Bennelong Papers

The Voice on ‘Invasion Day’

In recent months, The Australian has been running a fairly sustained campaign in favour of the demand for a “voice” to the Commonwealth parliament on policy issues that affect Aboriginal people. The newspaper has published a series of stories and opinion pieces in support of the Uluru Statement of the Heart made at a national convention of Aboriginal representatives in May 2017. Most of its stories have been by its indigenous affairs correspondent, Paige Taylor, who has been reporting on the progress and response to the Morrison government’s report last October on proposals to establish the Voice by either legislation or constitutional change, or both.

However, The Australian has not published any serious views that dissent from the proposal or point out the political and constitutional problems inherent in it. Instead, it has presented the Voice as a desirable reform to give Aboriginal people a special place in Australia’s political system and self-determination in policies that affect them.

On January 25, The Australian reported a very different story on Aboriginal affairs. It was about the endorsement by the ABC of the term “Invasion Day” in reference to Australia Day on January 26 and the political activities planned for it. This quickly became the most discussed topic ever recorded on The Australian’s website, receiving more than 3300 reader comments. The ABC initially dismissed all criticisms and defended the report concerned. However, by 3pm, recognising how the numbers in this and other news media were so strongly against it, the ABC capitulated and deleted the term from the offending item. Anyone who reads even a part of the readers’ comments in The Australian will see that they were running about 99 per cent against both the ABC and the Aboriginal political activists planning massive street demonstrations to denounce Australia Day celebrations today.

The members of the urban Aboriginal political class are well aware of the bi-polar nature of this topic, as UNSW academic Megan Davis has acknowledged in a paper titled “Toxicity swirls around January 26 but we can change the nation with a Voice to Parliament”. She writes:

Each year the tensions spill over rendering Australia Day, Invasion Day, Survival Day a protest as much as a celebration. But there is a quiet process underway, aimed at achieving substantive recognition of the First Nations that has so far eluded Australia.

Davis says all Australians want to find a way through the annual debates about Captain Cook, the First Fleet and national identity, “to a more inclusive and nuanced narrative of who we are”. However, as long as Aboriginal activists persist with a political theatre in their street protests that portray Australian descendants of British people as a greedy enemy who stole Aboriginal lands while committing genocide against the original inhabitants, they will always come up against the response the ABC received when it redefined Australia Day as Invasion Day. Ordinary Australian voters can only be pushed so far. There is a limit to their tolerance of the kind of historical interpretation that the Aboriginal political class demands be accepted.

Davis’s solution to this remains no different to what it was in 2017, when the Uluru Statement demanded the Voice. She wants a radical proposal to change the Australian Constitution to give individual Aboriginal communities complete autonomy to dictate to the Australian government and parliament what they want.

As the Referendum Council’s response to the Uluru Statement in June 2017 asserted, there were some non-negotiable conditions they demanded be adhered to:

Any Voice to Parliament should be designed so that it could support and promote a treaty-making process. Any body must have authority from, be representative of, and have legitimacy in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities across Australia. It must represent communities in remote, rural and urban areas, and not be comprised of handpicked leaders. The body must be structured in a way that respects culture. Any body must also be supported by a sufficient and guaranteed budget, with access to its own independent secretariat, experts and lawyers. It was also suggested that the body could represent Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples internationally. A number of Dialogues said the body’s representation could be drawn from an Assembly of First Nations, which could be established through a series of treaties among nations.

In other words, the eventual goal of the Voice would be to make treaties between the Commonwealth and what it calls the First Nations. The Council’s report notes that the demand for a treaty or treaties was a priority demand of the indigenous conventions leading up to the Uluru Statement of May 2017:

The pursuit of treaty and treaties was strongly supported across the Dialogues. Treaty was seen as a pathway to recognition of sovereignty and for achieving future meaningful reform for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples. Treaty would be the vehicle to achieve self-determination, autonomy and self-government.

