More Answers to More Questions on the Voice

22 Aug

If this is a process and we don’t know where it’s heading,  how can we be sure the end result will be fair and just?

  1. This question is posed from the point of view of a non-indigenous person with the terms fair and just reflecting a fear that is founded in the colonial memory. It is based on a fear of losing advantage and privilege to those who were and are deemed unworthy of the same.
  2. This process is not a legal process that will bring about findings of right and wrong, but a process of developing relationships, understanding, and empathy for each other that will lead to a coming together and an agreement on what just and fair looks like for all.
  3. We are not to define what this should look like now as we are only beginning to have the conversation some 200+ years after colonization began. What is fair and just for all will become apparent and accepted.

A question I had was whether the incarceration levels are terrible. should Aboriginals that commit crimes not be incarcerated or simply have alternate laws that govern them? 

  1. This question is a pertinent one. As I have shown with the restorative justice process outlined in unpacking the statement from the heart, we traditionally had processes in place to deal with anti-social behavior. As I also noted these processes were designed to repair the fracture in the community, not primarily as punishment or payback.
  2. Alternatives to incarceration are available and involve on-country elder-led interventions, and where these have been implemented, they have had a positive impact.
  3. It has been shown that much of the behavior that is criminalized has its roots in dispossession and the cross-generational and present-day trauma that people are impacted with. People who are place-less and spirit-less because of being disconnected from all that gives them meaning protest with the only thing they have left – their bodies. 
  4. Addressing what is named criminal behavior involves a new way of understanding people’s behavior, its causes, and often its involuntary nature. We inhabit the trauma that has impacted our people and we protest through addiction, suicide, self-harm, and crimes of violence and theft against others, even those closest to us.

From what I have read in the Statement of the Heart paperwork, I can see there have been injustices, but I can also see that the government is who is at fault, not the general populace. The government has stepped in and made decisions for indigenous people. This has happened even though money has been allocated to make restitution, how will a VOICE make any difference? Indigenous people are part of all Australians, not a separate entity. They represent 3.2% of the population and more than 100 different tribes. There is no info on the outcomes of the VOICE or specific rules or laws that will come from this.

  1. Injustices have been equally shared between governments and the people of Australia. In the beginning, the imperial government directed the claiming of the country and the dispossession and genocide of our people. Through the processes of ‘settlement,’ the people of the nation implemented the extermination of our people to make room for sheep, agriculture, and settlements. For example, the War of Extermination against the Wiradjuri in 1824  commenced with skirmishes between landowners and the local people who were being pushed out of their spaces. It was then made an imperial war between the army of Britain and Ireland when Governor Brisbane declared martial law. That war continued after the troops left and was carried out by settler communities. The result was a 100% of traditional people in the Mudgee area were wiped out in 50 years. This was repeated many times up until the officially recognized last massacre in 1928 at Coniston, WA. Although there is evidence that many other incidents occurred after this across the country.
  2. It is a systemic issue within the structure of our society. Our society was built on a worldview that prioritized one group of people as privileged and others as not human because of skin color, language, religion, and economic system. (Walter Mingolo) This coloniality, as Mingolo refers to it, is all over in that all who participate in the society from a privileged position are operating from this worldview. We are not separate from the system and the government because we actively participate in and support the system.
  3. There has been no money provided for restitution. There have been payments to victims of specific acts such as the Stolen Generation but there has not been restitution for the original sin, the invasion and stealing of this country, and the many acts that continue as a result of this. We are only able to access welfare or specific-purpose funding. There is no restitution.
  4. Aboriginal people are separate people, the original and continuing sovereigns of this land. We are living in an occupied country. There has been no treaty and we were excluded from the Constitution at Federation. If we are not included in the Constitution at this referendum, we remain outcasts from the centre of society by, definition. Each of us knows from our lived experience that we are not included in the body of Australians as equals.
  5. There is no info on the outcomes of the VOICE or specific rules or laws that will come from this. Nor should there be because the Voice is not able to make rules or laws. It is an advisory body that speaks to the issues being considered for legislation. It has no power to make or veto laws.

