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An Indigenous Voice: Truth, treaty and reconciliation



In 1967 we amended the Australian Constitution. We took out the two adverse references to Aborigines, which thereafter meant the Constitution was silent. Now some of you would be old enough to remember that there was a campaign to ‘Vote “yes” for Aborigines’. But all that was done was to take out the two adverse references to Aborigines, the main one of which was contained in section 51(26) of the Australian Constitution. Prior to 1967 that section said that the Commonwealth Parliament had power to make laws with respect to the people of any race, other than Aborigines, for whom it was deemed necessary to make special laws. The thinking of our founding fathers (and they were all men, back in the 19th century) was that Aboriginal affairs would be a matter for the states but that the Commonwealth Parliament would have power to make laws with respect to people of any other particular race, even if they did become British subjects.  

Guess what? That provision back in the 19th century was thought to be one that would work against particular racial groups. It wasn’t put in there to allow the Commonwealth Parliament to do nice things for the Chinese or the South Sea Islanders who were brought in to the Queensland cane fields. It was a provision that was put in so that there might be extra so-called safeguards for the community against the activities of the Chinese and the South Sea Islanders. But by 1967, it was said that those words of omission in relation to Aborigines should be taken out. So the Commonwealth Parliament would now have power to make laws with respect to Aboriginal peoples.

Since then, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have been aware that there is no mention of them in the Constitution. They say: ‘We think we should be recognised’. For us as Christians or citizens of goodwill, the starting point has to be: what is it that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are asking of us? They’re saying: ‘We want to be recognised in the Constitution. It’s our Constitution as well as yours.’ That should be generously conceded by everybody.  That’s step one: first of all, to be attentive to the voice of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

But guess what? Not all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people agree, do they? They’re just like the rest of us — this is the nature of democracy. So what do we do? Sometimes we hear it simplistically said: ‘If only all Aboriginal people would agree with each other, we’d know what to do. But as they don't all agree with each other, let's just do nothing.’ I think that's a cop-out. What we're engaged in is democracy. We have to give due respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander citizens, especially their respected leaders, as they nut out their differences and work out what it is that is being put forward.

For many of us, the only way we'll be able to do that with any authenticity is by having Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander friends. You will have heard Noel Pearson in his first Boyer Lecture highlighting that one of the problems even in 21st century Australia is that a lot of Australians do not have Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander friends, and so it's necessary for us to be reaching out and to seek inclusion. Perhaps there will emerge a view that is representative of many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people — we want to be listening for these authentic voices. If they say, ‘This is how we would like to be recognised in the Constitution’, I then unashamedly say, as a non-indigenous Australian but as a committed Christian citizen, we need to see how this might be done.

It would then be necessary to make an assessment of which Indigenous aspirations are morally justified. This would require a dialogue between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and the rest of us. Which of those aspirations are morally justified?  For example, in the current discussion about a Voice, we've heard some of our political leaders say (and it has been conceded by Aboriginal leaders including Noel Pearson) that you wouldn't want something set up as a Voice that actually divides the country — something that results in a situation of separatism, driving Australians apart. You wouldn't want to set up something that undermines the sovereignty of the Commonwealth Parliament. Issues of this sort raise questions about what is morally justified.


'We’re left with these questions: Can we design a Voice which does not divide the nation? Can we design a Voice which doesn't mean you're going off to the High Court every other day? Can we design a Voice which doesn't clog up the system of government? These are the difficult, practical and complex questions that need to be addressed.'


Then comes the next difficult step: ‘I've listened to the aspirations of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. I've determined in good faith what is morally justified’ — I then have to ask myself: ‘What do I think is politically achievable?’ Because the last thing you'd want, especially in this field, is a referendum that is bound for failure. We have to be asking ourselves: ‘What is politically achievable and how might it be done?’ Now, one way it can be done is through public education. That’s why I'm now giving a number of talks like this around the country — not to push a particular barrow but to say that there is a hunger in the Australian community to move beyond political ideology to determine what it is that we think might be achievable.