So, rather than one “black state” as envisaged in 2001 by Geoff Clark of ATSIC, the current proposal is for each individual clan or language group to be recognised as a First Nation and for the Commonwealth to make a treaty with each one, as if it were a separate state. As I record in The Break-up of Australia (Quadrant Books, 2016), this is a political outcome advocated by both Noel Pearson and Warren Mundine. They want statehood, self-government and an independent legal system for each self-identifying Aboriginal clan that gains native title. And they want the Australian taxpayer to fund it all.

This is obviously a program for a radical revision of the Australian federation—all of it in the interests of Aboriginal people, but with no thought about how it could possibly be in the interests of the rest of us.

If Davis thinks that the Australian public will respond to a program of this kind from the goodness of their hearts, or from the brain-washing of the mainstream media, let me remind readers of the version of Australian history they will all be required to accept. The Uluru Statement makes a series of assertions advocating the following:

We have coexisted as First Nations on this land for at least 60,000 years. Our sovereignty pre-existed the Australian state and has survived it. We have never, ever ceded our sovereignty. The unfinished business of Australia’s nationhood includes recognising the ancient jurisdictions of First Nations law. The Law was violated by the coming of the British to Australia. This truth needs to be told.

Australia was not a settlement and it was not a discovery. It was an invasion. Invasion was met with resistance. This is the time of the Frontier Wars, when massacres, disease and poison decimated First Nations, even as they fought a guerrilla war of resistance. Everywhere across Australia, great warriors like Pemulwuy and Jandamarra led resistance against the British. First Nations refused to acquiesce to dispossession and fought for their sovereign rights and their land.

Now it is not hard to show that this declaration is a caricature of Australian history. It falsely portrays people of Aboriginal and British descent as long-standing enemies, and it misrepresents British, Australian and international law. Here are some of the more obvious objections to its assumptions:

Aboriginal people are the First Nations. The term “First Nations” derives from twentieth-century American politics and has been transported to Australia, where it does not fit. Aboriginal clans, hordes and tribes, which in most cases were no more than extended families, never attained nationhood either before 1788 or any time after. This was confirmed in 1836 in the seminal judgment of William Burton in the New South Wales Supreme Court and has been repeated several times since by Australian judges, including the High Court’s Harry Gibbs in 1979:

…it is not possible to say … that the aboriginal people of Australia are organised as a “distinct political society separated from others”, or that they have been uniformly treated as a state … They have no legislative, executive or judicial organs by which sovereignty might be exercised. If such organs existed, they would have no powers, except such as the law of the Commonwealth, or of a State or Territory, might confer upon them. The contention that there is in Australia an aboriginal nation exercising sovereignty, even of a limited kind, is quite impossible in law to maintain.

Aboriginal people never ceded their sovereignty. Before the colonisation of Australia Aboriginal people never had any sovereignty to surrender. “Sovereignty” is a term from international law, or what was called in the eighteenth century “the law of nations”. The two leading European authorities on international law at that time, Christian Wolff and Emmerich de Vattel, both argued that for a society to be a genuine nation it must have civil sovereignty over a territory and its people and, as a corollary, only nations could have genuine sovereignty. Aboriginal activists and their academic supporters have argued that, because the High Court’s Mabo judgment recognised that Aboriginal clans had their own laws that made them owners of their land, they therefore also had sovereignty over their territories. However, this wrongly assumes small tracts of land ownership entails national sovereignty. Burton’s 1836 judgment found the Aborigines did not have anything that amounted to what the British and other nations could regard as statehood or nationhood. He said they:

…had not attained at the first settlement to such a position in point of numbers and civilisation, and to such a form of government and laws, as to be entitled to be recognised as so many sovereign states governed by laws of their own.

Australia was invaded, not settled, and the British colonisation was illegal. These claims are partly a matter of international law but also an issue within Australian frontier history. In eighteenth-century international law a “settled colony” was one which, at the time of its occupation by a European power, was either uninhabited or else inhabited by people whose political system and laws did not amount to those of a nation-state. In a colony of the latter kind, the laws that applied were not those of the local inhabitants but those of the new power. In early colonial New South Wales, the absence of any political structure among the Aborigines that the English explorers or members of the First Fleet could recognise as a nation or state meant they annexed it as a colony of settlement. This meant English law came into force, the British Crown became the sovereign of all the land it claimed and, in legal theory, the indigenous people automatically became subjects of the Crown, living under the protection of its laws. The legal judgment that eventually confirmed the settled colony principle was given in 1889 in Cooper v Stuart by the Privy Council. Yet the Referendum Council report wants us to go back and rewrite Australian legal history in order to accommodate today’s political demands.