How are indigenous people treated differently to others in the current constitution?

“Little more than a hundred years ago Australia was a Dark Continent in every sense of the term. There was not a white man within its borders. In another century the probability is that Australia will be

a White Continent with not a black or even a dark skin amongst its inhabitants. The aboriginal race has died out in the South and is dying fast in the North and West even where most gently treated. Other races are to be excluded by legislation if they are tinted to any degree.” (Alfred Deakin — principal architect of the constitution, first Commonwealth attorney-general and three times prime minister — in 1901. We were only included in the constitution in 1967 when we were included for the purposes of being counted and to take Aboriginal & Torres Strait islander affairs of the hands of the States.

When we were included, the Federal Government inserted a clause (the race clause) was follows: “Section 51(xxvi) enables the Commonwealth to make laws for the peace, order and good government of the Commonwealth with respect to: … the people of any race for whom it is deemed necessary to make special laws.

While this clause allows laws ‘for peoples of any race’ it has only been used in relation to First peoples with conflicted purposes – some beneficial, some not.

  1. In the final report of the referendum council, it states that the treaty is about the resolution of land, water, and resources and the rights of the Aboriginal people.  We have already seen “white ” people being kicked off beaches. We have no idea what this will look like, and the government isn’t telling us.
  1. I presume this is referring to the Broome case where the Butchalla people sought restricted access to the beaches.
  2. “An interesting part of the Broome Native Title case over access to beaches is not whether people may be excluded from use, but that the traditional owners wish to conserve the region for future generations through ranger programs and permit systems that manage the place for its cultural values. This is no different from the regimes that Australia’s mainstream national parks and wildlife agencies use to conserve Australia’s protected areas.” 
  3. Resolution of land, water, and resource ownership and use are accepted outcomes for any treaty process and recognizes the prior sovereignty of the traditional owners. Presently our people do not have rights to block mining, water, or land use only the right of negotiation without guaranteed outcomes. 
  4. This process recognizes that country is more than a pragmatic resource but is the sentient source of life and spirituality and needs to be respected as such.

Where does Galatians 3:28 come into this as Christians?  There are neither Jew nor Greek nor slave nor free, neither male nor female for we are all one in Christ Jesus.

  1. Without sounding heretical, it is not relevant as not all people are in Christ in the sense of recognizing Christ. This verse refers to the truth that when we are in Christ we become a new creation. It does not translate into a space where not all are Christian.
  2. It doesn’t translate into the space of social justice except within the circumstances noted in (a).
  3. For Christians, the constant admonition in both the Old and New Testaments to love God and to love your neighbor as yourself is more appropriate in this space.
  4. When we see ourselves in Christ the imperative Is to do justice out of love of God and love for our neighbor.
  5. I’ll leave you to find the proof texts for this. I just prefer to do what is right in my imperfection.

I love my neighbor, but I am not willing to vote for something that is not yet defined.

  1. It is defined in the clauses being inserted in the Constitution. That is all the detail that is possible because of the process of Constitutional change and the legislating of the change for implementation, no one can detail the detail because what is stated now will be further debated within our democratic process by the Parliament and then agreed upon. Loving our neighbor also requires us to love our representatives and allow them to do their job.
  2. The Biblical ethic of love has no escape clauses. Love over rules fear and concern and as Christians we are to prioritise love and its implications in our day-to-day existence. See the Good Samaritan story for example. 

Strongly disagree with the vast majority of what you are spruiking. 

