Aborigines

What Constitutional Recognition Would Mean

The Aboriginal academic Anthony Dillon says: “When discussing Aboriginal matters there seems to be no end to where offence can be taken and accusations of racism made.” That being so, it might be necessary for me to clarify that this article is not about opposing my fellow Australians of Aboriginal heritage from embracing, practising or celebrating their culture, so long as it does not violate individual rights and is within the confines of the rule of law. 

Instead this article is about the hidden agenda of the country’s ruling elites and their notorious contempt for the average Australian citizen. The political establishment and cultural elite think Australians are ignorant, racist bigots, while they think of themselves as a superior enlightened caste.

These privileged individuals not only take delight in falsely accusing other Australians of being inherently racist, but also the Australian Constitution of being a “racist document” which discriminates against indigenous people. They manifest a desire to remove allegedly “racist” provisions in the Constitution, and to add a new preamble that recognises the “first inhabitants” of Australia and their special rights as the “traditional custodians of the land”.

This essay appears in June’s Quadrant.
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Contrary to such claims, the Australian Constitution is simply a federal document which is colour-blind and does not mention the history of any ethnic group at all. The Constitution is basically the product of a compact between six former colonies to form a federation. Its primary function is not to describe history but to distribute various powers between the two tiers of government: the Commonwealth and the states. It is a practical document designed to establish a federal system of government, not a synopsis of Australian history.

One of the great virtues of our Constitution is its equal treatment of all citizens. It is a federal document for all Australians regardless of race, culture or origin. It is improper to use such a document to promote one group over the rest of the population.

However, advocates of constitutional recognition claim that it would go a long way to closing the gap between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians. The evidence suggests otherwise. According to the Productivity Commission, Australian governments have spent more than double per person on services for Aboriginal citizens than on other citizens. The ratio of indigenous to non-indigenous expenditure per head of population is 3:1 in school education, 5:1 in public and community health services, and 5:1 in housing.

Nonetheless, section 25 of the Australian Constitution is often interpreted as contemplating a denial of the franchise on racial grounds. This section reads:

For the purposes of the last section, if by the law of any State all persons of any race are disqualified from voting at elections for the more numerous House of the Parliament of the State, then, in reckoning the number of the people of the State or of the Commonwealth, persons of that race resident in that State shall not be counted.

The reason that this section was included is because, in the 1890s, Queensland and Western Australia practised racial discrimination by not allowing people of exclusive Aboriginal ethnicity to vote in state elections. The framers thought this was wrong and wanted to bring those states into line with all the others, where Aborigines already had the franchise. Even before Federation, writes Keith Windschuttle, “the great majority of Aborigines had the same political rights as other Australians, including the right to vote, which the Constitution guaranteed in Section 41”.

Douglas Drummond: The Voice: Maori Activists’ Cautionary Lesson

Indeed, most Aborigines had full citizenship in 1901 and, contrary to false accusations of racism, section 25 was designed to penalise the states that discriminated against Aborigines by reducing those states’ representation in federal parliament. Rather than denying indigenous people the franchise, the founders actually supported giving Aborigines voting rights from the very outset.

Another provision in the Constitution that recognition activists identify as “racially offensive” is section 51 (xxvi). This reads in full:

The Parliament shall, subject to this Constitution, have power to make laws for the peace, order, and good government of the Commonwealth with respect to: (xxvi.) The people of any race, for whom it is deemed necessary to make special laws.

However, not once since Federation has this provision lent support to unfair discrimination on grounds of race. To the contrary, in Kruger v Commonwealth (1997) Justice Dawson stated clearly that the powers given under this section “were required to be exercised in the best interests of the Aboriginals concerned or of the Aboriginal population generally”.

Of course, repealing section 51(xxvi) would have considerable implications on Australia’s federalism. It would leave this power wholly with the Australian states. As noted by the constitutional law academic Professor James Allan, “any s 51(xxvi) change that was aimed at a ‘status quo but with better symbolism’ outcome would need a repeal plus a replacement”.

