Barrister Tony McAvoy SC advocates for truth commissions and treaties with First his 2021 Dr Charles Perkins oration. 

In recent years, encouraging the broader Australian public to take an interest in Indigenous Affairs has proven both difficult and problematic, as it is commonly punctuated by calls for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to take personal agency and forge successful and prosperous lives within modern Australia.

“At present, we are told that our recovery from the trauma of our dispossession is largely our own responsibility, that we should stop living in the past,” Mr McAvoy said in his 2021 Charles Perkins Oration.

Queensland and the post-colonial impact of what happened in Charles Perkins’ paternal ancestral Kalkadoon Country, north-west Queensland, was central to McAvoy’s speech. McAvoy is a Wirdi man with connections to Central Queensland around Clermont and to Thargomindah in south-west Queensland.

His speech highlighted the inter-generational impacts of dispossession, that Australia continues to witness today, as exemplified by the post-colonial impact of what happened in Kalkadoon Country.

“Following the attempted eradication of the Kalkadoon, Mt Isa became a prosperous regional centre where the British could engage in mining and grazing without fear,” Mr McAvoy said. However, the experiences of colonists and their descendants has largely been very different to that of the Kalkadoon, who fought to save Country in conflicts like the 1884 Battle Mountain Massacre.

“The two sides of the battle had very different trajectories following Battle Mountain. The Kalkadoon people were largely massacred, with survivors significantly displaced and living lives of destitution and oppression. And the British side, well, their lives flourished,” Mr McAvoy said.

Although in recent years, there is more willingness among the broader community to accept and understand Australia’s shared history, First Nations’ perspectives have been largely overlooked by mainstream educational institutions, he reminded the audience.

“The gap between exploitative destruction of the landscape in the name of the economy and the deep spirituality of our First Nations is far too great, social structures need to be built to allow us to be safe and happy and allow us to shape our own destiny,” he said.

Formal truth-telling commissions, like Victoria’s Yoo-rrook Justice Commission, Australia’s first truth-telling process, may be one model for bringing out the truth of Australia’s history.

Treaties between First Nations and the Australian Government should be at the forefront of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs policy. McAvoy is helping to lead the charge for change in this area of the law.

Read more in Jai McAllister’s story of 13 November 2021 on ABC online: 

Watch the video of 2021 Dr Charles Perkins AO Oration here:

A growing list of Memorials and Monuments to people who gave their lives in Australian Frontier Conflicts during the colonial period is available on this website. Timelines for well over 1,000 conflicts that have occurred throughout Australia are also available on this website. Click on Queensland for a list of an increasing number of known conflicts, including the Kalkadoon struggle at Battle Mountain, that happened there.

Material on this website compiled by Jane Morrison 2012–2021. Posts updated 13 November 2021.