For the first 150 years of their practice in Australia, historians and anthropologists agreed with the legal fraternity on the question of invasion or settlement. There was no warfare waged by Aborigines against the British arrivals and no sustained resistance to the British presence. The most common violence in any of the new colonial settlements was simple retribution, or “payback” by Aborigines against individual settlers or convicts who had stolen or destroyed their canoes or weapons, or abused their women. On some occasions, Aborigines used violence, or more commonly threats of violence, to purloin game taken from the bush by settlers and convicts or fish they took from the rivers and estuaries.

But Australian history never resembled the real warfare waged by other indigenous groups in the Pacific region, especially that of the Maoris in New Zealand. In the Maori Wars of the early 1860s, about 4000 Maori warriors battled 1800 British imperial troops and local volunteers. In one confrontation, at Paterangi in January 1864, some 3000 Maori warriors from twenty tribes met in battle an imperial army of more than 2000 men supported by artillery and cavalry.

Nothing on this scale ever happened in Australia. According to Governor Arthur Phillip of New South Wales: “The natives … always retire at the sight of two or three people who are armed”. And according to Lieutenant-Governor George Arthur of Van Diemen’s Land, there was no “systematic warfare exhibited by any of them as need excite the least apprehension in the Government, for the blacks, however large their number, have never yet ventured to attack a party consisting of even three armed men.”

Although Australian academic history is dominated by supporters of the resistance thesis, the more convincing accounts of the early settlement of Sydney by Keith Vincent Smith, of Melbourne by Beverley Nance, and of Perth by Bob Reece, reveal the most common response by Aboriginal people to the British colonists was that of “coming in” or “accommodation”. Reece writes of the 1830s in Western Australia:

Far from retreating from white settlement, Aborigines were attracted to it, although their movements were still very much conditioned by [tribal] territorial boundaries and punishment for “trespassing”. Those groups closest to the main centre of settlement adjusted their traditional pattern of seasonal movement in response to the relatively easy availability of European food … Although the Aborigines knew they were being dispossessed, there does not seem to have been any continued resistance to this process. The Aborigines were ready to make pragmatic arrangements with the whites to compensate for the loss of their land and the livelihood which it represented, and this readiness was acknowledged by the white authorities. Aboriginal “attacks” on livestock and “thefts” of flour and other property on the edge of the settlement seem to have been a response to the whites’ refusal to share their resources rather than any “guerilla” effort to drive the whites away.

In other words, when Megan Davis advocates popular acceptance of what she calls a “a more inclusive and nuanced narrative” about Australian history, she is kidding herself. The historical grievance expressed by the Uluru Statement of the Heart could never contribute to reconciliation or a more unified nation. It is bound to have the opposite effect.

Keith Windschuttle is the editor of Quadrant and author of  The Break-up of Australia, which can be ordered here

37 thoughts on “The Voice on ‘Invasion Day’

  • J Vernau says:

    The Victorian Government has been very keen to sign a treaty or treaties with aboriginal Victorians, presumably in order to sign away some of its ill-gotten sovereignty—and tax-payer’s dollars. Unfortunately, It has run into difficulties in finding “Aboriginal Nations”, or representatives of them, with whom to “negotiate”. Undeterred, it has begun the laborious process of building the entities needed to receive its largesse.

    As the ‘aboriginalvictoria’ website points out:
    “The Traditional Owner Nation-building Support Package (Package) will support Traditional Owners across Victoria to engage in nation-building and prepare for future treaty negotiations.”
    I suppose that eventually, should this “nation-building” not get off the ground, the Victorian Government could negotiate a separate treaty with each individual Victorian identifying as Aboriginal.

