Consent, in theory, is a simple concept. It implies that the other party knew in advance what was proposed, was asked about it and that request was granted.
In radical consent, both in the sexual liberation and the aboriginal/environmental movement, the term used is free, informed prior consent. It’s true that this is a radical idea.
It means that no matter what dress you’re wearing or how much you drink, no one has permission to rape you. It means that no matter how much trauma you suffer from residential school, your rights should still be respected as a human being. And that as a community, we all need to participate in the natural legacy that we are leaving for our children.
Consent has certainly come a long way in recent decades. Many people within our society still have issues with how far consent has come.
There are cultural gaps in the way that our communities perceive consent. Violence is becoming a less socially acceptable means of getting your way, and so different parties are coming up against resistance to this idea of consent.
In the North, we have epidemic levels of domestic violence. Intimate partner abuse is some of the most personally devastating forms of violence that many people deal with. This happens cross-culturally, but there are values upheld in certain cultures that make it less acceptable.
The fear and hostility that many children face in their home situations is the number one reason our culture and society need to come to terms with respect within our loving relationships.
Within the aboriginal context, consensual relationships with the Crown are hard to come by. With every boundary being decided by the court systems, taxpayers are paying a high price for the higher institution coming to an understanding about consent. Every court case won is millions of dollars wasted on more tension and distrust.
Our communities today are facing the greatest challenges our species has ever known. Climate change means that extreme weather events will put ever-intensifying pressure on our current infrastructure systems. The financial costs will run us further into debt, but there are ways of turning the system around to work for us.
This year Exxon Mobile will release a report on how it is assessing carbon asset risk. It is now widely accepted, after this year’s report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, that only up to one-third of proven fossil fuel reserves can be burned without sending us into climate catastrophe.
It is expected that we may have already blown past two degrees of warming global temperature, which was agreed to universally as being unacceptable at the signing of the Copenhagen accord. However, a tax on carbon emissions that was reinvested in renewable technologies could pay real dividends in energy for the future.
Instead of working together as a community, a territory and a country, we seem set to continue a path of tension and conflict. From my perspective, our region in particular needs to come to terms with the challenges and opportunities fast approaching us. In order to address these, we will need every bright mind, every pair of hands and every person as healthy as possible.
It is time for us to all to work towards enabling every citizen to participate in the building of our collective future. And a crucial component in all this is free prior and informed consent.