The Voice

White Man’s Dreaming

If there’s any hint of unintended consequences — for example, an untidy debate about who exactly qualifies for the description “indigenous” — then the proposition [for constitutional recognition] will be defeated.
                                                                                   — former Foreign Minister, Bob Carr, 2012

There was consternation in Tasmania last month when its government was told it could not change the wording of a UNESCO document that declared the state’s wilderness a “World Heritage” area. The document, which has long been a drawcard for green tourists, contains a statement that Tasmania’s Aborigines are now extinct. The document, says:

With distinctive landforms, outstanding examples of cool temperate rainforests, important aboriginal sites (the Tasmanians are now an ­extinct race of humans), and many endangered species … the area is unique and special at a world scale.

As might be expected, the well-known activist and chair of the Tasmanian Aboriginal Land Council, Michael Mansell, denounced UNESCO for making this statement and for its insensitive refusal to change the words. He was joined by the Tasmanian Minister for Parks and Aboriginal Affairs, Roger Jaensch, who told The Australian that he was “deeply disappointed”, as did Federal Minister for the Environment Tanya Plibersek who said: “We now know how wrong, insulting and hurtful it is to say that Tasmanian Aborigines are ‘extinct’.”

Of course, most readers of this story would realise UNESCO was referring to the extinction of the original Tasmanian Aborigines, not their mixed-descent offspring. Many would have been taught in school that the last full-blood Aborigine, Truganini, died in 1876. Yet the issue remains a sensitive one in Tasmania because no one has been able to work out how to distinguish people who are genuinely indigenous, even though only of mixed heritage, from blatantly false claimants.

This is a problem not confined to Tasmania but one that has so far made little impact on the debate over the constitutional recognition of the Voice.  These days advocates try to push the issue aside by pointing to the three-part test defined by the Commonwealth government thirty years ago to determine genuine Aborigines. They have to: (i) be of Aboriginal descent, (ii) identify as someone of Aboriginal descent, and (iii) be accepted as such by the community in which he or she lives.

However, Tasmania was the site where this three-part definition was subject to the most exhaustive legal case to determine its efficacy, but which failed to do so. In 1997–98, the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre went to the Federal Court to challenge the eligibility of eleven people to vote in elections for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission. Michael Mansell said there were “more phoney than real Aborigines in Tasmania, and more than half the voters in the 1996 ATSIC election were not Aboriginal”.

Mansell said that, if properly investigated, about 60 per cent of Tasmanian “Aborigi­nes” would be rejected, and nationally up to 70,000 self-proclaimed Aborigines would be denied their claimed identity. He said members of the rival Liah Pootah community in Tasma­nia were not Aborigines but simply white people identifying themselves as such in order to gain access to greater welfare benefits and to make claims for land rights.

After a two-year hearing, Justice Ron Merkel (a former barrister well-known for act­ing for Aboriginal clients) accepted as genuine most of the electors in dis­pute. Even though they were unable to provide proof of their biological descent from tribal society, Merkel accepted all but two members of the Liah Pootah community as being Aboriginal, primarily on the grounds of self-identification and recognition by other Liah Pootah members. None of them could provide a complete gene­alogical record that connected them to the original Tasmanian tribes and they were not required to submit to DNA tests. Of the two people ruled ineligible, one was a man who failed to file his evidence on time, and the other a woman who was the only per­son whose status was disproven by immigration records found by the Mansell faction.

In other words, the three-part test does not stand up legally. As a result of this case, anyone who claims to be an Aborigine and can muster some friends in support will be accepted by the Federal Court as genuine — no blood tests required.

Up to now, the costs of bogus Aboriginal claims have been largely confined to welfare payments and easy access to sought-after tertiary education courses. But if the Voice wins the Yes vote in the coming referendum the costs for the national government will multiply many times over. The opportunities for fake Aborigines to cash in on the treaties that constitutional recognition will instigate will be unstoppable. As the academic lawyer Megan Davis, has long emphasized in her articles, if the Yes vote wins, there are potentially big rewards on offer in political power and monetary compensation. She writes:

Treaty is not an end, it is the beginning of the state acknowledging our grievances … Treaties are foundational constitutional agreements between First Nations and the state that involve a redistribution of political power … Treaties are about reparations for past injustices and about land and resources.