  • Karnjirrwala says:

    If I were an aboriginal resident in a remote community I would be very afraid of the ambitions of the political class. It was essentially these people with feet in both worlds, so called yellafella, who acted as trusties and go betweens, playing a double game and taking the best cuts, brooding with resentment and self pity. The Voice proposal does not anticipate or acknowledge the diverse interests or view within the Aboriginal population (whatever that is) or that some Aboriginal people will want to protect themselves from the political class who purport to represent them.

  • Trevor Bailey says:

    Having attended a Uniting Church service last Sunday here in my small town, I left in despair after having sat through repeated mantras enjoining regret, sorrow and shame over Aboriginal dispossession. Two days removed from our national day, there was no thanksgiving for the freedom & prosperity wrought from a prison colony-cum-social experiment led by the redoubtable Arthur Philip, whose dedication to humanity & the rule of law epitomised all that was great and good about the British Enlightenment and a nation under God. That’s right, not a peep.

    I was reminded this morning of Margaret Cameron-Ash’s appealing argument that Captain Cook lied for the Admiralty in order to keep the Great Southern Land’s potential secret until it could be claimed first by the English and NOT the French. How do Messrs Pearson and Mundine fair as alternative historians, I wonder?

  • rod.stuart says:

    One of the worst crimes which one can commit these days, it seems, is RACISM.
    Yet all this discussion regarding, “Aboriginals” and First Nations” as a distinct group is patently “racist” is it not?
    Obviously, the only way to determine the identity of an “Aborigine” is through ancestry geneology; in other words, RACE?
    It is generally accepted, I believe, by a huge majority of the public, to consider that to treat a person badly because of race is unacceptable. That being the case, is it not incongruous to suggest that an individual, or group, should be treated uniquely, with special privileges?
    When the term “white privilege” is used so frequently as a critical remark, does it not follow that “Aboriginal privilege” is just as unacceptable?

  • DG says:

    It’s Australia Day today.
    My family is spending the day, so far, inventing Australia Day songs, usually to the tunes of Happy Birthday, or Jingle Bells, and using the words Aussie Aussie Aussie Oi Oi Oi. We’ve even strung together ‘three cheers for Captain Cook/Arthur Philip/Lachie Macquarie/Charlie Wentworth’. So there you are.

  • DG says:

    On a more serious note, let’s take the premise of invasion seriously. This would point out that the land has been seized as plunder and the conquered better be happy that they are permitted to share in the roads, the welfare system, join the workforce and even use the conquerer’s mobile phone network. They do so with vigour, and so seem to be completely reconciled to the new arrangements, which also include plentiful good food, airconditioning and great transport.

  • DougD says:

    rod.Stuart – you are wrong. Only white men can commit racism. It flows from white male privilege.(I can’t recall a white woman ever being accused of racism.) Similarly, aboriginal activists are free to take/borrow the Canadian Indian term “First Nations” – plagiarism is a sin that can only be committed by whites.

  • NFriar says:

    Thank you Keith Windschuttle – thank you.

  • Geoffrey Luck says:

    Not only has The Australian been pushing “The Voice” – it also assiduously censors any attempt by its letter writers to suggest the benefits to hundreds of scattered tribes (not nations) liberated from Stone Age isolation and primitivism far outweighs any loss of culture or country. Its editors will not entertain the thought that aboriginal history is worthy only of slim anthropological interest, infinitely poorer than, for example, neighbouring tribal cultures of Papua New Guinea.

  • Michael says:

    The Uluru Statement from the Heart is fundamentally a claim to a special status for Australians of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ancestry. To “I am, you are, we are Australian,” it wants to add, “but some are more Australian than others.”

    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!

  • Petronius says:

    It is interesting how the Left subscribes to the memes of Multicultural Australia, Equality and Inclusion yet paradoxically singles out the blameless descendants of the English, Irish and Scots colonisers as responsible for the deeds of their distant forebears. They might upgrade Aboriginal Australia to a nation but their persecutory rhetoric reeks of tribalism and payback.