Then for us as committed Christian citizens comes the final question: ‘To which of these aspirations am I prepared to commit myself — to put some skin in the game?’ I don't think it's good enough just to say: ‘Oh well, it’s nothing to do with me; I'll just vote on the day.’ If too many of us take that attitude, it's destined for failure. How might we commit ourselves and what might we practically do together?

I put that before you as a bit of a template for the Christian citizen of goodwill trying to see their way through this issue. How many of you have listened to at least the first two of Noel Pearson's Boyer Lectures? I would recommend them to you. The third one and subsequent lectures are not so much on this issue, but the first two very squarely are. I was surprised with the second one because he spent almost half his time talking about John Howard. A lot of this comes down to how might we find an accommodation, if you like, between John Howard and Noel Pearson as the body politic tries to deal with these issues. Noel Pearson quite rightly takes us back in the Boyer Lectures to the statement that John Howard made on the eve of the 2007 election:


If re-elected, I will put to the Australian people within 18 months a referendum to formally recognise Indigenous Australians in our Constitution — their history as the first inhabitants of our country, their unique heritage of culture and languages, and their special (though not separate) place within a reconciled, indivisible nation. My goal is to see a new Statement of Reconciliation incorporated into the Preamble of the Australian Constitution.


With all respect to Mr Howard and many others who engaged in this debate at the time, I think it was a bit of a mistake to talk about putting it in the preamble of the Constitution. I have here my little pocket copy of the Australian Constitution. The preamble as it's called is actually the preamble of the Imperial act of parliament, which says:


WHEREAS the people of New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Queensland, and Tasmania, humbly relying on the blessing of Almighty God, have agreed to unite in one indissoluble Federal Commonwealth under the Crown of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and under the Constitution hereby established:

And whereas it is expedient to provide for the admission into the Commonwealth of other Australasian Colonies and possessions of the Queen:

Be it therefore enacted by the Queen's most Excellent Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and Commons, in this present Parliament assembled, and by the authority of the same, as follows …


Some conservative lawyers say if you put something in a preamble, that could allow judges to take it into account in interpreting other provisions of the Constitution. They claim that if you put anything about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the preamble, it could create doubt or uncertainty in the future about other provisions of the Constitution. With respect to Mr Howard, I'd suggest that what he was really getting at was not so much what might be put in the preamble of the Imperial act; rather, that there should be some acknowledgement in our Constitution that we, the people of Australia, acknowledge the reality of Indigenous history, the reality of the Indigenous present and the reality of Indigenous aspirations. I think we could have done that and then made provision that the Commonwealth Parliament had the power to make laws with respect to those matters. If anyone is interested, I published a book along those lines called No Small Change in 2015, but that went nowhere too.

After John Howard’s 2007 announcement, we moved on to what was the next stage in 2012. By then Noel Pearson, a very active Aboriginal leader and lawyer, was part of the Expert Panel set up by Julia Gillard in 2012. Their response was: ‘Look, if you're serious about recognising us in the Constitution, we're most concerned about laws and policies which discriminate against us. So why not put in a provision to say “thou shalt not discriminate on the basis of race, but you may discriminate affirmatively and you may discriminate in a way to uphold our culture and heritage”.’ Their proposed clause 116A read:


(1) The Commonwealth, a State or a Territory shall not discriminate on the grounds of race, colour or ethnic or national origin.

(2) Subsection (1) does not preclude the making of laws or measures for the purpose of overcoming disadvantage, ameliorating the effects of past discrimination, or protecting the cultures, languages or heritage of any group.


That created a huge problem because the constitutional conservatives said this was the equivalent of a one-clause Bill of Rights. Whether or not they were right, they definitely raised a major sticking point, and it was seen that what the expert panel proposed was not a flyer. So then we had a situation, and I want to emphasise this tonight: until recently there was quite a decent spirit of bipartisanship among the political leaders in Australia.

When Julia Gillard was Prime Minister in 2013, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples Recognition Act 2013 was passed through parliament, supported by the opposition led by Tony Abbott. I think it’s a pretty decent statement of words. The Act provided:


(1) The Parliament, on behalf of the people of Australia, recognises that the continent and the islands now known as Australia were first occupied by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

(2) The Parliament, on behalf of the people of Australia, acknowledges the continuing relationship of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples with their traditional lands and waters.