As the Aboriginal figure currently engaged in most dealings with the Albanese government, Davis knows what she is talking about. Moreover, her own background is a telling example of how elastic the criteria for government acceptance as an Aboriginal has become.

Ever since 2018, when she was named by the Australian Financial Review ,as Australia’s most influential woman in its “100 Women of Influence” award, Davis has enjoyed a series of soft-interview long lunches with newspaper reporters where she has described her family background in Queensland.

She was born in 1976 to a white mother who was a school teacher of English. Her father was an itinerant railway worker who was part Aboriginal and part Pacific islander. She grew up as “a Queensland rail kid” moving with her father’s employment from Monto, where she was born, to Mulgildie, Eidsvold and Hervey Bay in eastern Queensland. Her parents separated when she was very young and her mother took her and her four siblings to Eagleby in Logan City, south of Brisbane, where she brought them up as a single parent.

These days, Davis identifies herself as “a Cobble Cobble woman of the Barrungam nation”. However, the territory once inhabited by the Cobble Cobble people is a long way from any of the places where either she or her indigenous father grew up.

Cobble Cobble was once the name of a district on the Condamine River in the Western Downs of Queensland. The white pastoralists who settled there in the 1840s changed the name to Warra Warra (now Warra). Davis says her grandfather was a Cobble Cobble man who left the area with his brother in 1902 to live at the Cherbourg mission. founded by the Salvation Army, but later converted to a government institution under Queensland’s separatist policies.

Around the time of Davis’s grandfathers’ departure from the local community, the Cobble Cobble people disappear from the Aboriginal literature. They are not mentioned in either of the two most authorative lists of Aboriginal tribes and clans, Norman Tindale’s Aboriginal Tribes of Australia (1974) or David Horton’s Encycopaedia of Aboriginal Australia (1994). If you google ‘Cobble Cobble’, the only results you receive are those of Megan Davis and her siblings.

Davis’s grandfather and his brother eventually left the Cherbourg mission and went to live in Hervey Bay. The area must have given them well-paid employment because grandfather was able to buy land at Hervey Bay and build a house. He met a Pacific Islander woman there who gave birth to Davis’s father.

Davis tells journalists that she still keeps in contact with both parents. “I feel deeply connected to Hervey Bay; each Christmas I visit for a few weeks. It represents a continuity with my childhood, my dad and his land. I feel deeply connected to Eagleby and Logan too and get home as much as I can.”

However, neither Davis nor her indigenous father grew up within anything that could be called an Aboriginal community. The “continuity” she talks about with her dad and “his land” is not a uniquely Aboriginal sentiment since most normal Australians feel much the same about their own parents and the country towns or suburbs where they grew up. There is nothing particularly Aboriginal about it.

Davis’s connection to the Cobble Cobble people is solely genetic. In her interviews with the press, she has described her real cultural heritage well. It was determined by her white mother’s large home library, by her own childhood education in Queensland schools, and her tertiary education at the University of Queensland law school. In none of her interviews or numerous articles does she mention any cultural inheritance from contact with an Aboriginal community. She never spoke an Aboriginal language fluently and has never discussed any of the beliefs that sustained the Cobble Cobble people.

The remarkable feat of social mobility that she, and many other Aboriginal identities like her, have now managed to achieve is entirely dependent on the very cultural assets provided by the white society she and her fellow activists have spent their adult lives denouncing.

In other words, Davis is a legal academic and bureaucrat who does not have, and never had, a place within an Aboriginal community that might give her a special insider’s view of their needs. She is no better placed to understand Aboriginal problems, or to develop policies for Aboriginal people, than those white legal academics and bureaucrats employed in Aboriginal affairs but who are now labelled the problem not the solution.

