Now is the time for some serious discussion


An Australian Constitution based upon Race


We can no longer pretend that the problems do not exist, for they do.

We can no longer pretend that 'feel good' solutions work, for they don't.

We can no longer pretend that we do not have to bother ourselves with this matter, for we do.

I have written on these pages before about the truth!

This is the time for the truth about matters relating to the Aboriginal people, who live in our midst as equal Australian citizens.

In addressing the truth, we can ask ourselves why the media, and consequently, our Parliaments and much of our Public Service, refer to Australian Aboriginals as indigenous?  Is there some problem with being called Aboriginal?

If you were born in Australia, you are an Indigenous Australian. You are not, however, an Aboriginal Australian!

The word Aboriginal refers to ‘original inhabitants’ in the context of European arrival in this land.  The word's origin is found in the Oxford Dictionary as ‘ab origine’ meaning ‘from the beginning’. And that is as it is!  Australian Aboriginals were here before Europeans arrived in this land.

The truth demands that we call them Aboriginals. There is no shame in that!

The primary issue in this matter is calling for a National Referendum to change our Constitution to include a provision for aboriginals to have a ‘voice’ in our Federal Parliament.  This ‘voice’ would have relevance, according to its proponents, when legislation or matters affecting Aboriginals are before the Federal Parliament, ensuring that the Parliament listens to the concerns of the Aboriginal people, as expressed by the ‘voice’, when discussing and ultimately legislating on these matters. The same proponents of the ‘voice’ assure us that the ‘voice’ would have no binding effect upon the Federal Parliament, nor would it constitute a third chamber of Federal Parliament.

The assumption here is that matters affecting Aboriginal Australians before the Federal Parliament are more critical than matters affecting all the other Australians. How is this so?

The truth, therefore, demands that we look more closely at the status of Australian Aboriginals.

I acknowledge that this might be difficult and confronting for some people.  If it is too hard, do not read it!

Australian Aboriginals can apply for an Australian Passport just like you and me. 

Australian Aboriginals have equal citizenship rights in our community like you and me.

Australian Aboriginals have the same access to Government programmes and benefits just like you and me.

Australian Aboriginals are subject to the same laws in our States and Commonwealth, just like you and me.

Australian Aboriginals can and do, vote in all Local, State and Commonwealth elections just like you and me.

And, as fate would have it, in the present Federal Parliament, there are 10 Aboriginal members elected from various seats and Senate positions around Australia.

A fair number for representation, if necessary, of Aboriginal issues.

So, what is the evidence for assuming a critical case for having a ‘voice’ in our Parliament?

I have lived and worked in Aboriginal communities, being the Shire Clerk of a large Aboriginal community in Arnhem Land. I worked with them, enjoyed their company, listened to their stories, shared their grief, setbacks and triumphs in equal measure. I remain in contact with some of the tribal elders.

The ugly truth is there are fundamental and systemic problems with these remote communities.

The existence of these remote communities is solely dependent upon the pursuit of a chimera of the past. There is no future for many of the young men and women who live there. No employment opportunities on a reasonable scale. No basic economy to support them.

There is no opportunity to interact with the rest of Australia, and only a few depart for better education opportunities or take advantage of sporting skills.

Most of them spiral into a toxic mist of drug abuse and violence, particularly toward women. They become consumed by despair and hopelessness looking for persons or situations they can blame for their plight.

Inevitably they focus on ‘white fellas’ as the cause of all this and become a generation of victims.

Their communities can be appalling places to live. Community dysfunction, wrecked housing, vandalised public utilities and relentless alcohol and drug abuse which result in gratuitous violence amongst themselves, mainly directed at women.

I have, as Shire Clerk, addressed the traditional owners about these matters and was politely but unambiguously told to ‘butt out’,  these matters were not ‘white fella’ business.

And they meant it!

They were not seeking change.

I quote from The Australian newspaper, a Northern Territory Supreme Court Judge, Justice Judith Kelly.

“The problems of violence towards women is so severe that in some cases, women who tried to escape had been effectively kidnapped and dragged to tiny outstations to face beatings and rape. Others had endured years of often drunken violence, inflicted by ‘hopeless’ men, only to be killed in the company of bystanders who did not try to help.”

A further quote.

“It is genuinely tragic that there are vast numbers of Aboriginal men in prison, the mirror image of that is the vast numbers of Aboriginal women in hospitals and morgues. It is a total epidemic of domestic violence”.

The truth demands a question.  Why do we, as a Nation, allow this to happen?

It would not be tolerated in Sydney or Melbourne, or in any of our major cities or towns.  Of course domestic violence is a curse in our cities and regional towns, but not to the extent that it exists in these remote communities.  It is evident that the remoteness of these places contributes significantly to the problem.

Another question! Why do we, as a Nation, allow for the continuing existence of these dysfunctional communities?

Are we not better than that?

Is that all we can think of?

A fierce look at this terrible mess generates yet another crucial question.

How, just precisely how, will an Aboriginal ‘voice’ in our Constitution address this mess? 

ATSIC could not do it.  It did not really try.

Australians are capable of magnificence.

We can prevail in World sporting events. We contribute scientific knowledge on a global scale.

Our artists, ballet dancers, musicians, painters, architects and fashion designers are held with global respect.

We punch well above our weight in military matters.

We walk tall on the streets and boulevards of major cities on the face of the Earth.

But we are apparently incapable of sensibly addressing the problems that engulf the lives of our aboriginal Australians.

We have made them victims.

We have made them dependent upon welfare handouts.

We have removed their dignity in the name of welfare and concerns for their well-being.

We allow the untruths to prevail. We fail to address the daily nonsense that is run by the media.

The  ‘welcome to country’ ceremony is not traditional.  It was cobbled together in Perth in the late 1970’s by Ernie Dingo and Richard Whalley to welcome a Maori party to Australia from New Zealand.

But we run it every time a significant public event occurs.  It is just confected, feel good, nonsense.

And that, in my opinion, is the root of the problem.

We do not challenge the media rubbish thrown at us.

We accept easy solutions.

We are too busy dealing with important matters in our lives to get involved in issues over which we think we have no control.

BUT YOU DO HAVE CONTROL!

You can ask yourself when a Referendum occurs to change the foundation document of our Nation.

“How will this change help the hundreds of Aboriginal women who are bashed with star pickets each month to within an inch of their lives.”

The truth is that this Constitutional change will not help them one bit, not one bit!

Constitutional change is not the answer to the fundamental problems pressing on Australian Aboriginals, Governments and Aboriginal Leaders, all of us can take some responsibility here.

We can demand change.

We can demand that Aboriginal Leaders and Governments accept the reality of the problem and deal with it realistically.  Not just throw money at it!

We do not have to divide our Nation, by race, on Constitutional issues.

That is not the answer!

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