(3) The Parliament, on behalf of the people of Australia, acknowledges and respects the continuing cultures, languages and heritage of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.


Indigenous leaders by this stage were saying: ‘we don't want just symbolic statements; we want something more substantive put into the Constitution’. So in July 2015 when Tony Abbott was Prime Minister, you might remember there was a big meeting of Aboriginal leaders at Kirribilli House in Sydney. This time Abbott reciprocated as Gillard had done and invited Shorten to the meeting. They met together with Indigenous leaders and they made a joint statement, and then after that it was decided that a Referendum Council would be set up. But by then, Abbott had been given the heave-ho. Turnbull came in, and once again the Prime Minister of the Day cooperated with the Leader of the Opposition: he and Shorten together set up the Referendum Council and chose its members. Turnbull and Shorten together met with members of the Referendum Council as they plotted their way forward. So ultimately the Referendum Council put out this recommendation:


That a referendum be held to provide in the Australian Constitution for a representative body that gives Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander First Nations a Voice to the Commonwealth Parliament. One of the specific functions of such a body, to be set out in legislation outside the Constitution, should include the function of monitoring the use of the heads of power in section 51 (xxvi) and section 122*.


They said the Voice to Parliament should primarily be about the special laws that parliament makes for Aborigines and Torres Strait Islander people on issues such as native title, heritage protection, and things of that sort.

One of the Referendum council members was Murray Gleeson, who had been a well-respected Chief Justice of Australia. He was Chief Justice of NSW for 10 years and Chief Justice of the High Court for 10 years, and a constitutional conservative. Even he supported the idea of a Voice to Parliament and he gave a speech in 2019 saying there was nothing threatening about having an Indigenous Voice to Parliament. However he did warn, and wisely: ‘I think it very likely that Australians, and parliament itself, would want to see what the body looks like, and hear what the Voice sounds like, before they vote on it.’

But we need to backtrack to what happened after the Kirribilli House meeting in July 2015. Unfortunately we had the situation in August 2015 when Tony Abbott as Prime Minister said: ‘No, I won't wear a Voice being put in the Constitution.’ Turnbull then said: ‘No, I won't wear a Voice being put in the Constitution. Legislate one if you like but don't put it in the Constitution.’ Morrison did the same thing. So we came to a standoff in which we had three Liberal prime ministers in a row saying: ‘Whatever the Referendum Council members say, we will not countenance a Voice to Parliament being put in the Constitution. We could look at having one set up by legislation.’

I was put on the Senior Advisory Group, chaired by Marcia Langton and Tom Calma, which the Morrison government set up. There were 18 of us: 15 Indigenous and three non-Indigenous. We worked for a year or two — lots of consultations and putting forward models of what a Voice might look like.

But then some of the key Indigenous leaders who were at Uluru came forward and said that, even though the Uluru Statement had simply said, ‘We call for the establishment of a First Nations Voice enshrined in the Constitution’ and even though the Referendum Council’s main recommendation had spoken only of a Voice to the Commonwealth Parliament, they proposed that it should be a Voice that could make representations to parliament and executive government on matters related to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. They submitted to a parliamentary committee:


(1) There shall be a First Nations Voice.

(2) The First Nations Voice shall present its views to Parliament and the Executive on matters relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

(3) The Parliament shall, subject to this Constitution, have power to make laws with respect to the composition, functions, powers and procedures of the First Nations Voice.


So this has become quite complex as to whether it would be a Voice just to parliament or a Voice to parliament and government, and whether it would be a Voice that would look only at special laws in relation to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people or whether it would be a Voice in relation to any matter of concern to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The Referendum Council appreciated the latter problem of scope but did not provide an answer. They observed:

It would not be realistic to provide advice on all matters ‘affecting’ Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples because most laws of general application affect such peoples. On the other hand, it may be too narrow to limit the subject matters to laws with respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples because some laws of general application have particular impact on or significance to such peoples.

