It must be a terrible quandary for those white Australians chorusing the new Aboriginal "always was, always will be" catchcry, guiding their conscience around their belief that they don't own the land they live on. Whether they be homeowners or renters, the fact is that according to their own admission these good people are living without permission on someone else's land.
It always was, so suggests the rallying slogan, Aboriginal land, it always will be Aboriginal land, and those non-Aboriginal people who accept this will, hopefully, consider the validity of their own use of Australian land.
Many of them will be hiding behind the rulings of parliaments and courts giving them title to certain land, but the fact is that these institutions were created by those seen by these title holders as the invaders. Therefore the rulings, the guarantees, the titles can have for them no more legitimacy than the invasion.
There are a number of ways troubled white Australians seek to excuse their squatting, and the most recent and widely used is calling Aboriginal people the traditional owners rather than the real owners. It is an insulting appeasement, as condescending as describing intellectually disabled people as special.
Embracing the "always was, always will be" cry must require acceptance of the notion of traditional ownership as a nonsense.
There is a way out of the quandary for these white Australians. Instead of paying your respects to the elders past and present and even future, as I heard recently, how about paying rent? Yes, rent.
If you're a tenant, the rent you may pay now is to someone who, according to your "always was, always will be" belief, does not own the land. That person owns the house on the land, and it's as fair that you pay rent for the use of the land as it is that you pay rent for the use of the house.
Embracing the 'always was, always will be' cry must require acceptance of the notion of traditional ownership as a nonsense. There is a way out of the quandary for these white Australians. Instead of paying your respects to the elders past and present and even future, as I heard recently, how about paying rent?
You can ask the owner of the house to reduce the rent by the amount you're going to pay to the real owners of the land, but, I'm afraid, even if that so-called landlord is a believer of the "always was, always will be" mantra self-serving inconsistency is bound to trump principle.
If you're paying a mortgage, you can seek relief from the bank on the basis that in accordance with a system of deceit preserved by the banks the money lent to buy the land went to the person who didn't own the land, and good luck.
The fact is that you cannot buy anything from anyone who does not own it, and while that itself is a legal principle held by the invaders it will fit also with your morality. So regardless of the attitude of those you pay money to now, you're going to have to take your apologies and plastic card to the local Aboriginal land council.
You will explain to the land council that you want to negotiate a rent for your use of their land, and the land council will understand. There are many factors for the land council to consider in setting the rent, among them the value of the land to you, to the land council and to others who may be willing to pay more rent.
In the event that you and the land council cannot agree on the rent, you'll have to move off the land, taking your house and other structures if they're yours, to a block whose rent to the land council you can afford. But, truly, I am confident you won't find the land council difficult.
Alternatively, you could ask the local government council to collect land council rents from you and likeminded souls as it collects its rates, and in time as paying land council rent becomes popular the local government council could include a compulsory land council rent to be included in its rates on all land.
Not a bad idea, eh?
Of course there are ways other than paying rent to clear your conscience of the baggage of land-stealing generations.
One is that you sign a 99-year lease requiring the occupier of the land to pay rent to the Aboriginal land council for the privilege of occupation, a lease that would attach to the property through any number of sales and transfers over the 99 years. That could be an attractive selling point among your likeminded.
Another is that you negotiate the right to live on the land for a peppercorn rent in exchange for bequeathing the ownership of the land, as dubious as that ownership is, to the land council. Whether your family will admire your principle is irrelevant, given that you will not want to burden them with ill-gotten gains.
Am I doing as I preach?
For starters, I am not preaching this course. I am, rather, pointing out to those white Australians who embrace the "always was, always will be" sentiment a course out of their dilemma before that dilemma becomes hypocrisy, if it hasn't already. Those Australians who don't see that describing Aboriginal people as traditional owners is a patronising deceit may like to consider that course too.
I am not in either group.
Jeff Corbett contributes regular opinion columns to the pages of the Newcastle Herald. Contact the writer: firstname.lastname@example.org