  • joe.moharich says:

    The government is inviting voters to provide feedback on what form the “ Voice ‘’ should take. That is akin to giving a convention of vegetarians the option of ordering beef or lamb for dinner and asking them to choose.
    The whole concept of the Voice is divisive. The first question the electorate should be asked is whether it supports any form of aboriginal voice, over and above what now exists. The same sex marriage legislation was put to a plebiscite before it was introduced in parliament, surely the electorate needs to be asked if it wants any sort of extra voice.

  • nelson-jones says:

    At the time of colonisation across the globe there was at least 5 nations out to seek land, gold etc. At least one of them would have landed here to take possession. Far worse things were done in South America by one of the nations and that nation would have wiped out the aboriginal. Are all these activists saying no one should have landed and left the aborigine in the primitive state, of at least 600 tribes or families and at least 300 languages. Have none of these educated activists ever read any history books about man kinds, walk across the globe, inventions, languages invasions that did occur and where and how they took place. My ancestors were invaded at least 8 times. I am tired of this ongoing noise and ignorance. Throwing money at the problem has obviously not worked. I went to school with aborigines, worked them into a business, want the best for them but creating an apartheid division is not healthy for this wonderful nation. All our ancestors go back thousands of years. March forward beside us. You now have a tried legal system, parliamentary system that works, the law within your 600 tribes would have been varied. You were never one nation under one law and one language but you can be now. Lift one another under God.

  • brandee says:

    Of the crowd of demonstrators that were reported today to be opposed to the 1788 settlement, falsely calling it an invasion, most appeared white or to have a mixture of white and aboriginal heritage.
    Surely only a ‘full blood’ aboriginal person can speak with authenticity as others owe their mixed genetic existence to the presence of new arrivals.

  • Peter OBrien says:

    There was a good interview between Chris Kenny and Jacinta Price on Sky tonight. She made the same point as brandee regarding the composition of the Alice Springs invasion day protest.

  • padraic says:

    Thanks Keith for bringing some real legal data to the situation, because that’s what they are hanging their hat on – lawfare – to achieve their goals. The activists need to have an “invasion” in order to justify the legal need for a “treaty” like the one in New Zealand in order to do what they want to do (whatever that is?) , but they are hard pressed to convince anyone that what happened in New Zealand happened here., as you have pointed out. In any case, treaties are signed not long after the two antagonists have stopped fighting a war as in New Zealand and they decide to have a treaty to end hostilities and everyone settles down. Today’s activists are actually trying to cause a war today that they never had in 1788 in order to get a treaty. Their hatred and behaviour towards the rest of us is so obvious. The one good thing about their violent activism is that it is turning off any potential voters in a plebiscite or referendum for a “Voice” or “recognition” in our Constitution, despite the best efforts of “The Australian”. I don’t know anybody else, apart from this small group of activists who get lathered up about what their ancestors were doing in 1788 as if it is still an issue today. Most people have gotten over it and moved on to confront the present.

  • Farnswort says:

    Geoffrey Luck: “Not only has The Australian been pushing “The Voice” – it also assiduously censors any attempt by its letter writers…”

    The Australian is also heavily censoring online article comments critical of “The Voice”. The progressives are taking over the joint.

  • Farnswort says:

    Petronius: “It is interesting how the Left subscribes to the memes of Multicultural Australia, Equality and Inclusion yet paradoxically singles out the blameless descendants of the English, Irish and Scots colonisers as responsible for the deeds of their distant forebears.”

    This reminds me of what academic Eric Kaufmann labelled “asymmetrical multiculturalism” – the idea that every racial/ethnic group should assert and celebrate its identity and defend its interests, except the once-dominant ‘white’ group (in this case, Anglo-Celtic Australians).

    Diversity, Inclusion and Equity (or DIE for short) only extends so far.

  • lbloveday says:

    Not just The Australian that is ” also heavily censoring online article comments”, but other News Corp titles – these 2 factual comments were rejected this week by the Daily Telegraph:
    At a Parent-Teacher night, I asked my daughter’s year 12 math teacher how he would address the part of the curriculum for the Linear Programming module requiring students to relate Linear Programming to Aboriginal culture; he just looked at me with the contemporary look of a smart young man who knows it’s BS (and knew I also knew it was BS and was just stirring), but is powerless to oppose the bureaucracy.