What her position means is that Davis, and the great majority of those who have travelled a similar careerist road, are living contradictions of the principal argument behind the Voice and the constitutional referendum that is supposedly necessary to fix it in its rightful place. This is the claim that Aboriginal people will solve all their problems if their communities are given self-management and self-determination, or as Davis put it in an interview:

One thing I think most Australians don’t know — because it’s all so managed — is just how powerless people in communities feel. Everything is ruled by bureaucrats in Canberra. They don’t want Aboriginal people having any responsibility or say.

But Davis is an example of the very same problem. Although she is employed in Sydney by the University of New South Wales, her constitutional writings and reports are all aimed at reform in Canberra. In real terms, it is she who is yet another Canberra bureaucrat. She might answer this charge by saying that the Voice itself that she endorses represents the emergence of an authentic Aboriginal opinion. But, again, the reality is that the Voice is primarily the product of the theories, hopes and dreams of white bureaucratic political operators.

There is now plenty of evidence that this is so. In fact, as it has become clear from the public debate in the press in recent weeks that the whole idea behind the Voice came from propositions put together a decade ago by three white men, Greg Craven, Julian Leeser and Damien Freeman, and one Aboriginal man, Noel Pearson. This quartet are now very angry that their own proposal, which was designed to advise the parliament about Aboriginal ideas for reform, has been transformed by Davis and her colleagues into a demand for access to the executive government — a dramatic shift in the political power the Voice would wield if the constitutional referendum is won.

What is also now apparent, thanks to the excellent research done by Nyunggal Warren Mundine, is that the grand assembly of the Voice at Uluru in 2017 was not a get-together of genuinely independent representatives of the Aboriginal people of Australia but a specially selected gathering of those the organisers knew would vote the way they wanted. Writing in the Daily Telegraph on April 26, Mundine said that delegates were hand-picked from twelve “Dialogues” and one “information day” over the previous six months. The Referendum Council says attendance was by invitation only, which ensured each session reached consensus. Mundine observed: “I take this to mean dissenting opinions were deliberately avoided. Referendum Council Co-Chair Pat Anderson reinforced my view recently when she said ‘naysayers’ were intentionally excluded.”

Mundine said he had personally spoken to well over 300 Aboriginal people from around Australia, including remote and regional locations. “Almost without exception”, he said, “all have told me they either oppose the Voice, don’t understand it (or haven’t even heard of it) or are deeply cynical about it.” He adds:

The only Aboriginals I know who support it are academics and lawyers, people from the organisations campaigning for it and some city-based, affluent Aboriginals whose views usually mirror other city-based, affluent Australians, so that’s hardly a surprise.

Now, this whole approach to Aboriginal affairs is patently misguided. Australians are being told they should permanently lock in through constitutional change an approach to policy that has never been tried before, that has never had a test run or even a temporary experiment. This is another reason why it would be easily exploited by bogus operators. It is not a revival of an ancient tradition that has stood the test of time but simply the latest fashionable idea that had its origins in the indigenous politics of North America, as I argued in some detail Quadrant in March 2019.

In short, what the radical leftists who now dominate the Australian Aboriginal industry are really offering in the Voice is yet another product of white man’s dreaming. None of its predecessors, such as the Homelands movement that gave birth to land rights and remote communities, have worked, except for transferring wealth to the members of the Aboriginal academic and bureaucratic elite. The Voice is all for the latter. The same elite will be its only legatees. The tragic inhabitants of the remote communities will be left in just as bad a position as they are now.

27 thoughts on “White Man’s Dreaming

  • pmprociv says:

    Brilliant piece of writing, Keith — now to somehow get it out into the broader community. What’s been missing from the current Voice “debate” is precisely this issue of identity, perhaps unsurprisingly, seeing that sceptics are reluctant to speak out because of the inevitable accusations of “racism” they’ll attract. I wouldn’t at all be surprised if Megan Davis sees herself sitting in the inaugural chair of The Voice, as our Chief Aborigine (and, further down the track, as our first indigenous female president?). Gotta give her full marks for ambition.