In the 21st century Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are perfectly entitled to be concerned about anything and everything which parliament or the government is dealing with. So that has become the problem.

We’re left with these questions: Can we design a Voice which does not divide the nation? Can we design a Voice which doesn't mean you're going off to the High Court every other day? Can we design a Voice which doesn't clog up the system of government? These are the difficult, practical and complex questions that need to be addressed.

Let me conclude by looking at what has happened over the last week or so with the second of the Boyer lectures and with the response by Mr Howard. Noel Pearson in his second Boyer Lecture said this:


Howard's 2007 proposal for constitutional reform was subjected to the democratic processes of the national government and parliament … Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and their leaders submitted to these processes and sought to advocate and influence the evolving proposals for recognition. … It could not be the case that the personal preference of an individual whether a past leader or citizen could so peremptorily discard the outcome of 15 years of democratic process. That some leaders have changed their minds from support to opposition while others have changed from opposition to support is not really the point … Aboriginal people are entitled to expect that Australia’s Westminster system obliges the former Prime Minister to respect the outcomes of serious democratic deliberation undertaken with hope and sincerity by the least powerful community in that system.


I think it's called poking the bear!

John Howard on the weekend gave an interview to Paul Kelly in The Weekend Australian. Kelly is the most well-informed journalist in the country on this issue. He's followed it from day one. The fact that Howard decided to give an interview to Paul Kelly is indicative because to date Howard has basically held his fire. Let me quote you a few things Howard said:


I think there are substantial arguments against the voice … Among people I see as part of the Liberal base I don’t find any reaction to the voice other than one of hostility.  Not everyone talks about it. But those who talk about it are critical. My sense is that people are suspicious of the idea of a voice. I don’t get the impression the voice is something that is going to unite the country the way the 1967 referendum did because that was just so palpably fair, whereas people are suspicious of the voice. People saw the 1967 referendum as a demonstration of our good faith. But people see the voice as creating potential divisions.


We have a lot of work to do if there is to be any prospect of a successful referendum which can be said to be true towards Indigenous people, who have put to us the mode by which they want to be recognised in the Constitution. They have said they want a Voice. Now, we can debate whether it be a Voice to Parliament or a Voice to Parliament and government, or a Voice just about particular laws or a Voice about all manner of things. But Mr Howard seems to be saying that a Voice of any sort in the Constitution is not on. I dare say he hasn't lost all his political clout. So we've got a lot of work to do with our fellow citizens if we are serious about responding to the call, which has been made in good faith to us by the Indigenous leadership over a considerable period of time.




*Section 51(26) allows the Commonwealth Parliament to make laws with respect to the people of any race for whom it is deemed necessary to make special laws. Section 122 allows the Commonwealth Parliament to make laws for the government of any territory surrendered by any State to the Commonwealth.


This piece is an extract from the McKinney Lecture. Listen at https://soundcloud.com/frank-brennan-6/mckinney-lecture-on-the-voice

Fr Frank Brennan SJ AO is the Rector of Newman College, Melbourne, the Distinguished Fellow of the P M Glynn Institute, Australian Catholic University, and the former CEO of Catholic Social Services Australia (CSSA). He was a member of the Morrison Government’s Senior Advisory Panel on the Indigenous Voice Co-design Process.



Topic tags: Frank Brennan, Indigenous, Voice to Parliament, Constitution, Australia, AusPol



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Existing comments

with respect as you pointed out section 51 (26) already gives power to the Commonwealth to make laws for any race----so why try and set up conflict between any particular group of people in Australia---we are one.

BERNARD TRESTON | 01 December 2022  

I am a little surprised that Frank has not made a single mention to Juancita Price, senator for NT. She is a woman on the ground and is facing the hard yards with trumas and well thought presentation during the week about the Voice.
The condemnation of NP dis not sit well with me about his comments to JP

michael jones | 01 December 2022  

Honestly it is so shameful that non Indigenous ancestors stole this country from the legal Custodians against the wishes of the British monarchy, then tried to kill the legal Custodians in genocide and then not acknowledge the legal Custodians in the constitution then steal their children and tramatise their families all without truth telling...leaving a legacy not to be proud of which is disadvantage and dispossession.
To be truly sorry for this horrific past and present there is a way forward and that is to stop making excuses about the past and support self determination without hijacking the conversation.

