Recently, The Australian ran a story by Paige Taylor quoting Reconciliation Australia’s biennial survey which asserts four out of five Australians believe it is important to establish a representative indigenous body enjoying constitutional protection. She says:
Since 2008, Reconciliation Australia’s barometer survey has been gauging the attitudes and experiences of Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians, including towards each other.
The latest survey of 532 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and 1990 non-Indigenous people … found support for an Indigenous body in the Constitution was 79 per cent. In 2020, when the last survey was conducted, 81 per cent of people surveyed were in favour. The survey has an estimated margin of error of 1.9 per cent.
Obviously, very few Australian readers would have been included in the sample, judging by the comments thread of every story in that newspaper concerning this Voice. Among that cohort, I doubt support would get to even one in ten. This thought led me to wonder about the rigour of the survey. A sample of 2522 from a population of 25 million is not particularly convincing to begin with. I could not find online an explanation of the methodology used, but in 2008 they used Auspoll. According to the detailed report of that survey:
The research was conducted online using a managed panel of respondents who received a small incentive for their participation. Studies have shown that online research produces research which is at least as accurate (and sometimes more accurate) than telephone research. Some of the benefits include the removal of any interviewer bias, as well as the ability to conduct fast turnaround research. The sample was drawn in such a way as to be representative of the Australian population and data were weighted by sex, age and location.
That suggests to me a panel of semi-professional serial survey respondents. There may well be a left-leaning bias inherent in such a cohort. Be that as it may, the more interesting question relates to the vaguely defined concept of ‘reconciliation’.
On Wednesday, National’s Senator Andrew Gee broke ranks with his party and announced he would support the Voice. Naturally he was immediately snapped up by Voice advocate Chris Kenny for an interview on Sky’s The Kenny Report. Gee told us that ‘although we’ve come a long way towards reconciliation, we’ve still got a long way to go’ or words to that effect. Which suggests that Gee actually knows what reconciliation looks like. That would make him pretty much unique, at least among ‘whiteys’.
Other than in a financial context, ‘reconciliation’ has two meanings. You can become ‘reconciled to’ something, which means you accept the inevitability of what you cannot control. That is the form of reconciliation that Aborigines should embrace if they really want to eliminate disadvantage in that 20 per cent of their population that is still genuinely disadvantaged.
Or you can become ‘reconciled with’ someone, which means you put away your differences. This implies a compromise – some give and take on both sides.
But the form of reconciliation demanded by the Aboriginal Industry falls into neither category. It is an open-ended process: We will be reconciled with Aborigines when they tell us we are.
Here, from the Reconciliation Australia website, is what reconciliation means to them:
At its heart, reconciliation is about strengthening relationships between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and non-Indigenous peoples, for the benefit of all Australians.
For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, Australia’s colonial history is characterised by devastating land dispossession, violence, and racism. Over the last half-century, however, many significant steps towards reconciliation have been taken.
Reconciliation is an ongoing journey that reminds us that while generations of Australians have fought hard for meaningful change, future gains are likely to take just as much, if not more, effort.
In a just, equitable and reconciled Australia, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children will have the same life chances and choices as non-Indigenous children, and the length and quality of a person’s life will not be determined by their racial background.
Our vision of reconciliation is based and measured on five dimensions: historical acceptance; race relations; equality and equity; institutional integrity and unity.
Here are the bullet points for all five. My comments are interposed:
All Australians understand and value Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous cultures, rights and experiences, which results in stronger relationships based on trust and respect and that are free of racism.
Goal: Positive two-way relationships built on trust and respect exist between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous Australians throughout society.
Action: Overcome racism
Overcome racism? Yes, that should work as an action plan. The definition of ‘racism’ is now a moveable feast. In the minds of many activists being white is synonymous with being racist, so this is a determinant of reconciliation that is never likely to be achieved.
Equality and Equity
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples participate equally in a range of life opportunities and the unique rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are recognised and upheld.
Goal: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians participate equally and equitably in all areas of life – i.e. we have closed the gaps in life outcomes – and the distinctive individual and collective rights and cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are universally recognised and respected. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are self-determining.
Action: Renew focus on Closing the Gap
So, when Aborigines have their own parliament and are governed by their own rules, will that mean we are reconciled?
The active support of reconciliation by the nation’s political, business and community structures.
Goal: Our political, business and community institutions actively support all dimensions of reconciliation.
Action: Capitalise on the RAP Program to create a wider range of opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians.
Let me translate the ‘action’ plan: blackmail woke corporations to flush shareholders money down the toilet in devising programs and jobs to make otherwise unemployable people feel good about themselves.
An Australian society that values and recognises Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and heritage as a proud part of a shared national identity.
Goal: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories, cultures and rights are a valued and recognised part of a shared national identity and, as a result, there is national unity.
Action: Achieve a process to recognise Australia’s First Peoples in our Constitution.
How much more recognition do they need – for a primitive and not-fit-for-purpose culture and a history of violence, cannibalism, infanticide and superstition – above and beyond the incorporation of Aboriginal themes in every facet of our lives at almost every moment of the day?
All Australians understand and accept the wrongs of the past and their impact on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Australia makes amends for past policies and practices ensures these wrongs are never repeated.
Goal: There is widespread acceptance of our nation’s history and agreement that the wrongs of the past will never be repeated— there is truth, justice, healing and historical acceptance.
Action: Acknowledge our past through education and understanding.
How much further do they want to penetrate our education system beyond the fact that an Aboriginal perspective is mandated as a cross curriculum priority for all subjects? That children are being taught Wiradjuri rather than becoming proficient in English?
So far, non-indigenous Australia has done all the reconciling — witness the ubiquity of the Aboriginal flag, the constant refrains of ‘we acknowledge the traditional owners’, the Aboriginal domination of the opening ceremonies of all major public events, the Aboriginal-only study grants and job placements, the constant and sickening and patronising deferral to Aboriginal ‘deep spirituality’ and ‘connection to country’, the relinquishment of 60 per cent of our land mass to some form of native title, and so on almost ad infinitum.
It’s time for the Aboriginal people to throw off the shackles of the Aboriginal Industry and do some reconciling ‘to’ the fact that the vast majority have never had it so good and wouldn’t come within a bull’s roar of their current lifestyle under traditional culture.
‘Reconciliation’ is a mystical entity. To those like Andrew Gee it is a Holy Grail. To the Aboriginal industry it is a magic pudding.
Peter O’Brien’s latest book, Villian or Victim? A defence of Sir John Kerr and the Reserve Powers, can be ordered here