By Diane Bell
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Additional info for Ngarrindjeri Wurruwarrin: A World That Is, Was and Will Be
One can be a believer and not be reflective. There are many ways of being Ngarrindjeri. The applicants have explained theirs to the Reporter Jane Mathews at some length. As their consultant I set about explaining the importance of individual and family histories as a context for understanding their stories. As the Ngarrindjeri with whom I am working are fond of saying, Not everyone needs to know everything for it to be true. Moreover, the Commonwealth legislation does not require that everyone know, nor that everyone endorse the application.
It would be “vexatious”. What all this means at law is moot. What is clear to me, after writing some 300 pages of submissions, reading 800-plus pages of transcripts, filling some seven large filing boxes, is that the Ngarrindjeri applicants are yet to have their day in court. Political expediency in the parliament, poor drafting of the act, states’ rights, media sensationalism and partisan reporting, disgruntled developers, an ill-informed public, hurried and harried anthropology, a lack of political resolve, legalism masquerading as fairness, and constantly shifting ground rules have proved to be a potent mix.
I see the Mathews Report reviewed in the Aboriginal Law Bulletin (Charlesworth 1997: 19–21) and the evidence of one of the applicants is quoted. This is the family who has said that I am to repeat nothing of theirs. Had they been asked, would they have consented to having their material in the report, or to having it repeated in a review? Because the Minister chose to table the report, their name and testimony are firmly in the public arena. Should I now repeat those matters? The reviewer can plead ignorance, but I can’t.
Ngarrindjeri Wurruwarrin: A World That Is, Was and Will Be by Diane Bell