Above all, the repeal of section 51 (xxvi) would prevent the federal government, or Commonwealth, from creating sensible policies that could attend to the special needs of indigenous people. For example, the Howard government’s intervention in the Northern Territory in 2007 was intended to rescue children from horrible neglect and sexual abuse. To undertake this policy the federal government had to exempt itself from the applications of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975, a manoeuvre that was possible because of the existence of section 51(xxvi).

The Constitution treats everyone equally, no matter when they or their ancestors arrived here. So why is it necessary to amend our Constitution when it is clearly not a racist document? Why is it claimed to be necessary to amend the Constitution when every jurisdiction in this country has already legislated for racial non-discrimination?

Arguably, a successful referendum on the matter would not unite us but divide us along lines of race and ancestry. Be that as it may, on October 6, 1999, Australians were required to make two important decisions. First, to become a republic, and second, to add a preamble to the Constitution. The proposed preamble included a recognition “honouring Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders, the nation’s first people, for their deep kinship with their lands, and for their ancient and continuing cultures which enrich the life of our country”.

Only 39 per cent of Australians voted “yes” for the new preamble. This was certainly not what the ruling classes intended.  To “fix” this problem the previous Rudd and Gillard governments spent millions of dollars in an “education” campaign to convince the public of the supposed benefits of recognition. In order to gather popular support, deeply emotional language was applied, to make Australians believe they had no option but to support such a recognition. This is quite clear in the message conveyed in the Final Report of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Act of Recognition Review Panel, in September 2014, on page 11:

The recognition of our first peoples in the Constitution carries with it a moral imperative. The continued journey toward reconciliation relies on the restorative power of this referendum. A failed referendum cannot be contemplated. Indeed, the risk of anything but a resounding national “yes” vote is difficult to comprehend.

The renewed push for recognition serves a highly educated, mostly urban elitist voice with titles such as “professor” and “doctor”, demanding far-reaching changes for “the Aboriginal people”. The great hypocrisy in all of this is that the very paternalism of the past that the present establishment so self-righteously decry, they now wish to impose upon “the least fortunate, least educated and most isolated”. Sadly, says Dallas Scott, an Aboriginal writer, “this is the enduring legacy of Aboriginal affairs in Australia”. Scott is especially critical of people who identify as Aboriginal but who, in his view, “don’t have any idea about what it’s like to be black”.  As he points out:   

Those given titles such as “elder”, “spokesperson”, “tribal leader” (or some other colourful variations) are those not elected by the people they claim to represent, but overwhelmingly, are self-appointed to such a role. In a society where citizens have been sent to die for the chance to bring democracy to another country, some turn a blind eye to the undemocratic state of native organisations.

He is talking about individuals with no mandate to make decisions for others. These are decisions that affect people for whom “Aboriginal leaders” and their white enablers have no legitimacy to speak. Such individuals embrace the notion of “Aboriginal culture” but conveniently shy away from speaking about dysfunctional traditions that still exist and should not, such as the practice of “humbugging” that has been allowed not only to continue, but to proliferate. Scott concludes with a passionate appeal to every Australian citizen of good will:

Australians have happily swallowed the lie that Aborigines are one big, multi-coloured family who stick together … Those without a voice trust the rest who have one to speak up for them. They are not the ones lecturing on recognition from a function centre, but the people who are often functionally illiterate and unemployed, thousands of kilometres away from where people are listening and deciding what is important for them. I believe that these people, overwhelmingly, call for better housing, protection from violence and corruption, healthcare, jobs, education and the dignity that cannot be legislated into being …

As a native Australian, it would be nice to have a constitution that makes mention of our occupation of this great country for tens of thousands of years. The reality, however, is that it will not change nor improve … life expectancy or literacy. It will not make a dent in rates of alcohol abuse, domestic violence or improve health services for the most needy. It will not assure justice or provide protection from corruption. It will not provide the catalyst to change incarceration rates, or over-representation in prison populations. These are legacies that I am ashamed of leaving to my children, and others of their generation, as a native of this country—not our omission in the Constitution.

