A pin drop could be heard on the second day of the MUA’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander conference during Professor Pat Dodson’s impassioned presentation.
Professor Dodson had flown down from Broome armed with his notes on the back of his Qantas napkin to talk to delegates about his past struggles and future direction, particularly about his role on the Recognise Campaign.
“There are two stories - the Aboriginal story and the non-indigenous, the story of colonisation and settlement. Those two stories have never really met in a way to resolve fundamental issues, in any meaningful, lasting and secure way,” Dodson said.
He talked about how optimistic he was with the cultural shift and subsequent referendum in 1967, but he said change, since then, has been slower than he would like.
“We’re like rats in a cage and we rarely break through,” he said.
“The next logical step is Constitutional change.
“Anything other than that is not enough, a statement outside of the Constitution means nothing.
He expressed his displeasure at the likes of Tony Abbott using the term reconciliation when he actually meant assimilation.
“The policy settings are not right, they’re not involving indigenous people.”
However, he stated the only way to agitate for change was to work within some of the existing structures. “If you constantly butt up against it, it just entrenches itself,” he said.
Other guest speakers included ASU WA Branch Secretary Wayne Wood and Gordon Cole a managing director of his own consulting company GCC.
In the afternoon Ryan Cobb a second mate from Fartsad told his story of how he rose through the ranks from a trainee IR up to now studying to become Australia’s first Aboriginal Master Mariner. His message was so motivational that he received messages of congratulations from the floor.
All of the photos from the conference can be seen here.