NOOSA - Here in Noosa, just like the rest of Australia, we’re in the middle of referendum politics, where the vitriol has reached boiling point and exceeds even the hyper-toxicity that prevails around local government elections here in Australia’s premier seaside resort apart from Tumby Bay.
My wife and debating partner Ingrid is still highly regarded in these parts after her term as a councillor (1996-2000) when, much to the liking of a large number of citizens, she took on the mayor and five other councillors in a campaign to make the council more transparent, more accountable and better governed.
I got a lawyer on board early and Ingrid had considerable success in beating off 10 official complaints and much freelance smearing. There were three years of mayhem which saw the mayor subsequently lose his bid for re-election and three women taking Ingrid’s place when she reckoned one term was enough.
Ingrid now writes opinion columns for the local newspaper and pumps out a running commentary on current affairs in her Facebook site, Noosa By Design, that focuses on national and local issues from a moderate, progressive mindset.
Unfortunately these admirable traits do not rub off on some readers, who have taken the opportunity of the referendum to make it a vote on, not about, Aboriginal people. The No campaign has developed as something of a licensing body to slander Australia’s Indigenous population. You may not give a stuff, but I call it racism.
Here - from Noosa resident Carl Beck – is the sort of thing I have to put up with (fair-minded bastard that I am, I corrected his spelling and straightened out the grammar):
“I just love the term truth telling! There is nothing truthful about The Voice. If successful it is only a start. Next will be treaty, and then reconciliation, and then sovereignty. It’s not about love and what’s right. It’s about power and money!
“Of the 800,000 or so Aboriginal people only 0.03% are full blood. That is approximately 40,000. The rest have another side to them but never recognise it because it suits them not to. [There’s] no money in the white side of things!
“Living in the past achieves nothing. Holding people to account for something they had nothing to do with is just a stupid way of looking at things. Saying they have no voice now is a lie. Saying they have no hope for the future is a lie.
“Plenty of Aboriginal people have made significant contributions to Australia. Why? Because they got off their arse and worked for it the same way every white person has to!
“Dividing the country by race is a very dangerous move and will only bring more grief and still no good outcomes.”
To which I commented, “Written with all the passion of a real racist.”
But I have some facts too:
From the linked list of about 123 Indigenous languages you can derive a sense of the extent of culture, complexity and belief of Indigenous Australians, as well as an admiration for how in hell they’ve survived for over two centuries of being trespassed upon, stolen from and intimidated by settlers, pastoralists, missionaries, police, do-gooders and modern day racists.
There are (in 2023) 984,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Australia, representing 3.8% of the population.
Evidence of Aboriginal descent is through self-identification and community recognition of people who wish to identify as Indigenous. This is strengthened by evidence of a family history or tradition of Aboriginal descent, which can be passed on orally.
Approximately 50% of Indigenous adults are reliant on some form of welfare payment; for young people (15 - 24) the proportion is slightly lower.
The notion of the pure blood Aboriginal is about as meaningful as the pure blood Englishman. The people with a direct link to 50,000 years ago number about 5,000. That is they are almost extinct.
Nevertheless, Australia’s Indigenous people – of whatever inheritance - represent a distinct, undervalued and disrespected group within our society. Attitudes to them and their modest aspirations are a disgrace.
That 60% of Australians should be lining them up for another kick in the guts is a disgrace.
As if the colonists, missionaries, pastoralists and the countless others who collectively ripped them off and tried to rip out their spirit weren’t enough, there’s now another bunch of whiners trying to deny them a line in the Constitution and a committee.
And I conclude with a note for our Papua New Guinean and other overseas readers, is this the kind of country you thought Australia was?
Hmmm, I thought you might.