The injustice of non-recognition
The failure of white Australia to recognise Indigenous inhabitants in the Constitution from the very beginning has been an on-going disaster.
Reports to the English government and instructions to Governor Phillip make it clear the land was occupied and the original inhabitants were to be treated with respect.
Pretty weird when you think about it. We’re going to invade them and steal their land for settlement, but be nice about it.
By the time a Constitution was knocked up and the States and Territories formed into a federation, the Indigenous people had been “decimated” one way or another, forced into isolated corners and were generally disregarded. It was thought they would die out, a convenient solution.
But then WWI happened and some Indigenous people signed up. But what was their status? When they were uniformed, trained and armed, did they swear allegiance to the King? As what? Paid mercenaries? After the war these men were not recognised for their efforts.
Later still, some bright spark thought it would be a good idea to kidnap the children of some Indigenous and put them in “Christian” institutions or good Christian homes, so they could grow up to be good Christian people. Another presumption, a travesty and a tragedy for many. Imagine the effect on their parents.
If these Indigenous children were not recognised in the Constitution, who or what were they? What presumption to take them from their parents. It’s little different to sneaking into a neighbouring country, kidnapping children and taking them away to be given to “Christian” families for their own good.
The long fight for recognition of Aboriginal Title over lands held for perhaps 60,000 years, the fights with miners and other entrepreneurs for respect, justice and fair recompense still goes on today. Where you were born, your “country”, is extremely important to Indigenous culture. It is equally important that you are put to rest in the same country, otherwise your spirit will roam restlessly. If we expect them to recognise Christian values (not too dissimilar), it’s only right that Christians should respect Indigenous spiritual beliefs.
I know it is extremely important in Indigenous culture to say “Sorry” for wrongdoings. The white invaders have said “Sorry”, finally, and only recently. To me, it seems barely enough and nowhere near enough.
Some months ago I launched an effort to create the Centre Party of Australia. One of its policy discussion papers included a proposal to compensate Indigenous title holders for the exploitation of resources on their lands. This certainly seems right to me, and far better than the present federal government’s policy of abolishing and slashing everything to do with Indigenous assistance. God knows, they are already the most disadvantaged people in this nation. It irks me that the man responsible for this hacking and slashing is Tony Abbott, the one bleating about recognition in the Constitution and now taking the credit for it.
I’m sure I could take my Biro or Artline pen and fix the recognition problem in the Constitution by editing a few key lines. But because it’s the Constitution we have to have a drawn out discussion, a conference and a referendum, adding to the can of worms and further delaying justice.
A document on Constitutional Recognition has been prepared by the Australian Human Rights Commission.