moieties and semi-moieties typology drawings by auths. sks ot et al. March 2012, inkjet on vinyl, paper
Terra nullius edited edition book accompanying the exhibition social solidarity #4: non-existent in the everyday world? including typology drawings by et al. available from split/fountain.
The artists have adapted their 2009 publication Critical Remarks on the National Question to reference and comment on British colonisation of Australia, subsequent land laws and aboriginal housing policies that were framed in the belief that the colony was being acquired by occupation (or settlement) of a terra nullius (land without owners). The colonisers acknowledged the presence of Indigenous people but justified their land acquisition policies by saying the Aborigines were too primitive to be actual owners and sovereigns and that they had no readily identifiable hierarchy or political order which the British Government could recognise or negotiate with (excerpt from the Documents of Reconciliation, Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation).
The publication includes plan drawings adapted from the State Government’s 1950’s Aboriginal ‘assimilation’ housing programme, and typology drawings by sks ot et al.
Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation: Documents of Reconciliation
1. Terra nullius
British colonisation policies and subsequent land laws were framed in the belief that the colony was being acquired by occupation (or settlement) of a terra nullius (land without owners). The colonisers acknowledged the presence of Indigenous people but justified their land acquisition policies by saying the Aborigines were too primitive to be actual owners and sovereigns and that they had no readily identifiable hierarchy or political order which the British Government could recognise or negotiate with.
The High Court's Mabo judgment in 1992 overturned the terra nullius fiction. In the same judgment, however, the High Court accepted the British assertion of sovereignty in 1788, and held that from that time there was only one sovereign power and one system of law in Australia.
The traditional English view of sovereignty was described by William Blackstone in the 18th century as deriving of necessity from one 'supreme, irresistible, absolute, uncontrolled authority'. The Chairperson of ATSIC in 1995 described aspirations for Indigenous sovereignty as follows: "We see constitutional recognition of constituent indigenous sovereignty as central to the proper recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in an inclusive way within Australian society . This recognition would not threaten the wider population, it would be based on partnership and reconciliation". Australian governments and courts have not accepted the existence of remnant Indigenous sovereignty, and Australian Aborigines have not gained the status of domestic dependent nations, as bestowed on the Indian tribes of North America.
No formally binding treaties were ever negotiated with Indigenous peoples in Australia whereas hundreds were signed with Indigenous people in North America and New Zealand. The Commonwealth considers that the major distinguishing characteristic of a treaty is that it is concluded between sovereign nation states with full international personality. Individuals, or groups without international personality, cannot be parties to a treaty (Senate Legal and Constitutional References Committee, 1995).
4. Proposals for an Australian treaty
A statement of Indigenous aspirations was presented to Mr Hawke at the Barunga Festival in June 1988 ("The Barunga Statement"). The Prime Minister responded by calling for a treaty to be negotiated between the Aboriginal people and the Government of Australia. The use of the term "treaty" ignited much public interest, but in July 1988, Mr Hawke said It's not the word that's important, its the attitudes of the peoples, attitudes of the non-Aboriginal Australians and of the Aboriginal Australians if there is a sense of reconciliation...whether you say there's a treaty or a compact is not important, but it is important that we do it" While support for a treaty was not unanimous, wide political support continued for reconciliation. Through 1990 and 1991, cross-party support developed for a formal process of reconciliation to be led by a council of prominent Australians, and the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation was formally established on 2 September 1991. The idea of a 'document of reconciliation' was developed as a way to deal with the sensitivities and differences of view which existed about a treaty. Other terms which could be used instead of 'document of reconciliation' could be settlement, compact, covenant or declaration, or an Indigenous word, such as Makarrata, which has an appropriate meaning.
All drawings and images courtesy the artists