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Leaving no one behind. Indigenous peoples and the call for a new social contract.

 

by William Tilmouth, Arrernte leader and Children’s Ground Chairperson

Today on the United Nations International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, we are recognising that inclusion and participation in the systems that affect First Nations lives is of vital importance. We need a new social contract that sees social and economic benefits for all. 

But I believe that until we truly acknowledge Indigenous knowledge systems and learnings, we will all perish under the weight of so-called ‘Western progress’. 

I have been propelled into a world of philosophy. I don’t have academic qualifications – my qualifications are in foresight. Indigenous peoples are the greatest participant observers and researchers in the world. Indigenous Peoples have studied nature for survival for over 60,000 years.   

Too often we see people coming out of academia who do not understand their complex relationship with the world they inhabit. My learnings stem from the school of life. 

Throughout the global pandemic we have seen masses of people facing lockdown for the first time in their history. This is the reality First Nations people have faced for their entire existence. First Nations people face exclusion from mainstream systems every day. We are moved off our land; we are told we cannot speak our language.   

A new social contract must first acknowledge the need for change.   

Governments have prescribed solutions for First Peoples since colonisation. I do believe in government, but government must step back at times to recognise their failings. For example, the evidence of global warming and its effects on First Nations people is insurmountable, yet Government is continuing to ignore it.   

A new social construct must begin by acknowledging the differing needs for every child. Children who are not born of a Western culture, must not be forced into a Western system not designed for them. At Children’s Ground, we appreciate and prioritise First Nations knowledge systems. These systems are the backbone of a child’s identity. We celebrate them today on International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, and every day.