    I’m right now reading Kim Mahood’s “Position Doubtful”, which objectively describes how land rights and mining leases and royalties have dramatically skewed perceptions of land ownership in remote parts of Australia (the Aborigines no longer “belong to the land” — it belongs to them), raising huge tensions among the local tribal groups, and drawing lots of opportunists (“grifters” and “carpetbaggers”) out of the woodwork, generally city-dwellers who were never known previously to have indigenous connections, but do have a nose finely tuned to money. Now, I’m not for a moment questioning Stan Grant’s credentials, just using him as an example: he claims descent from Wiradjuri, Kamilaroi and maybe one or two other groups. What’s to stop Stan heading off to claim a share of mining royalties from land that some of his ancestors might once have roamed upon? Who’s to prove he’s wrong, just making it up? It’s worked for Bruce Pascoe, who has never provided a skerrick of evidence to support his shifting claims of aboriginality, from which he continues to profit most handsomely.

    Further, ABC news has just announced that Aboriginal community courts will return in the NT, after legislation was passed in parliament. Sounds to me like there’ll be great opportunities for serious miscarriages of justice, should Aboriginal offenders request to be sentenced in an Aboriginal community of their choosing. But again, who will decide if the offender is eligible? I can’t see this making much of a dent in domestic violence statistics; in fact, they might even go up– although there almost certainly will be a reduction in incarceration levels, that will go down well with the proverbial international crowd.

    Who wouldn’t want to be a lawyer right now? The loaded gravy trains are well on the way . . .

  • Stephen Due says:

    “The tragic inhabitants of the remote communities will be left in just as bad a position as they are now”
    In fact this is essential, since if the deplorable condition of remote settlements were rectified, the money would cease to flow and the grievance industry orchestrated by the elites would cease to exist. It is quite striking, when you examine what has been done and is now proposed to assist the remote communities, that only programs that are essentially irrelevant to the problems on the ground – or at least are obviously going to be ineffective – are implemented.
    Back in the 1970s when I briefly visited a remote ‘community’ I was offered two girls aged about 13 for sex. The people slept with their dogs in piles of filthy blankets on the ground. Nobody worked – all existed on government handouts. The ‘elders’ had only one article of faith, namely that the White Man was responsible for all their diseases, all their social problems and and all their personal misery, including of course their alcoholism, their violent behaviour and so on. I assume nothing has changed.
    Throwing money blindly at this kind of scenario is not likely to achieve anything except making it worse. The Aboriginal ‘leaders’ will just take the money and keep reiterating the narrative. And of course there will be plenty of photo opportunities – in the occasional visit to a remote ‘community’ – to support their case and sustain their grievances.

  • Daffy says:

    I agree that something can be ‘offensive’ and ‘demeaning’, that is in big people’s talk. But ‘hurtful” That’s a word I expect from a 3 year old,yet here we have a government minister getting in on the act because something is ‘hurtful’! Donnez moi un break!

    • pmprociv says:

      Yes, Daffy, but some whitefellas think of Aborigines as little more than children, constantly in need of care and protection. It reveals much about Tania Plibersek’s thinking, her protective, maternal instincts coming to the fore (does “bleeding heart” cover it?). This is not a good way to approach negotiations with smart, manipulative, professional humbuggers.

  • Michael says:

    It’s so naive for Craven, Leeser, and Freeman to have run with the voice idea. Of course it was going to be amped up to become the megaphone Voice to everyone on everything we now have before us. And, what’s more, it’s just so wrong in principle. Australian is Australian.

  • Botswana O'Hooligan says:

    Great article Mr. Windschuttle and one fondly hopes that the referendum will fail spectacularly for it will have to in order to quieten the proponents down for a while. The whole affair could be viewed from the perspective that the “voice” proponents are only pulling a grand lurk practiced by a great many Australians on a smaller scale, dole bludgers, NDIS bludgers, people claiming the old age pension by hiding assets, public servants taking stress leave, people taking “sickies” to make a three day weekend to name a few and thus giving credence to the statement that we are a Nation descended from convicts. One great lurk perpetrated on Flinders Island back in the 1970’s was that some fishermen would buy a new truck each few months and on sell it for an aboriginal didn’t pay sales tax on a new vehicle thus proving Truganini was a prolific breeder and many of her progeny had the palest skin and blue or green eyes.

