Whatever the Australian people are presented in a referendum as proposed amendments to the Australian Constitution, the majority of Australians will vote yes. Most Australians are not deeply racist. Most Australians do want to live in harmony, do want all their brothers and sisters to live with opportunity and hope. The majority of Australians do want an end to the acute disadvantages, the inequalities that hit hard 40 per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander brothers and sisters. It is both myth and propaganda that only the removal of racist clauses and the insertion of carefully worded acknowledgements to the peoples who lived on this continent for thousands of generations prior to the invasions starting 1788.
Only Australian governments and the top of end town will be nervous at the call for much more than acknowledgements, for authentic treaties and redress. Single issues such as Treaty, single issues such as Gay marriage, single issues period reflect vastly different among the Australian people contrary to their overall favour of a political party. Our parliaments do not reflect the views of the Australian people and this is because of an effective two parties preferred system. When Australians get to vote to on a single issue they are no longer voting as if for a political party.
At Uluru, the voices of the multitude from across the nation defeated the minimalist, reductionist and insulting. They reached for the stars – because they have an obligation to their brothers and sisters, to the 40 per cent living below the poverty line, whose unborn children will live below the poverty line. Radicalising the constitution to enable genuine equality is the best last great shot for change, to improve lives, to save lives. The majority of Australians want equality, an end to obscene injustices that have led to obscene degradations, grinding poverty. The majority of the Australian people are not that racist that they will deny historical contexts and reject contemporary actions to redress past wrongs that still play out today.
Governments do not reflect the people, that’s a myth – between the media and governments we are sold narratives that do not sync with the soul and logic of the people particularly when express questions are put. More than 90 per cent of Australians voted yes in the 1967 referendum, in supporting their Aboriginal brothers and sisters despite a century of racist legislation and policies. That was the highest ever yes vote in any referendum put to the Australian people.
Forget what parliamentarians claim, they are the last people we should trust. If the Australian people voted issue by issue we’d have an end to disproportionate disadvantages to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, we’d have Gay marriage and we’d have a more just society.
Half a century ago today, the Australian referendum, called by the Harold Holt Government, overwhelmingly approved two amendments to the Australian Constitution. The amendments transpired into law on August 10, 1967. The effects of these amendments included Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders into the Australian population count and in more positive ways than before enabled the Australian Parliament to determine specific laws for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, for instance affirmative action laws and policies and indirectly brought about the Racial Discrimination Act.
There was a third question in the 1967 referendum, non-related to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, It asked of the Australian people to increase the number of seats in the House of Representatives without increasing the number of Senators. The Australian people rejected this. Nationwide the yes vote was less than 15 per cent. So, more than 90 per cent of Australians voted yes in supporting the striving to equality and more than 5 in 6 Australians voted against making more politicians despite this being campaigned for by the Government.
At Uluru, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders outright rejected the idea of mere recognition in the Australian constitution, instead calling for a representative body to be enshrined in the nation’s founding document and a process established to work towards treaties, demographically. Who are the leaders of this charge is the next most important step.
Despite what parliamentarians, the big end of town and the media commentators will argue to nation, as they have been all along, that less must be asked of the Australian people, ‘the realistic’, well they’re wrong as they too often are. There is a disparity in our parliaments when compared to the Australian population – there are more racists in parliament, not all wear their heart on sleeve, than proportionately in the Australian population. The racists of my generation today majorly populate our parliaments. The Australian nation is less racist than reflected in our parliaments, less racist than is portrayed is in the media. There is racism throughout Australia, but it is majorly a muddle-minded type than a malicious type, one borne of the vicious racists who psychopathically make their way into our parliaments, who hold hostage political parties. So too other racists with a bent to cling to cluttered thinking who sermonise from media pulpits. What has come out of the national gathering at Uluru has startled to this lot.
I wrote prior the Uluru gathering, for the first time, “It is a given that the ‘raciaised’ clauses will be deleted from the Australian Constitution and stains – diabolical and cruel – cleansed from the nation’s imprimatur and from our collective psychosocial identity.”
“The most important bit is the improving of lives, the guarantee of equality – where in the Australian nation herein no-one is born into a poverty so entrenched that they will live poor their whole life and so too their children and their children’s children.”
“According to my measure of the poverty line, nearly 40 per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders live below the poverty line. If you are born Black in Western Australia you have a 60 per cent chance of living poor your whole life, and it’s a 3 in 4 chance in the Northern Territory. According to my research, nearly 100 per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander suicides are of individuals living below the poverty line. Nearly 100 per cent of the arrests and of the convictions are of individuals living below that diabolical poverty line. Nearly one in three of the national prison population is comprised of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and though I pray time proves me wrong, I estimate that by 2025 one in two of the national prison population will be comprised of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islanders – three in four inmates in Western Australia and nearly 100 per cent in the Northern Territory will be comprised of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islanders.”
“There is a catastrophic tragedy, an even more extensively harrowing tragedy than that of today’s awaiting the nation’s poorest in less than a decade. There is at hand today an opportunity to tinker with the constitution, the nation’s overarching legal tablet, and instead of settling for minimalist and reductionist outcomes, for symbolism alone, for a satisfying of the ego instead of the soul, we can press for constitutional demands to right wrong, to build in the obligation of affirmative actions – for the poorest, to the neediest, for those left behind through no fault of their own.”
I wrote, “The Australian nation is ready to vote through constitutional reforms – it is a myth and malicious propaganda that the nation will not vote through referendum amendments to guarantee an improved lot for the descendants of the First Peoples. This assertion must be understood and not condemned. It must be the starting point that the Australian nation will vote yes to whatever is presented to them.”
“The nation’s identity has long been diminished by the cruelties and abominations of the past madness to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. The nation is ready – as it was in 1967 – to right wrongs, to move forward, to come together. The collective conscience of the nation laments the fact that its identity remains incomplete until the nation’s most profound rights struggle, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander rights struggle is completed.”
Too long the nation has wept. The nation wept when it learned that 80 per cent of suicides of its children aged 12 years and less are of Aboriginal children. The nation weeps for those inside our prisons, where one in 8 Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander have been incarcerated. Western Australia weeps when it is told that that one in 13 of its Aboriginal adult males is in prison, today. The constitutional reforms are the most immediate last best shot at hope for the 40 per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Islanders living below the poverty line, a significant proportion in third-world-akin conditions and inequalities.
Reach for the stars, forget the incremental and go for the radical, and the Australian people will support and be the better for this. There is no greater legacy than to improve the lot of others, to change lives, to save lives.