The Referendum - Amendments to the Constitution to recognise Australia's First People

Referendum must not be used to settle old scores
by Gary Johns 'The Australian' November 11, 2010

Response to Gary Johns article
by Ray Jackson, President, Indigenous Social Justice Association

Gary Johns is, of course, not the only one as he is joined by too many self-appointed and self-anointed as pundits on the world as they would like it.

Gary opines that any change to the Australian Constitution must be minimal and only in the preamble of the Constitution. Activists are warned off as he stresses that only integration or assimilation is possible as the previous 40 years of separate development has shown that to be a complete failure.

Well, with no (dis)respect to Johns, he is off on another of his ranting tantrums and when in this mode he becomes very loose with the truth and facts of matters Aboriginal.

Separate development is an apartheid term from South Africa and there is much history in this country of resistance to that situation there. An important part of that resistance came from the Aboriginal and TSI peoples. We were living in a similar but different system of apartheid in this country and had a good understanding of the issues involved.

Why would we seek to practice such an inhumane system upon ourselves? What we sought then, and what we seek still, is self-management. This has never been granted to us. Always is the menacing shadow of changing governments and unaffected bureaucrats whereby the rules are continually changed and no notice is taken of our wants, needs and, more importantly, input.

The government's nefarious and anti-human rights NT Intervention is merely the latest example of our being ignored.

Johns' attempt to introduce the fear of racism by strongly suggesting that "activists" would attempt "to settle old scores" is really over the top. Our people would need a whole Aboriginal constitution to ourselves to right the wrongs of the past 222-odd years.

He then attempts to build upon the racist thoughts of that other pundit of dross, Andrew Bolt, by raising the issue of black Aborigines versus white Aborigines. What such racists can never accept is that after some 222 years of the use and abuse of our Aboriginal women it is a real wonder that there is any colour left among our peoples.

Like Bolt and the other pathetics, Johns absolutely believes that he and they are the expert arbiters of Aboriginal culture and, more importantly, what it is not. the pundits argument on any positive discrimination that is crumbed out to Aborigines, work, employment, health, among others, is sneered at as some form of 'special treatment'. When one considers any improvements that may have occurred over the last 20 or 30 years, it is more than obvious that any such discrimination of the positive kind has been an abject failure. on the other hand, racist discrimination is alive and well and thriving. and Johns and the others will do all in their power to make certain that such standards continue.

The puerile words that Johns suggests, "recognise that this land was first settled by Aboriginal people" is as insulting to us as most 'motherhood' statements are. It means nothing, it changes nothing but it sounds good.

This land was not settled, the lands were stolen.

There was no peaceful handover of our lands, there were wars and massacres of Aborigines. The state of war still exists to the present day. Our deepest and sincerest wish is to end that state of war.

The governments and the non-Aboriginal people have, finally, the absolute opportunity to address the historic wrongs perpetrated against us since the invasion. We require more than just recognition that we were here first. We must have the human rights of ownership (or compensation) for our traditional lands. We must have the human rights of our culture, our languages and our self-determination.

The wording to be added to the body of the constitution is, to my mind, has already been done for us. Any added words must fully reflect, both in the spirit and the actual wording, (that the federal government and the people of Australia, regardless of colour, race, religion, etc.) is all in the un declaration of indigenous peoples. that declaration will cover all contingencies and will only be opposed by Johns, Bolt and the rest of their ilk.

The federal government, on behalf of the Australian people, has already accepted the UN declaration so cannot have any problem in putting it into the constitution.

Then, and only then, can we give any real credence to the often called for reconciliation.

Rights and responsibilities is a two-way street and must be dealt with as such.

One thing I do not wish to see in the constitution is designated parliamentary seats. self-determination will take care of that.


Ray Jackson
Indigenous Social Justice Association

pdfDraft Position Paper for Constitutional Reform pdf | 241k
Law Council of Australia
Letter to Law Council of Australia
by Tasmainian Aboriginal Centre Inc.
Re: Draft paper on constitutional recognition of Indigenous Australians

... It is not at all clear why the LCA adopts the notion of equality as a policy position underlying its constitutional reform approach. Equality of opportunity hardly deals with dispossession, disempowerment and the distinct institutions of Aboriginal people (and Torres Strait Islanders).

The concept of equality assumes the legitimacy of the relationship between Australia and Aborigines whereby the former has the right to decide and Aborigines the right to comply. I would have thought constitutional reform, dealing as it does with the political relationships between institutions that administer the peoples sovereignty, would in turn deal with the political relationship between those institutions and Aboriginal people ...

... We (Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre Inc) welcome the Law Council's intention but believe the suggestions in the paper are overly moderate. The risk of any constitutional reforms coming to nothing can be increased where respectable bodies expected to lead the debate on fundamental reform end up advocating for token gestures ...

Michael Mansell
Legal Director

Read Letter/comments in Full

pdfComments on draft paper pdf | 110k
by Michael Mansell, Legal Director, Tasmania Aboriginal Centre Inc.


another view on the constitution debate

Another divisive referendum out of tune with national thinking by John Stone - Online Opinion - 23rd November 2010

another view on the constitution debate, this being from john stone. for those of you who know nothing of stone (and there is very little reason why you should, unless your related to him) he was a boffin within federal treasury who hated the hawke govt that much he resigned and stood as a national party senator. this was the time when the 'push for jo bjelke petersen to be pm' was on (stone thought this a great idea to save australia from the socialists) but it only split the nationals thus allowing hawke to remain in power.

anything aboriginal was and remains an anathema to stone and he raised his whiney voice on many occasions. he has remained true to type and still continues to disparage both labor and anything positive being done for aborigines.

he is, of course, entitled to his view as much as he is entitled to be wrong. again.

i do however agree with his analysis of the proposed 1999 preamble to the constitution meaning nothing and of no use to anybody. aboriginal,tsi's or the other 97% of australia.

his other horror is the influx of muslims and their absolute refusal to integrate to become white-anglo saxon protestants. we are british and christian after all ...

this country has a long long way to go.

any real positive change to the constitution must give our mobs, including the tsi's, full sovereignty, treaties and social justice or it will be just another waste of time and effort and any minimalist change will be meaningless.

we have enough motherhood statements already.


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