Constitutional recognition is particularly problematic because it offers the potential to create different rules for people with different ancestry. Such discrimination might benefit a few individuals but it “keeps many Aboriginal people from reaching their full potential”. An example of this is found in the practice of placing children in need of care with “culturally appropriate” carers. “This practice has sometimes ended in tragedy,” explains Anthony Dillon, a university lecturer who identifies himself as a “part-Aboriginal Australian”. Because of such legal discriminations, Dillon comments:

Some children have suffered, all in the name of “culture”. A colour-blind culture or way of life, characterised by love, is a far more important consideration than a culture that is assumed to be Aboriginal simply because the adult potential carers themselves have some Aboriginal ancestry.

Constitutional recognition could also tempt certain individuals to further “play the race card”, leading to the aggravation, not the alleviation, of differences between Aborigines and other Australians. Rather than generating authentic reconciliation, the recognition of a separate group offers the potential to poison cross-cultural relationships and so to “drive us further apart than we have been for generations”. After all, what might it be like co-parenting a child when one parent becomes more legitimate than the other in the eyes of the law simply because of his or her culture or skin colour?

What about the suggestion of adding a new preamble to the Constitution, one that simply honours Australian Aborigines as the nation’s first people? This might appear to be a good idea, were it not for the fact that the insertion of such a provision is to misconceive the document’s purpose in establishing the Australian Federation. If a new preamble adding the ethnic-cultural element were created, not only is it doubtful that it could serve any useful purpose; it would be incompatible with the inherent subject matter of the Constitution as a set of rules for the establishment of a federal system of government.

Aboriginal culture already is well recognised in Australian law. There are numerous laws, at federal and state levels, specifically dealing with Aboriginal matters, such as native title and heritage. There is also legislation to ensure that Aboriginal culture is properly taken into consideration. Such recognition, however, has engendered a number of unintended difficulties where culture is defined, with the acceptance of some behaviour as “cultural” which otherwise would not be tolerated.

When discussing recognition there is the problem of deciding exactly what might be defined as Aboriginal “culture”. Is it living off the land, undergoing tribal initiations, spearing offenders in the leg, or simply just a feeling? There is no doubt that Aboriginal culture includes a number of admirable aspects but it also includes some less than attractive beliefs and practices. For example, part of Aboriginal culture rests on “demand sharing” or “humbugging”, which means that “whatever one earns others have a right to”. Do Australians want to constitutionally recognise customary norms that flow from this practice? And what about the following initiation rite to manhood practised by the Arrernte tribe of Central Australia:

A boy becomes a man by having an upper central incisor pounded out of his head with a rock, without anaesthetic, without permission to express pain or terror, by having his foreskin cut off in little pieces with a stone knife and seeing it eaten by certain of his male relatives, and as a climax of agony, by having his penis slit through the urethra from the scrotum to the meatus, like a hot dog.

Sexual intercourse becomes difficult after these “cultural” procedures. The penis is so disfigured that the organ of just-pubescent girls has also to be “modified” in order to accommodate it. As explained by a commentator describing the Arrernte:

In order to overcome the difficulty the females are subjected to mutilation of a frightful character, with a view to the permanent enlargement of the parts which are operated upon. The incisions internal and external are made with sharp stones or stone knives, and the operators are always the old men of the tribes. The exact details of the procedure are so abominable that it would be impossible to adequately describe them in language fit for the general reader. The performance of these mutilations inflicts permanent injury upon the victims. Some of them do not survive the ordeal.

