Firstly, I would like to say I will be voting ‘Yes’ in the Voice referendum, this is why:
I am 53 years old and was around at the time of Eddie Mabo in his struggle to pursue native title, or ‘Treaty’ as I understand it, through the courts and against the seething hiss of mass hysteria (whoops I meant mass media) and public opinion. I remember it was a long drawn-out affair, he had to prove his connection to the land, which meant landmarks and places of origin, the historic earthly grounds of his ancestors to his current day existence – to claim ‘ownership’ of his land.
Imagine the toll, the burden of proof, the financial weight, never mind the emotional toll he and his family endured.
In the end, he was victorious, and a testament to the determination and courage of indigenous peoples, I expect, worldwide and not just in Australia – the burden of proof was extraordinary. Non-indigenous peoples search family trees and end up with a hierarchy chart at best. Eddie knew his home, his land, and his birthright.
I will now tell you what I experienced growing up in a mixed-race family of middle class, perhaps aristocratic, non-indigenous Australians.
I witnessed how much enmity there was coming through the television about how I understood it as a youth – a massive panic seized the general public’s imagination (except for those individuals who never felt part of the ‘general public’ for whom I cannot speak as I do not know their number).
My parents, one a communist, the other a landlord, responded with contempt for the idea of ‘land rights’.
My mother panicked that Australian land everywhere was ‘fair game for Aboriginals to lay their hands on’. I heard other reports of how Aboriginal people didn’t respect their ‘rented’ living quarters anyway. It is astonishing in the little niche that I grew up in, how much bigotry against Aboriginals came out in response to Eddie Mabo’s struggle for, let us put it as I see it – ‘Treaty’ – or claim to ‘Home Lands’.
The cost, in every sense, to anyone like Eddie today – to fight for Treaty – even in the wake of his native title settlement, does grip me with pessimism considering the bigotry I sensed on a visceral level to the idea of the original inhabitants having any right to live as they did before they were violently dissociated, in every way (geographically, emotionally, culturally, and their bodies) imaginable, from their environment.
To face such truth calls for a podium on which they are equal, on which they can speak, and address a spectrum of gross injustices reflected in the statistics (incarceration, black deaths in custody, intergenerational trauma), about a civilization – [a many-flawed system of governance] – built on top of theirs. In order to address the spectrum of ‘issues’ over which the Aboriginal camp is divided (number again unknown to me). I want homeland restored, I want a Treaty, I want Truth-telling, but I [want] their voices to be heard everywhere.
The Voice, in my opinion, must be enshrined, so that all of their voices, however diverse, can be heard. Do not side with bigots who are up in arms about Aboriginal violence to other Aboriginals – they wish to continue to deny Treaty in all truth, and actual homes in which First Nations children could be safe and grow up in the culture of their ancestors.