Jan Wright | 01 December 2022  

Frank, I wouldn't like to teach you how to suck eggs, but I think Howard was following due process with the Preamble.
I was involved in the rewrite of the Qld Land Act to shift from a development orientation to an emphasis on sustainability and the preamble was thought to signal this intent.
The carriage was through Land Management Agreements, but the mechanism on the ground proved too resource hungry and a good mechanism for change was eventually dropped, but in the interim some amazing goals were achieved; then the emphasis shifted to the Veg Management Act with the eventual aim of trying to maintain the status quo, which may look good on paper via satellite monitoring, but did nothing for the dynamic state of land management. It just looks good for corporate reporting purposes.
All that raises the risks and possibilities of an equally difficult subject in the Voice objectives.
From that experience I would suggest tackling the issue at a community level i.e. Balgo will be different to Yarrabah, you will need a feed in mechanism and more people like Jacinta Price who live in the disorder with a motivation for change rather than more fat cats in bureaucracy

Nev Hunt | 01 December 2022  

“a Voice just to parliament or a Voice to parliament and government, and whether it would be a Voice that would look only at special laws in relation to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people or whether it would be a Voice in relation to any matter of concern to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.”
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people want to be heard; need to be heard. They want their everyday stories listened to with attention, empathy and respect. No version of “a Voice” will guarantee that they be heard i.e. with credibility, without judgement and with heart.
Yes it is valuable as legislation and as a gesture but no more so than the 1967 referendum, I suspect. What has really changed in fifty five years since that result?
Yes, keep the discussion going, be open and transparent and listen (on both sides) and pray (whatever form that might take).
In the meantime make sure that the people in our own lives are heard. Make sure we allow them to feel valued, to feel important and special (which they very much are)?
Unless we can do that we have little chance of hearing a Voice, any voice!

Phil Shirvington | 01 December 2022  

From Nth Queensland (Noel Pearson) to Tasmania (Michael Manson), from Sydney (Warren Mundine) to Broome (Patrick Dodson), from Alice Springs (Jacinta Price) to Canberra (other elected members of the parliament) there are distinct Indigenous voices clearly not in harmony. I would encourage those in parliament to urge their non-Indigenous colleagues in that place to work on the ground in their electorates to bridge the gaps that need to be overcome to improve our society; this against a backdrop of a constitutional preamble that acknowledges the historical significance of injustices visited from first colonial contact on the First People(s) of Australia.

Noel McMaster | 03 December 2022  

Although Father Frank has not mentioned the Albanese governments's financial support for the "Yes" vote and its refusal to offer similar aid to the "No" option, I hope that my thoughts on this undemocratic and unprecedented decision will still be considered relevant.
Such a move will immediately identify an underdog in this debate. If the stereotype of the typical Aussie is accurate, this could result in a strong sympathetic support for "the battler" created by an unwise piece of government interference in what is, normally, a fair contest- an Australian referendum.
This vote is too important for such a piece of monetary prejudice to have any influence on the result or even to seem to have any significane.
Why would the Labor Party want to run this risk?

Grebo | 04 December 2022  

The parliamentary debate on the successful 1977 referenda proposals provides us with a gold standard of the bipartisanship needed to amend the Constitution. Introducing the bill for the four referenda, Liberal Attorney General Bob Ellicott pointed out: ‘All these proposals stem from the Hobart meeting of the Australian Constitutional Convention. (Hansard 16/2/77, p.144)

In relation to one measure, Ellicott was at pains to point out that it was similar to one proposed by Labor in 1974 and ‘It is one, moreover, for which substantial support was expressed from both sides of Australian politics at the Hobart meeting of the Australian Constitutional Convention held in October last year.’ (p. 145)