Constitutional recognition may provide an unintended incentive to the legitimisation of such heinous practices. Over the last four decades powerful members of the legal profession have expressed a desire to recognise every single aspect of Aboriginal cultural practice, including payback and tribal punishment. For example, the Australian Law Reform Commission’s report on the “Recognition of Aboriginal Customary Laws” in 1986 alleged that there was a widespread “support for the recognition of such customary practices, both in the Aboriginal communities, and amongst some in the legal profession”. The 2012 report of the Expert Panel on “Recognising Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples in the Constitution” regarded support for the recognition of customary law in the Constitution as “one vital component” that includes “respecting the constituting cultures, languages and heritage of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples”.

However, such recognition of “cultural rights” could allow punishments for criminal acts to be lessened for some individuals. It could also engender inequality in administrative matters concerning benefits, grants and other special provisions, and in civil cases concerning “offended” plaintiffs.

In The Break-Up of Australia, his book addressing the hidden agenda behind recognition, Keith Windschuttle explains why Australians have not been told the truth about such a proposal to change our Constitution:

A lot of people today want to re-write the Australian Constitution. It is not only the Aboriginal academic and political establishment who want parts of it redrafted to suit their own political agenda. The real aim of the hard core of today’s political class and cultural elite is not social amelioration or progress, even if they do regard themselves as “progressives”. It is to gain a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to change the Constitution to fulfil their own political ambitions.

Their ambitions are not centred on gaining more liberal reforms or making Australia more democratic. In fact, in order to fulfil their political agendas, most constitutional critics today regard democracy not as an objective they must pursue but an obstacle they must overcome. For them, it is democracy that is the problem because it gives the majority of ordinary Australians the last word in deciding who governs. In the eyes of those who now dominate our cultural institutions and much of our political leadership, most ordinary Australians are uneducated, uncouth, racist rednecks, and a Constitution that gives people like them such power is unbearably frustrating.My interactions with “today’s political class and cultural elite” testify to the veracity of the above statement. This is precisely what the country’s ruling elites think of the Australian people.

There must be no special treatment of individuals or groups in the Australian Constitution. As stated by Ian Callinan, a former High Court Justice:

Any constitutional provision which might seek to justify a different law for peoples of different ethnicity on grounds of that ethnicity should be resisted. This must be so for reasons of fairness and social cohesion, as well as clarity of application.

Australians should not be bullied into supporting “group rights” that flow to selected people on the basis of culture, origin or ethnicity. “We got here first” is a much poorer concept than the great principle of Western constitutionalism, “We are all created equal and endowed by the Creator with certain inalienable rights”.

If the price of liberty is indeed eternal vigilance, then it is necessary for Australians to understand the hidden agenda of privileged elements in the public sector, particularly the political establishment and academic elite. Such individuals have a vested interest in dividing our great nation into lines of culture, origin and ethnicity so as to foment a more divisive society that ultimately facilitates the further expansion of their power and control over the population at large and the Australian Aborigines in particular.

Dr Augusto Zimmermann is Professor and Head of Law at Sheridan Institute of Higher Education in Perth, and Professor of Law (Adjunct) at the University of Notre Dame Australia, Sydney campus

17 comments
  • Michael

    There is no way I will support enshrining in the Constitution special privileges for a group of Australians defined by ancestry. No way. No!

    It is wrong on fundamental principles and it is a political delusion to think it could be successful at a referendum.

    Australian is Australian!

  • Harry Lee

    The Australian Constitution?
    The Australian Constitution that contains no provisions to protect Australia against takeover by marxist ideology, by marxist policies of enslavement of the striving, productive classes, by marxist policies that tightly constrain entrepreneurial and business innovation, indeed, by marxist/post-modernist destruction of the essentials of Western Civ?
    The Australian Constitution that has given Australia a Federal Upper House, the Senate, that is not designed or implemented to oversee effectively, in tune with the principles of Western Civ, the long-term defence and development of Australia?
    All as promoted by the ALP, the Greens, the ABC, SBS, and by 90% of the commercial media and by the education systems, and as enacted every day by 80% plus of public servants at Federal, State/territory and Council level.
    That Australian Constitution?
    Yes, must be -because it is the only Australian Constitution that exists.
    The Dummy Country.

