Home / World News / Minister for Indigenous Australians Linda Burney says Queen understood First Nations sovereignty not ceded

Minister for Indigenous Australians Linda Burney says Queen understood First Nations sovereignty not ceded

Queen Elizabeth understood the sovereignty of Australia’s First Nations people had never been ceded, Minister for Indigenous Australians Linda Burney has told Parliament.

In an emotional speech during parliamentary tributes to the late monarch, Ms Burney spoke of the fraught, complex and painful legacy of the monarchy for many Indigenous Australians.

In the past week, the Minister has attended funerals for Esther Carroll and Aunty Neita Scott, who were of the same generation as the Queen and who similarly lived lives full of grace and dedicated service.

The nation has come a long way since the Queen’s first visit down under in 1954, when the Yorta Yorta people living near Shepparton were hidden away because their occupation of land known as the flats was “considered too unsightly for the Queen’s eyes”.

“But we have still much more work to do, more steps to be taken on the long road to reconciliation, more steps on the road to truth-telling and treaty,” Ms Burney said.

WINDSOR, ENGLAND - APRIL 20:  Queen Elizabeth II arrives at the Queen Elizabeth II delivery office in Windsor with Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh on April 20, 2016 in Windsor, England. The visit marks the 500th Anniversary of the Royal Mail delivery service. The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh are carrying out engagements in Windsor ahead of the Queen's 90th Birthday tommorow.  (Photo by Chris Jackson - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
Camera IconQueen Elizabeth II. Credit: Chris Jackson/Getty Images

“With substantive constitutional change and structural reform, we believe this ancient sovereignty can shine through as a fuller expression on Australia’s nationhood.

“I believe deeply Her Majesty understood in a very real way the concept of sovereignty never ceded.”

Greens leader Adam Bandt said Australia must reach a treaty with First Nations people before seeking to become a republic.

“We must recognise the cultural, structural and institutional ways in which the Crown which we remain a part of has oppressed First Nations people here and around the world,” he told Parliament.

“The Queen’s true gift was that she allowed and encouraged so many countries to grow up, move out and move on.”

CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 22: Prime Minister Anthony Albanese at the National Memorial Service for Queen Elizabeth II at Parliament House on September 22, 2022 in Canberra, Australia. Queen Elizabeth II died at Balmoral Castle in Scotland aged 96 on September 8, 2022. Her funeral was held at Westminster Abbey in London on September 19, 2022. Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor was born in Bruton Street, Mayfair, London on 21 April 1926. She married Prince Philip in 1947 and acceded the throne of the United Kingdom and Commonwealth on 6 February 1952 after the death of her Father, King George VI. Queen Elizabeth II was the United Kingdom's longest-serving monarch. (Photo by Martin Ollman/Getty Images)
Camera IconPrime Minister Anthony Albanese at the National Memorial Service for the Queen. Credit: Martin Ollman/Getty Images

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese also spoke of the many changes to Australia over the Queen’s 70-year reign. He noted that over the past 184 years, a woman had been the monarch for 133 of them — referring to Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth II.

Over her 16 visits to Australia, the PM said, the Queen “got to know us, appreciate us, embrace us”.

“As monarch for more than half of the life of our federation, the relationship between Australia and Britain matured and evolved throughout Her Majesty’s reign.

“The Queen greeted each and every change with understanding, good grace and an abiding faith in the Australian people’s good judgement,” he said.

Australia's Prime Minister Anthony Albanese arrives at the Westminster Abbey on the day of Queen Elizabeth II funeral, in London Monday, Sept. 19, 2022. (Phil Noble/Pool Photo via AP)
Camera IconAnthony Albanese attended the Queen’s funeral at Westminster Abbey. Credit: Phil Noble/AP

In the Senate, Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young said the death of Britain’s longest-serving monarch had “understandably” prompted mixed reactions.

“We cannot give an honest reflection on her life without acknowledging the impact that colonisation has had on our First Nations people and the role this plays in the stories that we tell ourselves — who we are as a country and who we want to be,” Senator Hanson-Young said.

“First Nations people have never ceded sovereignty of the lands, the water they had cared for, for 65,000 years. Now is the time for justice for recognition and respect for First Nations people.”

Senator Hanson-Young also said now was the time to move forward with an Australian head of state.

WA Greens senator Dorinda Cox, a Yamatji-Noongar woman, said the Queen was a symbolic figure to many, but that the emotions following her death were varied.

“Amongst these are the feelings of anger to stress, hurt, and frustration by First Nations people who, unfortunately, their sorry business does not end today,” she said.

“We are a mature nation, people will have conversations that both commemorate the life of a public figure, while calling out the problematic legacy of the British Empire.”

Independent Senator David Pocock said he was “conscious” the job of reconciliation felt “impossible” under the shadow of the British Empire.

Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young at a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra, Tuesday, December 8, 2020. (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas) NO ARCHIVING
Camera IconSenator Sarah Hanson-Young. Credit: MICK TSIKAS/AAPIMAGE

“What comes next will be a conversation about our future. My hope is that we can have that discussion with respect,” he said.

“We can acknowledge the Queen’s steady presence in a changing world, while also furthering the conversation about what it means to build our future together here in Australia, in that changing world.”

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton spoke of the Queen’s realism and optimism in the face of great changes during her life, recalling her saying: “The future is, as ever, obscure. The only certainty is that it will present the world with new and daunting problems,” and her recognition that parliamentary democracy was compelling but a fragile institution.

“She valued the lessons of history, counselling us to ‘have the good sense to learn from the experience of those who have gone before us,” he said.

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