I’m both tired of and bristling at the seemingly endless stream of demands that I back with a ‘yes’ vote something our PM Albanese calls the Voice. I am exhorted by most sections of the media to support this or be castigated as a racist, a redneck bigot indelibly opposed to a fair and equitable Australia. A future of harmony and reconciliation, I am assured, will inevitably follow if we give a very small proportion — roughly three per cent — of our population a second or third voice in Parliament. This is something the non-Aboriginal rest of us do not have.
My initial reaction was one of perplexed annoyance. Surely, this Voice business is unnecessary and counterproductive, I reasoned, but this mood soon became an appalled bemusement when I read The Australian‘s profile of Marcia Langton and saw the headline ‘Vote ‘No’ and you won’t get a welcome to country again’. It sounds like a good deal to me.
Take what follows from an old bushy who grew up with Aboriginal kids, went to school with the same kids, played sport with Aboriginal youths and worked with Aboriginal men in the cane fields and shearing sheds of Queensland: racism was never apparent or an issue. We were all of us judged by our capacity to get the job done, skin colour irrelevant. We were all working in our country, black and white alike, and striving to build better lives for ourselves and a brighter future for Australia. None of the Aboriginal people, with whom I have now had a near-lifelong relationship, would have been arrogant enough to presuppose they could welcome me to my own country. It was “our country”, all of us. We were egalitarian to a man and mateship was assumed and observed by all.
Remembering those character-building times, I now realise I have lived on the land beneath our feet longer than most of those pushing the Voice, and during that time I have produced food for our people while nurturing our environment. This is something the Aboriginal people were never able to do, Bruce Pascoe’s lucrative nonsense notwithstanding. As a result of my efforts and those of so many like me, our land is today more productive, more fertile and better managed than at any time in our continent’s long past.
When Europeans arrived here in 1788, the Australian continent was barely able to support half a million people — the figure I favour among the many guesstimates of the indigenous population — and starvation was a recurring feature of Aboriginal life. The Australian landscape today supports around 25 million people at home and another 60 million nourished off-shore by our exports. The difference between Aboriginal tenure and that of European occupancy could not be more stark.
So, I say this to all those Aboriginal activists baying for a better deal: if you want genuine reconciliation and equality of opportunity, begin by looking in the mirror and recognising that your tenure on our land was negative. Having accepted that fact it will be time to find the humility and decency to reach out your hand to “our mob” and say ‘thank you’.
Thank you for showing us the way out of the most hidebound, violent and atrophied culture on earth.
Thank you for giving us education and the opportunities that provides.
Thank you for giving us modern medical support.
Thank you for providing us with housing and associated services.
Thank you for feeding us.
Thank you for giving us control of large areas of land and resources.
Thank you for giving us royalties from those resources; something that other Australians do not get.
Thank you for providing most of our needs since settlement in 1788.
Your mob owes a debt to the rest of us and seeking further representation in Parliament is not the way to balance the books. Only when you stop playing the victim, stop whinging and stop expecting others to provide for your needs will you gain credibility in this great country. To the now very large group of raucous rabble-rousers, stop lamenting your self-imposed poverty and lack of opportunity. Get off your backsides and show a bit of enterprise by becoming self-sufficient. Filter your ancient Aboriginal culture to keep the good bits while discarding the violence, misogyny, clan feuds and humbugging, and ensure every Aboriginal child gets a Western education based on the English language.
When you make those changes, you will not need a Voice or your fellow Australians’ hand-outs. Only then will we be a genuinely united nation sharing the bounteous resources of our land.
Yes, our land.