  • NFriar

    Thank you.

    Thank you.

    THANK YOU.

  • NFriar

    Mark Latham put it to Parliament on Wed that Dark Emu books be removed from schools.

    Sadly the vote was 34: 5 – voted out.
    These pollies don’t want the Trojan Horse removed!!!
    Perhaps those who want Aboriginal “culture” preserved, taught and protected, should actually experience it; especially the initiation rites, worse than Islamic FGM!

  • Doubting Thomas

    Harry, in my opinion, it is perhaps the greatest strength of Australia’s Constitution that it allows the entire range of political opinion to exist without censorship or prohibition. It is fundamental to our democracy that people be able to hold and express the views, such as believing that a Voice for Aborigines is necessary. If those who oppose such views lack the means and ability to put their case to persuade a majority to their (our) view, then so be it. Any constitutional power to limit their freedom of thought will just as easily be used to limit ours.

  • Brian Boru

    I agree with Thomas. I also believe “We are all created equal and endowed by the Creator with certain inalienable rights”.

  • Harry Lee

    Doubting Thomas and Brian -NO. It is naive in the extreme to permit marxism to be regarded as a legitimate feature of our society. As we see, the marxist-inpsired Big Statists have used such misplaced legitimacy to take over the joint. Must wise up, soonest, if we are not to slide into full and final slavery to the marxist commissars.
    (Of course, I am fully aware of the received anti-wisdom that all ideologies are equally good and supportive of human flourishing. But that idea is indeed extreme anti-wisdom. Must distinguish realism from idealism, when it comes to political statements aimed at soothing feelings. Also in this vein, it is obvious that not all groups of human beings are equally endowed with the ability to deal constructively with their lives, or in the propensity to violence. Some groups, easily identified, have higher proportions with each of those human characteristics. And, these hard truth are too hard, indeed too expensive, to accept these days.)

  • Doubting Thomas

    Then get thee, Harry, to the rooftops to argue your case convincingly to the masses. Tampering with the Constitution to restrict the speech or the freedom of political opponents is futile. It didn’t work when Menzies tried it and it won’t work now.

  • Geoff Sherrington

    A point of curiosity.
    Before the 1967 referendum, the Commonwealth produced and publicised abundant material favouring the YES case. Even with help from the National Library, I was unable to find any Cwth documents describing the NO case.
    Is there an obligation for the Cwth to explain both cases? Is a referendum invalid if this is not done, at all or adequately? Geoff S

  • Harry Lee

    Doubting Thomas -yes, but this is rather more than a simplistic idea of “freedom of speech”.
    Fifty years ago, certainly 120 years ago, few people foresaw that the marxist people were moving to take over the West. But now, the marxist Big Statists dominate all the institutions of the West. And the marxists have installed legislation that curtails free speech (18C) and the universities will not allow free expression of anti-marxist and/or empirical views.
    You might remember the case, just few years ago, that all but two universities refused to establish courses on Western Civ, funded by the Ramsey Fdn.
    You might know that even in the late 1970’s researchers on the topics of differences in intelligence across races were banned from talking on Australian university campuses.
    And huge: There is nothing in the Constitution that provides for stopping the ABC from channeling, almost exclusively, marxist-inspired pro-ALP, pro-Greenist and anti-Lib/anti-Nat propaganda. Nor does the Constitution provide for stopping the state education systems from dumbing-down what is taught in the areas of maths, English and science -which has been done by the ALP, unions and Greens.
    And 80% of the “public services” are staffed by people who vote ALP or Green, and who daily do things to stymi free enterprise and suppress the flow of information that does not serve leftist causes.
    These are the matters that need urgent public attention.
    What Menzies foresaw has come to pass: The marxists now dominate everything, courtesy of freedoms that marxists then stamp out.
    The situation is rather more problematic than most people can even imagine.