  1. And this is the nature of moral questions. This is a moral, spiritual, and ethical question, and it cannot be resolved by rational, legal, or political intervention. 
  2. It relies on how much we believe in equity for all, especially those who have suffered because of colonization, and whether we can say yes to the proposition in the Referendum even though we retain concerns.
  3. I am not concerned if people disagree, but it is important that their disagreement is based on facts and that their arguments are cohesive and cogent and offers an alternative way forward. Much of what I hear ignores the academic fact-checked basis of this proposition and relies on hearsay, one-liners, and emotional media grabs designed to confuse and put fear into people.
  4. Fact-checking sites such as the RMIT/ABC collaboration are helpful in this space:

Proportionally there are more First People politicians in parliament than non-Indigenous representatives. Why do we need the Voice?

  1. It is true there are, but it is to be remembered they do not represent First People, they represent their parties and the States they were elected to the Senate for example. 
  2. While they may support First People issues when appropriate, their priority is those who elected them and the party they represent.
  3. While we have good representation in this electoral cycle, there is no guarantee that this will continue. There may very well be no representatives in the next parliament.
  4. The Voice is a focused group of First People who remain beyond the electoral cycle and maintain a long-term view on issues affecting us. It cannot be disbanded unless we have a referendum to do so.

Why are we not doing Treaty first?

  1. Treaties have generally been the product of a major power imbalance – the strong and the weak. Subsequently, they are fragile and are often broken and/or ignored.
  2. As First Peoples have not been recognized as equals in the Constitution or in society in general, any treaty negotiated runs the risk of being such a treaty which, instead of resolving issues and creating peace, remains a space of conflict. The experience in the North American context confirms this.
  3. By being placed inside the constitution as equals, we can negotiate a treaty from a position of strength and equity. We will be the first nation to do so.
  4. This is because instead of the sovereignty of the crown ruling as in the past, we will be inserting our sovereignty in the constitution as equal to and commencing a conversation that will further change the nature of sovereignty in this country. It will become less a top-down external sovereignty and more like First Peoples’ practice, internal and relational.

It is said that there is $33 billion spent on First Peoples by the gov’t. Is that correct?

  1. This figure comes from the 2017 Productivity Commission’s Report and is made up as follows:
  2. The report estimated that direct expenditure on all Australians — by all state, territory, and federal governments — totaled $556.1 billion in 2015-16, of which $33.4 billion (6 percent) was spent on First Nations people.
  3. The vast majority of that ($27.4 billion) was simply the Indigenous share of “mainstream expenditure” — that is, expenditure “provided for all people”, including spending on schools, hospitals, welfare, defense, and “public order and safety”.
  4. The remainder ($6 billion) was spent on “services and programs … provided to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community specifically”.

How will the Voice make a difference?

  1. By allowing a focus on issues that are not restricted to the electoral and funding cycles. Policies change and programs come and go depending upon the ideology of the government in power. This results in a disjointed and interrupted approach to matters that require a longer period of focus than a three-year cycle allows.
  2. It will allow input on matters that have been on the national agenda for many years and have yet to be resolved as a priority. It means that even if governments change the Voice will be able to work with the incoming government on what has already been commenced.
  3. While we understand that governments do not have to listen but at least they will have to explain to the electorate for their failure to listen to the collective wisdom of the Voice.
  4. Because the voice consists of First People representatives it is able to bring a focused perspective based on local knowledge and experience of will or will not work on the ground.


One Reply to “More Answers to More Questions on the Voice”

  1. As a Christian Australian and ally of Aboriginal peoples since the 1960s and in the 1970s specifically the Walmatjari people in Fitzroy Crossing area WA and Bunjalang people of Baryulgil NSW ; I emigrated to the USA in 1980 (not by choice—-casting lots with new Yankee husband) and I have been joyful at the Voice possibility. I cannot vote but I continue to engage with my family in Australia. Thankyou for so faithfully answering all their questions and outing their fears and the deliberate misinformation they cling to. The NO arguments in the Referendum form are not just weak and disappointing, they are downright crap: ignorance, fear-mongering, denialism, white supremacist and cruel and for Christians, not tenable. I am praying for the Voice. THANKYOU

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *