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Cultural Obstacles in Conflict

Cultural Obstacles in Conflict

What are some of the cultural obstacles you witnessed working with Native Title?

 

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So just seeing it from that perspective, standing with an aboriginal colleague, Lola Edwards sadly no longer here because she passed away a couple of years ago, standing with an aboriginal colleague and putting my hand up for a taxi and having taxi after taxi slow down and then drive away when they saw that one of the people was aboriginal. That had to be experienced to actually be believed. But the levels of discrimination are there, you won’t of read in England, but one of our great Aboriginal singers recently, whose blind, was refused a taxi late at night after his concert, which he had a standing ovation. He couldn’t get a taxi away from the venue. He stood in the street for ages. And publicized it the next day so there was all this discussion, was it racism or is it reasonable for taxi drivers to refuse people that they think might be violent.

 

It’s all on. It’s all out there. And that’s what people began to do, in the process of getting what have always been there rights. So it’s really a tough question and you sit with local government authorities for example, who say, “Oh no, no, we know this community, we’ll just wonder down there with a case of beer and we’ll have a bit of a discussion with them and everything will be all right.” And I said to them, “Do you have any idea that they have the ten best Native Title lawyers in the land, arranged on their side?” “Ah” said the counsel to me, “Do you think we should consult our lawyers?” And I said, “Yes, I do think it’s a good idea, the game has changed.” It was a game changer. People thought they could wander down and get the other side drunk and get them to say yes suddenly realized they had to negotiate as equals.

 

How do you negotiate as equals to someone you don’t say hello to in the street? With whom you and your family have lived with for 40 years? You don’t deal with disputes. You create them. Bringing people in the room together creates a dispute or creates a conflict if not a dispute. Because at some point the Native Title parties are going to say, “You bastards have known where we’ve been for 90 years, but you’ve never knocked on our door and asked permission. And the only reason you bastards are doing it now is because the law says you have to and how good is that? Aren’t you cowards?” And that goes to the biggest coal miner in the country.

About the mediator

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Joanna has been working with groups as a mediator for over 20years in highly sensitive inter-racial and political settings all over the world. In 2001 she became chairman of LEADR, Australia’s largest non for profit dispute resolution organisation and in 2006 became a visiting fellow at LEADR. She was a member of the administrative appeals tribunal for 10 years and later a member of the National Native Title Tribunal where she mediated land cla... View Mediator