To Recognise or Not To—That is the Question

19 Jul

Glenn Loughrey – July 2019 – ©

In recent times in Australia we have pondered the question on whether to recognise indigenous Australians in the Constitution. Discussions have alternated between yes and no, if yes where and in what context and if no, why not?

We find ourselves once again at this place despite having an indigenous person as our minister for Blackfella Matters. Minister Ken Whyatt has committed himself to recognition and not to the implementation of the Statement of the Heart yet appears not to have the full support of the Government.

His vision includes recognition in the constitution, a multi-level voice to all levels of government not enshrined in the constitution and treaties being the providence of states. In this vision we have tokenism, lack of voice, indigenous affairs to revert to the states from where they were previously transferred to the federal government and, most importantly, the replacement of any sense of indigenous sovereignty with that of the Federal Constitution.

Sovereignty has always been the sticking point for politicians. If you steal something from another it is never yours no matter how you dress it up with fancy words and create a foreign government. It still belongs with those you stole it from.

The moment Australia as a nation agrees to include indigenous people in the constitution you take away their sovereign rights to country and self-determination.

We are no longer sovereign people with the rights to self-determination and autonomy that that implies, as we become just one interest group amongst many. There are several implications to this, which I will discuss in another post but the model below is a beginning.

The Statement of the Heart was designed not as a solution but as a process. The Voice of sovereign people must be heard at the same level of sovereignty and engaged with at that level if we are going to work towards a solution for the illegal constitution and devise a way toward dual sovereignty, or at least, a place where our sovereignty is respected, heard and included. Again there are implications here towards self-determination, health and viability, which we look at a later date.

Without the process of being heard we cannot arrive at a treaty. Again sovereignty is central. Sovereign people can only speak at the same level of sovereignty as themselves. We can only speak with those who are equal to us. In this case that is the Federal government (more truthfully the Queen).

State governments are not sovereign bodies and cannot make treaties with sovereign people. They simply can do agreements on issues and matters they have delegated responsibility for. As Pat Dodson and Stan Grant have indicated, treaty must be done at the highest level and then implemented locally with local sovereign nations.

When we have a framework for such a Treaty and our Voice is being heard then we have, hopefully, a platform of respect that allows for truth-telling. Not before.

This is a brief outline but the take away is:

Say No to recognition and Yes to the Statement from the Heart if you care for Indigenous people.

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