    • pmprociv says:

      If only, BO’H. Should the referendum fall flat on its face, the outrage will only rachet up many decibels, and all Australians will be deluged with cries of racism, colonialism, land theft, genocide, child-stealing, slavery etc.. Even the UN apparatchiks might have a say.

      Perfectly understandably, the city Aboriginal nomenklatura will be infuriated at being held back from digging their snouts deeper into the power and money (and free lunch) troughs. Although they would have been buoyed up by today’s news (Oz front page) that Fairy Princess Anastacia’s government in Qld is going ahead with countless treaties, that will cost us $100s of millions (I reckon it will be more like $billions). Who needs the Voice when we’re already run by such obsequious, compliant morons? (I hate sounding so cynical and nasty, but what else can one do?)


    “In short, what the radical leftists who now dominate the Australian Aboriginal industry are really offering in the Voice is yet another product of white man’s dreaming”.
    Yes, and white man’s gullibility too. These crafty leftists flogging The Voice know that the sugar coated way The Voice is advertised in the media is designed to convince the gullible to vote YES. They also employ that well known idiom ‘the Devil is in the details’ but know that the usual proportion of the public will be soppy minded, blithely ignore the details, take the bait, and vote YES.
    I’m not a fan of Wikipedia but I like their entry on ‘The Devil is in the details’:
    “The devil is in the details” is an idiom alluding to a catch or mysterious element hidden in the details;

  • rosross says:

    So, Davis had a part-Aboriginal grandparent, one of four. Even if he was half Aboriginal that would make her so minimally Aboriginal in ancestry it is a joke.

    Is someone with a half Chinese grandparent, one of four, Chinese? Is someone with a half Polynesian great-grandparent, one of eight, Polynesian? No and neither is Davis Aboriginal. She is an Australian of mixed ancestry with a trivial part of it Aboriginal.

    In no other place on earth could she register as native with so little ancestry.

    Great work Keith. If only more knew the truths you articulate. But, on the plus side, the blatant racism of the voice is getting the message out and forcing more Australians to ask the questions which need to be asked.

  • Keith Windschuttle says:

    Hello rosross,
    As Davis tells the story, her grandfather was actually a Cobble Cobble full-blood clan member, as I tried to explain. It is her father who is genetically part Aboriginal and part Pacific Islander. These days, 235 years after the British established their first colony, inter-marriage between Aborigines, Europeans, Asians and Pacific Islanders has been so prolific that Davis would actually be more genetically Aboriginal than most of those who claim to be.
    It’s not her genealogy I’m most concerned about but her admitted lack of an upbringing in an Aboriginal community, which raises two issues: (i) whether she breaches Part Three of the Commonwealth’s declared view of Aboriginal authenticity, and (ii) whether she has the lived cultural experience that the Voice insists is now essential for the development of self-governing Aboriginal policies.

  • Blair says:

    Well if the Secretary of the Department of Health cannot define a woman, then it’s a bit much to expect anybody to define an Aborigine or a Torres Strait Islander.

    • pmprociv says:

      Yep, if you and I are both free to decide if we’re a man or a woman, what’s the problem with calling oneself indigenous/Aboriginal/whatever? On genetic grounds, it’s probably a much smaller leap than a sex change (although not if you decided to become a chimp).

  • brandee says:

    Is it correct Keith that at time of Federation only ‘full blood’ aborigines were considered aborigine, mixed race people were counted as white?
    The ‘full blood’ term has gone out of fashion as can be seen comparing older $50 notes when Glen Stevens was Governor of the Reserve Bank and those current $50 notes issued under Philip Lowe.
    The proud handwritten imprint of David Unaipon alongside his sketch of an improved shearing handpiece has now been erased under Bank Governor Glen Stevens. Read the small script on the old notes with a magnifying glass:
    “As a full blooded member of my race I think I may claim to be the first but I hope not the last to produce an enduring record of our customs, beliefs and imagings [corrected to ‘imaginings’]”.

