The Traditional Owners of this land are those who identify as
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples.

Sovereignty was never ceded.

ANTAR pays respect to Elders past, present, and emerging through our dedicated advocacy for First Nations Peoples’ justice and rights.

ANTAR acknowledges the responsibility of committing to a truth-telling process that promotes an honest and respectful path forward for future generations to build upon.

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4 minutes

Now More Than Ever

Blake Cansdale
Last edited: May 27, 2024

I recently spent three days on Gumay Country (Cairns) with 200+ First Nations community leaders and advocates. It was a powerful reminder that our Peoples’ Nationhood is alive and strong.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Peoples are just that, hundreds of independent Peoples and sovereign nations. Many nations within a nation if you like; the latter nation being the settler-colonial state of Australia. I am an Anaiwan man; my ancestral Country is around Walcha and Armidale in Northern NSW. Yet I was born on Dharawal Country in South Western Sydney and have spent most of my life living on Darkinyung Country on the Central Coast of NSW. Despite my greatest physical and conscious connection being with mob on the Central Coast (approximately 17,000 people at last ABS census count… the largest First Nations population in Australia), I am not a Darkinyung man. Equally, my children, who were born on Darkinyung Country and who will spend their formative years here, are Anaiwan, not Darkinyung. That is not to say that myself and my children do not have responsibilities as custodians of Darkinyung Country whilst residing there – we do – however, my family does not have cultural authority to speak on behalf of Darkinyung Country. We never will.

If both of my parents were Koori, I would’ve drawn my lineage from my Mother, being that the Anaiwan nation is a matriarchal nation, as is most of the east coast of Australia. The further intricacies of my identity (my connection to Country) would’ve been laid out through my kinship/moiety structures, with implications at a National, tribal and familial level. Unfortunately, the devastating impacts of colonisation has seen to it that I am no longer consciously connected to this aspect of my people’s ancient systems of governance/being. Whilst I can speak only of my Nation totem (iwata/echidna), not my clan, family or personal totems, my spiritual link to my ancestors and my Country remains strong.

How Australian governments understand and navigate our First Peoples’ nationhood, or our layered sovereignty to put it another way, will be critical to the success of treaty negotiations around Australia over the coming years. By offering an insight into the complexity of our First Peoples’ nationhood, and its significance to ongoing First Nations affairs, I hope that I might ignite an inquisitiveness. A desire to better understand the history, complexity and beauty of our people’s culture and our role as enduring Custodians of Country.

In the wake of the failed Referendum, we need Australians to stand up for rights and justice for our people, perhaps Now More than Ever (this year’s National Reconciliation Week theme – 27 May to 3 June). For many First Nations people, including myself, the answer lies in the Uluru Statement from the Heart, the elements of which represent our greatest opportunity for intergenerational socio-economic uplift for our people.

In 2017, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples issued the Uluru Statement from the Heart, a profound invitation for the nation to walk together, in a movement of the Australian people for a better future. And having just passed the seventh anniversary of this historic invitation, it is important to remember that this statement was the largest consensus of First Nations Peoples on a proposal for substantive recognition in Australia’s history, and that the core elements of the statement – Voice, Treaty, Truth – have enormous and enduring significance, despite the Voice Referendum outcome.

Whilst Australia may not have supported a constitutionally enshrined Voice, that is not to say that Australians don’t support First Nations representation in matters that greatly affect them (Voice). It is also not to say that Australians don’t support negotiations to build a stronger, more sophisticated and just relationship between non-Indigenous Australians and First Nations Peoples (Treaty). It is certainly not to say that Australians don’t wish to expose both past and ongoing injustices experienced by First Nations Peoples in Australia since colonisation (Truth).

With the continued support of the 6.2 million allies that stood alongside our people in voting yes at the Referendum, we can and will see the principles of the Uluru Statement from the Heart put into practice.

We must build on the strength of the Australians that said ‘Yes’ to walking with First Nations Peoples for a better future for us all. We can do this by doubling down on our support for First Nations representative bodies and the Uluru Statement from the Heart.

First Nations people need your allyship, Now More Than Ever.

Blake Cansdale
ANTAR National Director

Blake is a proud Anaiwan man and the National Director of ANTAR. Dedicated to empowering First Nations communities, Blake has a background in legal practice with experience in public policy, lecturing, Aboriginal affairs, business management, Aboriginal land planning and development, land acquisition and land management.

He holds a Master of Public Policy & Management from Monash University and a Bachelor of Laws (LLB) / Bachelor Science (major psychology) from UNSW.

Prior to joining the team at ANTAR, Blake held Senior Executive roles within the Aboriginal Community Controlled Sector, namely as Chief Operating Officer at Tranby National Indigenous Adult Education & Training, and most recently as Chief Operating Officer at Darkinjung Local Aboriginal Land Council.