Gough Whitlam as Leader of the Opposition was unequivocal in his support: ‘The Opposition supports all 4 Bills. I found the arguments of the Attorney-General (Mr Ellicott) compelling, not least because I have advanced them myself in this place over 2 decades, in opposition and in government. The 4 proposals have become steadily more relevant and in 1975 they became urgent and crucial. Ten years ago when my Party was in opposition and I had just become its leader we supported the referendums put by the Holt Government. My Party will take the same attitude towards these referendums. We have not been soured by the attitude which our opponents took to the proposals which we put to the people when we were in government and which they are now putting to the people while they are in government. My Party sees no mileage in wrecking referendums. Our opponents now realise that too. ’ (Hansard 17/2/77, p.197)

Whitlam concluded his second reading speech with these words (p.202):

‘The whole tenor in which the matter has so been dealt with in this House, would, I believe be calculated to secure a rational and relevant approach to matters of real relevance and increasing urgency. My Party hopes that the people will support these 4 referendums. Whatever government the people hereafter elect in this House of Representatives, whatever members the people hereafter elect to this Federal Parliament, the Federal Parliament and Government will be able to operate in a more rational, contemporary and constructive way than the Parliament and governments have been able to operate hitherto. The Bills should be supported in the Parliament; they should be supported outside the Parliament. I do not believe that any Party in Australia can gain anything from the rejection of any of these Bills.’

Ian Sinclair as Leader of the Country Party immediately spoke and said: ‘There are few occasions when I rise in this House following the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) that I find myself in substantial agreement with most of what he has said. This is one of those rare occasions. There are, of course, in the electorate at large a good many divided views about the character and the manner of the Australian Constitution, in terms both of its relationship to individuals and of the necessity for change. Emotions are very easily generated when we speak of altering the Australian Constitution.’

Gordon Scholes then had the carriage of the matter for the Labor Opposition and concluded his second reading speech with these words (Hansard 17/2/77, p.233): ‘I think that the Australian people should carry all the referenda put forward on this occasion and I'm sure that, given honest argument, on the merits of such argument they will do so.’

If only our parliamentarians could work together this time and come up with a referendum proposal for constitutional recognition of the First Australians which they could take to the people who would vote resoundingly in favour on the merits of honest arguments put forward.

Frank Brennan SJ | 04 December 2022  

Frank a long circular history.
When reading your article I wondered if there are any Aboriginal or Torres Strait Jesuits, but I couldn't discover any. But we do have a TS magistrate and a Supreme Court Judge.

The voice to Parliament would seemingly be advisory and could be overridden by whoever held the numbers. But it would be a useful avenue for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders to outline their claims, necessities, problems, aspirations and attempts to deal with the white Police (who lock them up at a moment's notice) to Parliament's attention.
As for the NP, what could you expect from these privileged Akubra & RM Williams fashion aficionados who sneer at their colleagues and openly defy the State gun laws?
A voice to them would be akin to a woman asking the Vatican for equal rights to ordination. John the Baptist crying in the wilderness.

There is no doubt our indigenous brothers and sisters are entitled to a voice. Do not the LGBTQ lobby share an office with a Southern premier? Are the NP afraid they might achieve some positive outcomes?

They are also entitled to a treaty. The historical declaration of terra nullius was made to protect pastoral leases that had been seized by force of arms.

Francis Armstrong | 05 December 2022  
Show Responses

The last sentence is historically inaccurate. In the Port Phillip District (subsequently Victoria), the licence system preceded the lease system. The Chief Protector of Aborigines George Augustus Robinson estimated that more than 50% of pastoral runs were pointed out to squatters by Aboriginal men, presumably traditional owners. One interpretation of this seemingly strange action is that the Traditional Owners wanted a tame European in their district to supply all their wants for European goods. It might just have worked with the limited stock that Europeans had at the time, but the sheep kept coming and coming and coming, and fencing followed, and locking up the water, and the Traditional Owners lost their rights.