    • Keith Windschuttle says:

      Hello Brandee, I had an exchange in Quadrant’s April 2017 edition with Brian Galligan over the question of Aboriginal voting rights. Galligan was co-author of Aborigines and Australian Citizenship (1997), a book that I criticized for misinterpreting the constitutional right of Aboriginal people to vote at the time of Federation. Nonetheless, Galligan gave an answer to your question with which I did not disagree. In defining who was “an Aboriginal native of Australia”, the first Commonwealth attorney-general, Alfred Deakin, in a ministerial directive in August 1901, ruled that “half-castes” were not “aboriginal natives”. Galligan says Deakin’s definition covered people of mixed race: “a person with one Australian Aboriginal parent was not an Aboriginal native but only part Aboriginal and so not strictly Aboriginal”. I’m not sure how widely this directive was followed, and Galligan did not say if it affected the statistics of the Aboriginal population, which were compiled by the states at the time, not by the Commonwealth. It is an issue I’d be interested to learn more about.

  • john.singer says:

    Keith Windschuttle’s scholarship reveals the serious gulf between the acceptance of identity and the ability to prove it, even to the satisfaction of over-simplistic systems accepted (without evidence) by the Courts. However, that is only one aspect of identification and authentication that must be left to the Courts and not enshrined in the whims of politicians.

    My background is in property, in Real Property (land) that is. In its ownership, in the rights in it and the rights over it. When you boil all the aspects of the proposed referendum down to its base, it too is about land, the rights in it and the rights over it. The sum of all the rights in a property leads to a title of ‘fee simple’ in the property.

    In most nations, as in early Australia the ownership of land from its original grant or claim was determined by the Common Law. That meant that an owner or claimant had to possess a chain of relevant documents that proved a continuous chain of ownership from creation to the present day. Modern developments like “Torrens Title” codified this and transferred it into a single document which the Registrar was charged with defending against all-comers including the Sovereign or the Crown.

    So the two real factors are the identification of the claimant and the “bundle of rights” in a particular property. In this case it is either an Aboriginal Person (confusingly also described as Indigenous) or group of Aboriginal People (confusingly described as First Nations) who claim an area of land without any chain of documents to support them. How then to establish their identity?

    Recent science has proved they have a chain of documents to prove or disprove who they are. It is written in a chain of the letters G, A, C, T and by combinations of them, The sequence describing their DNA. So yes, their identity can be proven.

    The identification of their right to the ownership or the possession of a right in a parcel of land has become very complicated. The ability to untangle this complication would be lost if the referendum is carried. The Parliament would then possess the ability to create laws to redefine the elements of the entanglement without reference to previous equity or reality.

    The difficulty arises from an over-reaching judgment by the High Court in Mabo (No 2) which conflated a non-extinguished Native Title in cultivated parcels of land annexed in the 19th century on a small island in the Torres Strait. A form of title able to be converted to a fee simple in common law.

    WITH the Usufructuary use of vast areas of uncultivated land by hundreds of tribes of people on a continent and without the proven usage necessary to convert to fee simple under the common law. The two lands being occupied by people claimed to be of different races. The lands on the continent being claimed and settled by the British Crown in the 18th Century. The High Court judgment did not extinguish their particular type of Native Title. However, the Keating Government then hurriedly legislated a Native Title Act without a correct definition of the limited title identified by the High Court in common law and creating a new form of title created under statutory law.

    As the law stands today, under our existing Constitution, many aspects can be referred to the High Court for clarification or definition BUT if the referendum is carried, the Parliament would be empowered to legislate away much of that ability. The conflicting views of leading Constitutional Lawyers in recent public hearings should sound a serious warning of these potential dangers.

    It would be very advisable to employ the cautionary principle when exercising your vote in the referendum.

  • Citizen Kane says:

    Cobble Cobble woman indeed. Cobbled together racial heritage and cobbled togethor cultural heritage!

    Cobbled together to magically create victimhood out of relative privilege – which is the typical modus operandi of all identity politics. Cue Stan Grant et al.