  • STD

    Houston we have a problem.
    Harry the Ramsay centre for Western Civilisation, is a real life attempt to revive and resuscitate the Liberal arts and the core components of Philosophical thinking in the West.
    It is more than a Liberal arts degree.
    It would actually inculcate in modern society the very notions of civilised human being- HONESTY- TRUTHFULNESS-REFLECTION- CONTEMPLATIVE THOUGHT PROCESSES , WHICH LAY AT THE HEART OF VIRTUOUS BEHAVIOUR, AND ARE THE FOUNDATION STONE OF CIVILISING BEHAVIOUR, THAT LOOKS AWFULLY LIKE THE NON ‘ACT ‘OF BEING COURTEOUS( John Paul II thought of this act of being as GENUINE FREEDOM- IN A WORD A SOCIETY WITH INTEGRITY.
    The polar opposite of the core ethics in Australia’s political Corporate sectors- banking and media to name a ‘phew’.
    It will come to pass and full circle eventually, as Sir Robert Menzies said prophetically ,when allaying apprehension of the state of worldly affairs , in Heather. However the transformative phase will be painful and costly .

  • STD

    Aboriginal people don’t need a voice in parliament, as they have the exact same right and privilege to vote, as the rest of us.
    Aboriginal people have more melanin ,this is why they have dark pigmented skin , this is a feature of Darwinian evolution at work- environmental adaptation- adaptive DNA.
    In that comparison ,Aboriginal people have greater privilege in comparison to people with paler skins – so the question is ,why would the Left(Marxists) be advocating a voice in parliament for people on the basis of skin tone as a result of melanin content- that is pure stupidity and should be referred to the Human Rights commissioner, for discrimination.
    The VOICE is simply a way or another Left wing creep, of giving a minority population ,in number cohort greater say over the rest of Australia.
    In other words ,for the sake of clarity, George Orwell’s Left wing Marxist pigs- their VOICE IS THE ONLY VOICE THAT IS HEARD AND COUNTS(COUNTED).
    The voice is Marxist in nature as is…………………………………………………………………………..
    the so called Aboriginal flag ,which is the flag of the AUSTRALIAN COMMUNIST PARTY, in naked reality.
    If the voice in parliament was morally ‘well’ intentioned, we would be hearing a voice crying out in the wilderness(Senator Brian Harradine).
    That voice, would be a voice for all unborn babies (to borrow a thought from Spike Milligan) hanging in their pulsing caves.
    Surely a pulse is an indication of the right to live ,which is really a right to life(righteous) when you are alive.
    Maybe such a voice( all be it little) could be heard- allowed. Why are some children denied a further right to living in earthly gestation early, and how come some are allowed to fuller gestational term, and some to late term before being denied their physiological pulsing rights, and how come some babies are given their natural law right to real life , by way of comparison. Is there discrimination taking place – why are some people allowed to exercise their discriminatory choice and others are denied their right.
    Abortion is a form of sexual discrimination is it not!

  • Harry Lee

    STD, the Ramsey Centre activities are excellent, well-meaning and right-minded -but it is a tiny effort compared to the vast array of enemy forces.
    And please consider that not all processes in human affairs “come full circle” -not without the right kinds of human intervention to correct the underlying causes of destruction of the Good, the True and the Beautiful.
    Fact, nothing much good happens without human effort applied in ways to reduce if not destroy the forces of evil.
    That’s history, that the nature of things as described by the world’s wisdoms traditions, and that’s also what science has taught us.

  • Harry Lee

    And STD, regarding corruption in the banking, media and other public sector institutions:
    I have seen that there is as much corruption in quantity, if different in quality, in the public services -at all levels: Fed, State, Territory, Council.
    The public services are 80% staffed by people whose allegiance is to ALP and/or Green ideology.
    And it is naive to believe that all, or even a majority of public servants perform their duties in accord with duly elected Lib-Nat government policies.