Marie Fels | 07 December 2022  

The massacre system preceded any protection that may have been provided by Robinson. The list of sites and the feeble excuses for murder gives extraordinary support to the Aboriginal claims for a treaty.
Reverse discrimination eliminates white cultural claims of racial superiority, settled agriculture, nomadic race, humpys over stone buildings.
George Robinson was the fellow that had Peevay murdered in 1842, the survivor of the Cape Grim massacre despite being defended by Sir Redmond Barry, KCMG QC, the judge who hanged Ned Kelly.
Robinsons legacy was pathetic.

Francis Armstrong | 13 December 2022  

Hello Grebo. Are you sure about the funding? There is an article on the ABC News of 29/11/2022 of the 7.30 interview with Linda Burney. It clearly states the the government will NOT fund either the YES or NO campaign but will fund a neutral information campaign. I saw the 7.30 interview and the article did report accurately the minister's comments. Where did you get your information from?

Fosco | 05 December 2022  

Thank you, Frank for an excellent article giving valuable background, analysis and practical advice that is needed by all working in solidarity with Aborigines to achieve Voice, Treaty, Truth Telling and Reconciliation.

I thought that your mention of the attitudes of previous LNP PMs on having an Aboriginal Voice is very pertinent.

It is obvious that the LNP will go along with the right wingers amongst us and the wishes of to large mining corporations when it comes to any discussion on this issue.

It was John Howard who unilaterally axed the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) in 2004 which had served as a previous type of “Voice” for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to Parliament. I think that it was very disappointing that there was not greater opposition to this move at the time by the ALP, progressive organisations and people of goodwill in the Australian community.

The ALP Opposition after Mark Latham became its leader in 2003 agreed with the abolition because of the corruption of some members of ATSIC.

This move was a great shame as it effectively meant that First Nations people lost their voice and 18 years later, we are now fighting to have it being restored.

In other instances where corruption has become a problem within an organisation, the guilty people are identified and dealt with rather than wiping out the entire organisation. Howard was only looking for an excuse because he did not want to be reminded of Australia’s “black armband of history”.

We have been reminded of his stance because of his recent utterances on the Voice.

And it was a great disappointment that the Rudd and Gillard governments did nothing to restore any form of Voice during their years of government.

So, it is good that the current government is making the move to restore a Voice which should not have been abolished in the first place and to have it enshrined in the Constitution and to advance the long sought-after Treaty, Truth Telling, the reconciliation process and justice for First nations peoples.

It is now up to all Australians of goodwill – including Christians - to counter the arguments from those who are opposed to these important concepts to ensure that the coming referendum is passed with a resounding YES as happened in the 1967 referendum.

Surely, these issues should have been achieved decades ago.

Andrew (Andy) Alcock | 07 December 2022  
Show Responses

Andy, there is a growing myth that the old ATSIC was singled out for adverse treatment by the Coalition parties and not by Labor. Both sides of politics had grown weary of the defects in the previous ATSIC. It is well to recall that on 30 March 2004, Mark Latham, Leader of the Opposition, asked a question without notice: ‘Does the Prime Minister support Labor’s policy to abolish the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission’? He went on to ask: ‘Does the Prime Minister agree that, without the coordination and integration of federal, state, territory and community programs through COAG, it is not possible to overcome the Third World poverty affecting so many Indigenous Australians? Will the government now join with Labor in a new approach to Indigenous policy?’

Frank Brennan SJ | 09 December 2022  

A Voice won't set up conflict Bernard, conflict has been around for almost one quarter of a millennium now since the first invasion and it is still unresolved. It's not a matter of giving the Commonwealth power and, in any case, the use of those powers has been ineffective because they have been neither informed nor driven by First Nations' people. The Voice is categorically different because the request originated from Indigenous Australians, not from the rest of us. Acceding to their request will be a act of Real Recognition.
As to the 'race powers' in our constitution, are you really comfortable about the parliament being able to make laws about ANY 'race' when that includes Jews, Arabs, Africans AND Caucasians as well as Aborigines? Remember that this power was inserted, and used, for the express purpose of discriminating against 'Asiatics', 'Hindoos', 'Kanakas', etc. but because of its wording could in future be used to discriminate against 'Caucasians'. Better, I think, that s.51(xxvi) be deleted in its entirety.

Ginger Meggs | 08 December 2022  

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