    How was he expected to relate complex mathematical procedures to a culture that did not even develop or adopt simple arithmetic?
    Quote ” She (Margaret Smith) said homosexuality is a choice”.

    So did Obama before he became “woke”:

    From the book: The Making of Barack Obama by David Garrow.

    Garrow, who received a Pulitzer prize for a biography of Martin Luther King Jr, claims that “Obama wrote somewhat elusively” to a girlfriend “that he had thought about and considered gayness but ultimately decided that a same-sex relationship would be less challenging and demanding than developing one with the opposite sex”.

  • Salome says:

    There was one on telly last night moaning about how much worse off they were because of white settlement. How much better off would they have been left alone in the stone age while the world developed around them? (If that were even possible.)

  • Peter OBrien says:

    Today’s Australian has a welcome article by Janet Albrechtsen which argues against constitutional enshrinement of the Voice.

    Also, I don’t know if any other readers tuned into Their ABC’s Australia Day extravaganza. It was wall to wall aboriginalia.

  • Stephen says:

    Firstly, if there were a treaty, who would sign on behalf of all aborigines? Bob Hawke was asked this question and established ATSIC partly as a result. ATSIC was later abolished partly due to waste and corruption of course.

    As far as “invasion day” is concerned, lets consider counterfactuals. It was inevitable that some foreign power would come to Australia. It is just not reasonable to expect that if the British hadn’t come that the Aborigines would today be living a traditional life. Now we all know that the French were sniffing around. If the French had set up the first colony it would probably wouldn’t have lasted. The destruction of French Naval power at Trafalgar in 1805 would have led to the British taking over. Now what if the Maoris had found a way across the Tasman sea. We could ask the Chatham Islanders but we can’t because when the Maoris found them they killed them all and ate them so if if it were the Maoris there would be no Aborigines alive today. What about the Spanish and the the Portuguese. Well look at South America. The Wealth an Poverty of Nations by David Landes points out the very different shadow cast by the Escorial compared to the shadow cast by the Palace of Westminster. Those parts of the world colonised by the British are much better off today than former Spanish and Portuguese colonies.

    There are other possibilities (Dutch, Javanese et al) but the above is enough. I think that the Aborigines have to accept the reality of inevitable colonisation by the end of the 18th century and that, despite the negatives, they live a much better lives today than their former “nasty, brutish and short” tribal life. They were actually pretty lucky it was the British.

    I can only hope that in the not to distant future that the Aborigines can let go of the past, abandon their self destructive victimhood, and take full advantage of their citizenship of this great country as many all ready have.

  • GrantWill says:

    I find this a most enlightening article.
    padraic has suggested that the New Zealand Treaty was signed after the New Zealand wars, to support the thesis that treaties arise from armed conflict between nations. In fact the Treaty of Waitangi between the Crown and Maori was signed twenty years before the “Maori wars” of the 1860s, and an important motive was the desire to protect Maori from being ripped off by the various Europeans and Americans who were arriving around the coasts. Lawless times around the Bay of Islands. A large number of tribes signed up to Te Tiriti o Waitangi at Waitangi in 1840 and many more (not quite all) signed when it was taken around the country shortly thereafter.
    The omniscient United Nations probably sees Maori and Aussie Aborigines alike as innocent children taken advantage of by the evil British, but the situations were different on the ground, as they still are. There were in fact attempts to create a Maori sense of Maori nationhood from early on, from before the Treaty, but they have never caught on. The New Zealand wars were fought by some tribes rather than a “Maori nation”. And a large number of Maori fought with the British army or provided them with vital information. These were known as “kupapa”. In the modern political context kupapa means something like traitor or turncoat, but its original meaning was more neutral. However there did develop a strong awareness of Maori as a people within the nation of New Zealand, brilliantly demonstrated by the achievements of the Maori Battalion in fighting Hitler in North Africa and Italy. The Maori Battalion was part of the New Zealand army under the New Zealand flag.