  • STD

    Harry ,I agree with you 100% – but short of war ,how do we remove this cancer of the mind?

  • Harry Lee

    STD -I ask non-marxist/non-greenist Australians to consider this:
    That nothing can be done to retrieve the ALP and the Greens, and their allies in all institutions, from their vile ideologies that are contrary to proper human flourishing.
    But the Libs and Nats can be got to rights. This would take the work of several thousand high-quality citizens in each electoral seat, Fed and State, to join their local branch of the Libs or Nats. Then to do the long, hard, never-ending work of engaging in the local politics required to take over each and every branch by replacing the wrong kinds of incumbents. Then to work to identify, train, support, and push the right kinds of candidates for elective office.
    These volunteers would have to self-organise, self-fund, self-mobilise, and figure out long-term strategy and tactics to maintain their control of the branches against inevitable counter-attacks by bad forces.
    Along with this branch level leadership by volunteers devoted to proper human flourishing in the context of renewed principles of Westeren Culture, they would have to work with reps from all other branches to establish media and educational units to counteract the inevitable increase in marxist/greenist propaganda and evil lies that the ALP and Greens and the existing media and education systems will then pour into this war.
    Behind these several thousand volunteers within each branch, they will need to organise a nation-wide force of even more volunteers to support these efforts to save Western Civ from the marxists and greenist and various anti-Westernist forces, home-grown and imported, that are now among us.
    All up, several million proper Australians will have to spend some of their own time and some of their money, in perpetuity, to rid Australia of the vast forces of marxist/greenist, money-grubbing, power-mongers and their parasitic clients who now dominate the Land.
    True, none of this has ever been done before.
    But Western Civ -the best Civ ever- was built by devoted volunteers doing what had never been done before- and it took practical ingenuity, hard work and sacrifice.

  • pmprociv

    As I recall from high-school days, we were taught that our Constitution was, in effect, an “instruction manual” on how to run the country, very necessary when six former colonies came together as a single nation. Recognising past inhabitants, or anything else from the continent’s history, was pretty immaterial to this function; it might as well mention that Australia was once part of the super-continent, Gondwana, a most useful fact (or that numerous migrants have arrived since — so what?).
    As for a parliamentary (or governmental) “voice”, forget it. Fundamentally, the concept of “an indigenous voice” itself is racist: it implies that indigenous people all think alike, but differently from the rest of our population. In my experience, they are just as diverse as any other group of humans, with far more in common with than different from the rest of us (e.g. I had to wait a whole year before commencing a research project in a remote community, vital to the health of its children, while the adults fought over who its land council chairman, i.e. “mayor”, should be).
    And they already have a voice, at least equal in influence to mine: they are represented in parliament by their local members, some of whom just happen to be indigenous as well (and, I think, numerically are proportional to the overall indigenous population).
    Now, should such a neo-ATSIC body be resurrected, a big issue will instantly present itself: just who can vote for it? The lawyers will be rubbing their hands in glee — just imagine if Bruce Pascoe demanded this right, then multiply this by thousands. Should those who vote for a representative in The Voice, also be allowed to vote in normal elections, for their standard representatives? So they get two bites of the political cherry, undermining a basic principle of democracy.
    And just who will be elected? The usual Nomenklatura, of course: Marcia Langton, the Dodson bros, Megan Davis, Tom Calma, maybe even Saint Bruce himself, et al. (admittedly, many are approaching their use-by dates, but plenty of young ones must surely be waiting in the wings for this life-long meal and travel ticket).
    And the claim that it will advise only on matters relating to “indigenous issues”? Last time I looked, all indigenous Australians were citizens, subject equally to every one of our laws — which means The Voice will interfere in everything. Although that shouldn’t matter, because it will only advise, not run the country . . .
    This is one Pandora’s Box whose lid should remain firmly closed.

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