2018 Dungala Kaiela Oration

The Dungala Kaiela Oration is an annual event on Yorta Yorta country co-hosted by the Kaiela Institute and the University of Melbourne. The oration gives prominent leaders and thinkers a platform to discuss contemporary issues relevant to the Goulburn Murray region.

This year’s oration, At home on country, at home in the world, was delivered by Māori lawyer and social justice advocate Dr Moana Jackson. Dr Jackson is the director of the Ngā Kaiwhakamārama i ngā Ture, The Wellington Māori Legal Service and lecturer at Te Wānanga o Raukawa, a Māori tertiary education provider. In 1982 he was elected Chair of the Indigenous Peoples’ Caucus of the United Nations working group on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. He was Director of the Māori Law Commission and was appointed judge on the International Peoples’ Tribunal in 1993 and has since sat on hearings in Hawai'i, Canada and Mexico.

Dr Jackson’s oration discussed the notion of treaty, a word originating from the Latin tractatus, which refers to the act of bringing people together. New Zealand’s Treaty of Waitangi, signed in 1840 by representatives of the British Crown and Māori chiefs, produced many challenges for Māori peoples, challenges Dr Jackson says, “Indigenous peoples have never turned away from”.

Dr Jackson’s thoughts came at a significant time for his audience, following the passing of the Advancing the Treaty Process with Aboriginal Victorians Bill 2018. The Bill enables Aboriginal Victorians to enter into formal treaty negotiations with the Victorian state government. Earlier in the evening, the Victorian Treaty Advancement Commissioner, Jill Gallagher AO, was invited to remark on the Victorian treaty and the various forms it could take.

Indigenous cultures are the longest living in the world, proving their ability to be adaptable and innovative when faced with various problems, such as environmental disasters. Indigenous peoples have responded with courage and strength to their most brutal challenge: colonisation. Indigenous cultures continue to thrive, as Dr Jackson stresses, “adaptation never meant submission”.

Colonisation denies the humanity of Indigenous peoples. Dr Moana Jackson

Speaking about his time as Chair of the working group on the Rights of Indigenous peoples, Dr Jackson discussed the importance of the right to self-determination for Indigenous peoples; the ‘right to determine their own destiny’. A treaty is a way for non-Indigenous people to publicly recognise the trauma of colonisation and work collectively towards a better future. Dr Jackson outlined three ways he believes this can be achieved:

  1. By never forgetting the past and the foundation new relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people are built upon.
  2. The treaty must be a living document, shaped by an ever-changing present that acknowledges the individual and unique lives of Indigenous peoples today.
  3. By planning for a different future, one that preserves the self-determination of Indigenous peoples.
Let the past be a spur to remedy, a catalyst for change. Dr Moana Jackson

On behalf of Indigenous peoples, Dr Jackson parted with a question for non-Indigenous audience members embarking on the journey with Indigenous peoples towards treaty: “Will you come with us, and can you keep up?”

The 2018 Dungala Kaiela Oration was co-hosted by the University of Melbourne’s Vice-Chancellor Professor Glyn Davis AC and the Kaiela Institute’s executive director Mr Paul Briggs OAM, who established the oration together in 2008. This year was Professor Davis’ final oration as co-host, which Mr Briggs reflected on during his opening remarks, noting their friendship and the ongoing success of the annual oration event.

From left to right: Jill Gallagher AO, Professor Glyn Davis AC, Dr Moana Jackson, Paul Briggs OAM, Rochelle Patten, Deborah Cheetham AO, James Atkinson and Belinda Briggs.