  • IainC says:

    The Aboriginal activist movement is quite clearly advocating neo-apartheid, separatism, segregation and a reactionary view of Aboriginal culture that denies any ability or desire to assimilate, adapt and advance collectively into a modern lifestyle. To date, it’s been almost impossible to getting any of these “trigger words”, in part or in whole, through the comment moderators at The Australian. I nearly fell off my chair when this one sneaked through recently.
    “As a more general point, note the concerning escalation in incitement and dog whistles to violent reaction – it was Sorry Day, then Survival Day, morphing into Invasion Day, and soon to be Genocide Day. Let’s promote the 99% of things which unite us, not the 1% obsessions of separatist activists.”

  • Brian Boru says:

    The expression “white invasion” and its variations is racist hate speech.

    Lets scrap Australia Day and have a new day called “Unity Day” dedicated to an equal opportunity Australia as a united nation without any privilege by birth, class or position. I could even live with a different date, say 27 January because it is good bbq weather.

  • padraic says:

    Thanks GrantWill for the clarification of the NZ situation. It does not negate, however, the general principle of when treaties come into being. Trust those Kiwis to be different. In the original post I omitted to add a third element in the war without guns that is presently being waged against other Australians, additional to “Invasion” and Treaty”, and that is a “settled society”. If the “invader” is seen wiping out settled villages and farmlands and grazing animals it ticks off the legal trifecta that may get the victory over the line at the UN or the High Court. That’s why Bruce Pascoe suddenly came out of the blue and was made an academic, when they twigged they needed that third element. The people who demonstrate on the street are the foot soldiers but the generals are in the UN and the Law and Sociology faculties at universities as well as the newer Faculty of Inconsequential Studies. These academic “generals” are working with their counterparts in Canada and USA and are influential in the UN in regard to specialised Conventions which Australia can (and does) adopt into law without reference to or approval of the electorate, using I believe, s.51 (xxix) external affairs head of power in our Constitution. That will be their back-up position if they can’t get a constitutional change referendum over the line. I agree with Peter O’Brien about today’s article by Janet Albrechtsen which basically reflects a lot of what we are discussing here. I hope she can continue to speak out.

  • Necessityofchoice says:

    Stephen , Thank you for your excellent summary of the who, what , and why of European activities in this area of the world in the 18th cent and beyond.
    What none of the ‘activists’ recognise ( and never will ) is the difference between the potential and the actual. Potentially 1788 Australia could still exist if the Brits had not arrived. Actually, there is no way that it would.

  • brandee says:

    Peter OBrien’s comment rightly deplores the ABC Australia Day extravaganza as ‘wall to wall aboriginalia’.
    It could not have been worse than the SBS coverage slamming everything done by the Protector and by the church to help aborigines transition from their remnant stone age culture to the enlightened modern way of living. It berated everything done for aborigines before socialist Gough Whitlam and his ‘sit down money’.

  • GrantWill says:

    I think Stephen’s joke (I presume it’s a joke) about the Maoris eating all of the Chatham Islanders and Aborigines is unhelpful to all sides. It is true that some Māori from Taranaki invaded the Chathams, after being forced by their lands by another tribe, and it is true that the Chatham Island tribe , following their tradition of hospitality and pacifism, offered little resistance so that many were killed. But many survived as slaves and were eventually freed. All this occurred in the context of immense change brought about by the arrival of guns as weapons of warfare, of the missionaries as harbingers of a new meaning for individual lives and deaths, of the western diseases as harbingers of new ways of mass death, of western commerce and literacy as a new way of “making a living.”, and of the Crown as a new way of running the whole show. They were turbulent times. Respect is due to those who lived and died through it all.