  • Patrick McCauley says:

    The Indigenous ruling class ( the Indigenous Swamp) are a manufactured or evolved new ‘Nation’ evolved from The Australian Aboriginal. The Indigenous are university formed city dwellers steeped in Critical Race Theory and Cultural Marxism – with only cynical knowledge of their ancestors or of the deep song and dreaming lore of their people. They ( ‘The Indigenous’) are a small privileged parasite ‘Nation’ grown like a cancer on the body of freedom – feeding like cannibals, on those they claim to be their own people

  • padraic says:

    Thanks Keith, for stating the obvious that no media has dared to tackle. Who is an Aborigine? Government and society based on racial status has never worked well – vide Apartheid South Africa as a recent example. Many years ago when emails first appeared and I was working in a large organisation we all got an email from the Personnel Department saying that when sitting on a job interview panel we had to give priority to “women and Aborigines”. So I wrote back seeking clarification by asking did “Aborigines” cover both Aboriginal men and Aboriginal women or were Aboriginal women covered by “women”? If they were covered by “Aborigines” then to be clear “women” should be preceded by the adjective “white”, but if they were covered by “Aborigines” then it should read “Aboriginal women and Aboriginal men” but that in turn would cause more confusion because of Indian and Chinese women et al. I never received a reply so I just continued picking people on merit. God knows how the email would be today with all this gender stuff.
    Re pmprociv comment on what if the referendum fails and what we can expect afterwards, I noticed an article by Henry Reynolds in The Australian (3/5/23) in which he says “If the referendum is lost, a new, younger generation may return to the streets with campaigns of direct action. Others could well conclude that their campaign for self-determination and treaties will gather strength by taking the struggle offshore to Geneva and New York, where they would find that Australia had few friends in the erstwhile colonial world.” More recently it has been reported that Marcia Langton said that if Aborigines in remote are not happy then we can expect an “intafada”. “Direct action”, “struggle” and “intafada” – are not exactly positive sounding words. I wonder what they mean.
    A point others have made is that the States are already doing with impunity what the “Voice” is all about at Commonwealth level, so whatever the outcome federally it will already be a fait accompli, irrespective of the outcome of the referendum. The States seem to have the status of a sacred idol, with no or little media or political discussion of what they are achieving on the sly.


  • RAS25 says:

    Many thanks Keith.

    It seems to me that most who support the Voice have some horrible (subconscious) fear that, if they don’t express such support, the academic leftist Indigenous mob will call them racists. To be called a racist is the modern equivalent of being called “Witch”.

  • pmprociv says:

    PM Albanese repeatedly insists that he intends to fully implement that most “generous” gift to us whitefellas, the “Uluru Statement from the Heart”. Surely, it’s time that someone came up with a “Response from the Head”, given that the Uluru Statement itself is little more than a mishmash of meaningless cliches. Already, Quadrant has published on the plagiarism underlying that bit about “peoples who were born therefrom, remain attached thereto, and must one day return thither to be united with our ancestors” (and doesn’t that apply to just about everybody who’s born and grows up somewhere?), but what’s needed is a more substantial critique of its other claims.

    Even its opening, “Our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander tribes were the first sovereign Nations of the Australian continent and its adjacent islands”, deserves a hefty response — how about defining what a “nation” is? There certainly was no unified polity on the continent at any time before 1788, with most of the extant tribes in perpetual warfare with each other’s neighbours. Its highly unlikely any of them even knew they occupied a continent.

    Then, “more than 60,000 years ago” — the Torres Strait islands have only existed for maybe the last 8-10 thousand years. Maybe the first humans on our continent arrived 60K years ago (it’s still a rubbery figure, seeing that’s when Homo sapiens is supposed to have first stepped out of Africa), but they’ve been coming ever since, with a clearly defined major invasion ca. 4-8 thousand years ago, which happened to import dingoes.

    Then, of course, the cri du coeur: “Our children are aliened [sic] from their families at unprecedented rates. This cannot be because we have no love for them. And our youth languish in detention in obscene
    numbers”. Is this implying that all those poor innocent people are being locked up, removed from families, for no obvious reason? One needs look no further than the daily headlines to see the problem. Will the Voice demand an end to incarceration for serious crime? Understanding its cause takes much deeper analysis, but this blatant attempt to tap into our guilt, to make the perpetrator appear as victim, is seriously misguided, and certainly won’t help to find a “cure” anytime soon.

