It seems that the word “makarrata” is to be re-introduced …

Comment on First Nations want a ‘Voice’ enshrined in the constitution by Ted Egan.

It seems that the word “makarrata” is to be re-introduced into the vernacular. But let us learn to spell and pronounce it properly. It is not pronounced like the name of an American gangster, Mack A’Rata. It is properly pronounced like the surname of the famous American general, Douglas Macarthur and it should perhaps be better spelt as “makarrta with a “roll” on the “r”. Emphasis on the second syllable.

It is a reasonably appropriate word for “treaty” as the makarrta ceremony is a trial by ordeal in Arnhem Land in order that peace may be re-established. “Makarr” equals “thigh” and “Makarrta” means, literally, “into the thigh”. An offender is required to stand in a given spot, while the offended throw spears at him. As all boys were traditionally trained to dodge spears, that is relatively easy. I once saw an offender ask for five men to throw at him simultaneously. He was so adept, he could break spears in half as they whistled past his head. But honour must be satisfied. After a suitable number of spears have been thrown, the offended party dances in and the offender is ritually speared in the thigh. Makarrta. Blood is let. Peace is restored and the nice part is that no mortal blow has been inflicted.

Don’t hold your breath for a national treaty. We keep looking for Mandela style leadership and thereby national unity. But the minute Noel Pearson or Marcia Langton, or indeed anybody starts to speak “on behalf of all First Australians” they will quickly be told: “You don’t speak for me, mate”.

But regional treaties. Yes! Bring ’em on.

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