  • Blair says:

    “This is the time of the Frontier Wars, when massacres, disease and poison decimated First Nations, even as they fought a guerrilla war of resistance. ….. First Nations refused to acquiesce to dispossession and fought for their sovereign rights and their land.”
    “The Coming of the Light
    Torres Strait Islanders celebrate 1st July as The Coming of the Light, a yearly holiday in the Torres Strait.
    One Saturday evening, 1st July 1871, the Reverend Samuel MacFarlane of the London Missionary Society achored at Erub (Darnley Island). The Society had been active in the Southwest Pacific since the 1840’s converting people to Christianity.
    Dabad, a Warrior Clan Elder on Erub, “defied his Tribal Law” and openly welcomed the London Missionary Society clergymen and South Sea Islander evangelists and teachers. Torres Strait Islanders acknowledgment of the missionaries was the acceptance of a change that would profoundly affect every aspect of life in the Torres Strait from that time onwards.
    The Islanders acceptance of the missionaries and Christianity meant the end of inter island conflict. Christian principles were partly compatible with traditional religion and the missionaries gave some protection and assistance to Islanders in their contact with foreigners in the maritime industry.
    Today, Torres Strait Islanders of all denominations wherever they live, in the islands or on the mainland, come together to honour this anniversary. The Torres Strait Islander festival of the Coming of the Light is a day like no other in Australia. Church services and a re-enactment of the landing at Kemus on Erub are central to the day’s activities. Hymn singing, feasting and Ailan dans strengthen community and family ties.”
    Queensland Museum

  • Stephen says:

    Dear Grantwill – Your right I did over simplify the Chatham Island situation. Never-the-less I believe my point in relating the cruelty of the Maoris to essentially benign attitude of the British remains valid.

  • lhackett01 says:

    Keith, what you say is true and well understood by people who have researched Aboriginal history. The Voice is purely and simply part of the power play by activists who would divide into racial groups and destroy Australian societal harmony. The Aborigine in Australia will remain ‘disadvantaged’ while governments continue to bend to activist demands. ‘Sit-down’ money and the preferential provision of services and infrastructure to Aboriginal communities, especially remote communities, without any obligation for them to contribute towards helping themselves, will ensure that Aborigines will continue living in places where there is no work, where they are often sick because they live in self-generated unhygienic conditions, where they and their children are under-educated because they have not gone and their children do not go to school, where drug and alcohol addiction is rife, and where physical and sexual violence will continue because it is inherent in traditional Aboriginal culture. For these and other facts, read my paper ‘Aborigines, the Constitution and the Voice, at

  • padraic says:

    Excellent article, lhackett, particularly the coverage of the legal background.

  • jbhackett says:

    Joanna Hackett
    Excellent article, Keith.
    I recently complained to the Editor of the Australian regarding the one-sided reporting on the voice, recognition and Constitutional change. No response was forthcoming of course.
    If we don’t hear all sides, we cannot have a reasoned discussion.
    Paige Taylor seems to have an unassailable right to daily publication, boring the pants off us with her never-ending opinion pieces.
    Megan Davis had the temerity to inform readers (on 16,17/1) that while the rest of us were off holidaying, (what a bunch of lazy slackers we white folk are) Indigenous communities across the country were working frenetically (her word) to respond to Ken Wyatt’s recently released report. Usually at this time of year, she wrote, their biggest problem was sorting out Invasion/Survival Day. We had a bit of a laugh about that at our place but we didn’t find so amusing her comment that we are now on the ‘inextinguishable road to constitutional enshrinement.’
    Today, the Oz gave us ‘Voice at risk unless enshrined in Constitution’, by George Williams. Well, George, Megan, Paige et al, at our place, we just want our Constitution left alone. We see no merit in granting one group of Australians (who make up about 3% of the population) special treatment over the remaining 97%. This is divisive and racist. It’s not a done-deal, (no matter how often and how loudly it is said) and it’s not acceptable. We are not stupid and we’re fed up with the Australian not presenting all points of view.

  • Tony Tea says:

    I’ve posted heaps of comments in The Oz, but any comments about race are assiduously rejected. It’s actually quite disheartening.

  • padraic says:

    If the Oz was fair dinkum they would do a article outlining the options in the Report in great detail and how their readers could make a submission. Pretty suss that it came out mid Summer holidays and only a month to comment.

  • STD says:


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