    “These dimensions of our crisis tell plainly the structural nature of our problem. This is the torment of our powerlessness.” What? As equal citizens, everyone else has just as much power as I do — what more is required? Unless money is power — give them more cash.

    “We seek constitutional reforms to empower our people and take a rightful place in our own country.” Are they presently not in “a rightful place”? If not, where is this rightful place they want to be? They’re free to move wherever they want, at least according to state and national laws. Maybe their customs and communities are holding them back?

    One could go on (there’s more), but you get the message. I think it’s time Albo was confronted on these, and other, details, and asked to explain more specifically what he’s trying to achieve, at such a huge cost to our modern nation that he’s so desperate to change. From his track record, though, it’s becoming clear that he’s not a man for details, especially of the inconvenient kind.

    • Citizen Kane says:

      Arguably, what later became the Tasmanian Aboriginals were an initial and seperate race who first migrated to mainland Australia (probably from around present day India) before being displaced by subsequent waves of Aboriginal migration into Australia and then isolated by the rising seas over Bass Strait at the end of the Pleistocene. Should their contemporary (if they can indeed be truly identified) mixed race ancestors be seeking reparations from racially distinct Aboriginal groups that followed?

    • Doubting Thomas says:

      This is one of my to rejected comments to the Australian:

      “One has to wonder whether Mr Collins would be quite so enthusiastic if the weight of opinion of his fellow members of the Bar were to be in favour of a “no” vote. Leaving aside his rather nonsensical appeal to emotion in trotting out the irrelevant “oldest continuing civilisation” business, there is still the overwhelming likelihood that the first, and probably the only, real beneficiaries of the proposed Voice will be the legal profession who really should not so blatantly pursue self-interest.”
      Story: Bar shouldn’t be silent on voice debate

      • pmprociv says:

        It beggars belief that a lawyer, whose business is words and their precise definitions, could even write “civilisations”, let alone “oldest continuing”, without appreciating the pointless stupidity of such terms in this context. Does he not know how to use even Wikipedia? I’d guess Mr. Collins is salivating at the lucrative prospect of interpreting, for the High Court, just exactly what the Voice can and can’t do, should the time come.

  • Michael Waugh says:

    Thanks yet again Keith.

    The 3 part test is essential. My oldest mate has close Aboriginal ancestry. He does not self-identify. He’s had enormous career success in mainstream Australia. It would be absurd to treat him differently from me in our democracy.
    On its face, it seems ludicrous to treat Davis, Pearson, the Dodsons, Langton and other activists as disadvantaged or requiring an extra say over the country’s legislature or executive.
    Are their ANY full-blooded and actually disadvantaged Aborigines who advocate that ANY of their disadvantages (assuming they perceive some) will be assisted by this Voice proposal ?
    And Keith, what can you tell us about the ability of Pearson et al to satisfy the 3 part test ?

    • pmprociv says:

      Further to your comment, Michael, I’d guess that, were we given access to the financial status of those folk you mention (and their Voice-pushing colleagues), we’d find many to fit the “top 1%” category. They’d sure have many more frequent flyer points than I’ve ever possessed. Difficult to see how “disadvantaged” or “voiceless” could possibly apply to such individuals, despite any injustices their ancestors (real or imagined) might have suffered. And I’m pretty sure neither their opinions, nor needs, would reflect those of most Aborigines living in remote communities.

      As for the 3-part test, Bruce Pascoe had no difficulty in getting his identity vouched for by indigenous mates, possibly just through charismatic influence, with or without financial inducements, something we’ll never know, seeing how he holds his cards so close to his chest.

  • Elizabeth Beare says:

    Thanks, Keith. It’s really important to have your measured and comprehensive recording of how issues in aboriginal identity have played out in the past as well as today. A lot of the problems have been visited and revisited many times before. Knowing that helps clarify where we are today and why.

    Are you going to put it all in a book form – A History of Aboriginal Identity in Australia, perhaps?

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