination is a right that should not be given, but to be taken by our people.
This means that the people of Australia need to stand up for and with Aboriginal people to highlight the ineffectual, biased and racist policies that continue to degrade us and make a mockery of so-called “race relations”. This is a country that purports to be the lucky country, for some maybe, but not for us it seems. The solution is that we as Aboriginal people need to educate our younger generations to build a system of wealth and distribution, according to our cultural obligations.
Education is a vital key to success in both worlds. Pastimes like sport can only serve as a temporary relief from the things that remain unhealed. There is a way to fixing all of our problems. First and we should have a council of elders, drawn from all the different races that reside in Australia to advise government on all matters relating to Aboriginal nations. These guiding elders will oversee the implementation of policy and laws relating to our people.
As the revered Elder statesman of the Gurindji Nation Mr Vincent Lingiari said when they walked off of Wave hill station and away from slavery, “we know how to wait” and with that historical remark they moved to another place called Daguragu where they could work towards their dreams and take care of their children their families and their Dreamings and their lands.
This heroic and bold move was an act of defiance, resistance and self-determination, that sent shudders through the halls of Parliament because these were Aboriginal people standing up to oppression and slavery with dignity and an absolute purpose in life.
For over 200 years now have been doing business under the white man’s terms Thanks to organisation like the NSW Indigenous Chamber of Commerce, Indigenous Business Australia and Supply Nation we are learning to do conduct commerce in the mainstream economy and we are learning very fast.
However, we still face racism and cultural ignorance at every turn. This comes from a lack of education about and respect for Aboriginal people. It is endemic in our institutions from the judicial to the medical and everything in between. How can we move forward in the commercial world without first addressing this problem of racism? I would like to encourage all of you to utilise Aboriginal educators to run workshops to that inform your workforce to learn more about Aboriginal people.
The forces that oppose Aboriginal initiatives and aspirations fear our success because economic independence is empowerment and when you have power you can make things happen outside of government constraints. With economic independence comes certainty and stability. The rewards from Aboriginal people starting their own businesses are far reaching and have a flow on effect to families and communities.
We have moral obligations as Aboriginal people, to each other and to our community. It is incumbent upon us to help each other succeed. We must support our representative bodies, like the NSW Indigenous Chamber of Commerce, IBA, Supply Nation and act together to lift our people from poverty and oppression through trade and commercial education.
To our supporters and to our friends I want to thank you all very much for the work that has already been done in this country to emancipate our peoples from the unjust practices that have been enacted upon the Aboriginal people of this Great Land for a very long time. It must now stop. We are a better informed and educated society but I worry that we have become complacent and not as willing to stand up and fight oppressive policies that continue to deny our young generation and our family’s economic stability and cultural freedom.
Edmund Burke said “In a democracy, the majority of the citizens are capable of exercising the cruellest oppressions upon the minority”.
Successive Australian governments knowingly and with malice placed chains on us, just because of our colour and nothing more and nothing will ever change that fact. Our children are still being taken from their families and our incarceration rate is a moral blight on Australia, as a whole.
The federal and state governments are happy to make money from our cultural tourism and the natural resources on our lands, but they continue to deny Aboriginal people a just share of the returns. They throw money at Aboriginal people and say they are doing everything possible to help alleviate our people’s sufferings whilst experts and specialist continue to gain the degrees and happily publish their thesis but give nothing back to Aboriginal people but words in the wind. What are the strengths of the white man’s word when the meanings change according to expedient government policy of the day?
Australia is a failed democracy for Aboriginal people because we are ruled by big business. However, there are new opportunities and we must do business if we, as a race want to survive. We’ve been here this long and will continue if we embrace technology and commerce and at the same time maintain our strength as a family and continue to rise together. Never leave your fellow Aboriginal people down. Always pick them up and take them with you.
Of course we can come together to help each, Aboriginal and Non Aboriginal Australians. Aboriginal people have never wanted handouts as this has always been a tool of oppression and dispossession, but what we do want and demand is a better place at the table of commerce and industry in this country. We have the intellectual prowess to be business people and entrepreneurs who only want the best for all people and to live, prosper and build a country that has justice and equality for every living thing and the protection of the Earth as its core pillars.
Thank you my Aboriginal people for still being on this planet, in this country and thank you for your humility your strength and your courage in standing up for what is right and honourable in all aspects. To my fellow Australians and our blood families from all around the world who have continued to support us in our quest to right the wrongs, we all thank you. Education and the truth will set us free. Mentorships and scholarships will break the mould, giving a new voice to our people to educate ourselves correctly and to show that racism is a disease of the mind and a manipulation of history that benefits only the few and subjugates the masses.
Walangari Karntawarra 20/09/17