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Voice signals claims by 200 nations for dispossession, genocide, 200+ years of rent

COMMENT by TED EGAN

I guess Alice Springs News readers share the same adverb  – “appalled” – as we overview the present state of disarray in specific regions that we know intimately. Let’s not mince words: it’s largely brought about by the presence of alcohol and drugs in the lives of the Aboriginal people. 

The purists say: “It’s not just the blackfellas” but statistics are undeniable and getting worse. 

I often say: “I’ve never met a single Aboriginal person whose life has been enhanced by alcohol”. 

Even the most sophisticated person of mixed descent is prone to being confronted with: “You are my cousin / sister  / brother. Our culture is based on sharing. Give me money.”  

Followed by: “I used your money to buy this grog and I demand that you share it with me”. The kinship system was once their greatest attribute, today it is their greatest point of vulnerability.

I remember September 1964. The attitude was: “We now have the right to drink this powerful stuff. We have been watching the white fellas show us how to go about things. Grog is to make you aggressive, otherwise you have wasted your money. If you have money, don’t waste it on food, otherwise you’ll run out of money for more grog.”  

And, assertively: “We are are not responsible for our behaviour after drinking alcohol. It is the white man’s fault for introducing it into our lives.”  

“Citizen right” meant little beyond “the right to drink”.

Regrettably, that mindset still prevails today and the drugs are even more dangerous than the grog. As a consequence the physical and mental deterioration is acute and we are now into about the third generation of people whose parents are/were addicted.

Foetal alcohol and drug status is becoming the norm, so today’s 10 year old thugs are mindless and the established standards (and laws) of society make them bullet proof. For one thing, they can easily outrun the police, who are encumbered by heavy gear, revolvers, handcuffs, big heavy boots, various sprays.

Solutions?

Filling the gaols is not the real solution.  What a pity that, at the outset in September 1964 there was not the wisdom to somehow educate the publicans and club managers to the fact that orderly behaviour is a pre-requisite of civilised drinking. 

Sadly publicans by and large saw Aboriginal drinking as the means of making enormous profit, with no thoughts of running happy places like the wonderful UK pubs, or seeking to create friends within the clientele.

No, The “Zoo Bar”, “The Colosseum” and “Madison Square Garden” became the names of the “blackfella bars”. It was like the old 6 o’clock swill days, except that in the days of 6 o’clock closing there were still a few prescribed behavioural standards.

We should have introduced things like female bar staff and mandatory food – dispensed as in Spain where a tray of cheese, olives and biscuits is mandatorily placed in front of drinkers, with the cost tacked onto the next round of drinks, whether the customer likes it or not. 

There should have been immediate refusal to serve any customer deemed to be behaving inappropriately, followed by “naming and shaming” bans, including large photos in Rogues Gallery and local newspapers.

The problem is, that from Day One post 1788 in Australia, it was promulgated that Aboriginals were a sub-species, deemed to be in need of “protection” on their path to extermination. Policies were introduced as a very sinister component of their exploitation,  dispossession and demoralisation.

Coming to terms with today’s disasters, respectable families (even high-achieving Aboriginal families) are leaving Alice Springs.  Similar law and order issues are ruining places like Palmerston, Katherine, Cairns, Townsville, Broome, Derby, Fitzroy Crossing, Hall’s Creek. 

I am aware that the youth of the entire Western World is under scrutiny, but it’s up to the citizens of our Australian regions to support police in meaningful campaigns to seek something resembling the “good old days”.  Alice Springs was once perhaps the best town in the world in which to live. Not today: most residents are reluctant to go into town after sunset.

Here I go, starting to sound like a dictator. I blame mainly the Federal government for losing the way in Aboriginal Affairs in the last 50 years.  I can speak with authority only re the NT, but what I say here will have national implication in the very near future. 

In the 1960s many people justifiably demonstrated for Aboriginal “land rights”. People including me, wrote songs like “Gurindji Blues”, sales of which helped finance the Aboriginal Tent Embassy in its meaningful first days.

Eventually the principle of “land rights” was established via the Woodward Royal Commission, Mabo, Wik, bark petitions etc.  That was supposed to mean that Aboriginals, where possible, would be assisted to rehabilitate themselves, their languages, culture etc and lead meaningful, indeed prosperous lives in their own country. 

They were entitled to live anywhere they liked, but would only receive financial and other assistance in their own – defined by them and accepted in law – tribal lands. They were given tokenistic but meaningless pieces of paper and called TOs.

At the same time, again justifiably, Social Service payments were introduced. That was fair enough, but the same Federal government that was making social welfare payments discontinued the training processes necessary if the tribal lands were to become satisfactory places where people could live, work, bring up their children in the “standard Australian manner”. 

In discussions in those more positive times I often mentioned the town where my parents are buried – Edenhope, Victoria – as “the typical Australian country town”,  with schools, hospital, Old Timers Home, motels, banks, shopping centre, sporting facilities, library, museum, pubs, bitumen roads, reticulated water and electricity, local government, post office.

Harry Giese is the most maligned man in NT history but the above was uppermost in his thinking for NT Aboriginals.  Giese had as many faults as he had strengths, but if he was still in charge today he would quickly demand the means of getting traditional Aboriginals back into their own homelands. 

The Giese ideas were later known as the Bob Beadman towns, but despite Bob’s determined efforts the immense government funding was invariably used for more popular projects.

Life is sterile in bush communities today;  no medical centres, no meaningful employment, certainly no training in any capacity. Most traditional Aboriginal adults (probably 90% if the truth was known) are today in receipt of welfare payments that are only payable in town.

If Grandpa gets sick the entire family accompanies him to town. They must.

Once in town families live in sordid, foreign town camps, with minimal money and inevitable involvement in dangerous alcohol and drugs situations.

Their kids don’t go to school – why would they? – and the kids form into sinister and increasingly violent gangs, armed with things like bolt cutters, hammers, knives and machetes and systematically violating the various towns.

Two things could be introduced tomorrow:

Payment of unemployment benefits only within the “nation” that people are identified with.

• Any recalcitrant Aboriginal person / child held in custody for nightime misdemeanours is placed on a bus at 9 am, under police supervision and returned to their home “nation”.  See you later. Elders, over to you.

The reader will quickly say: Hang on Ted, you can’t do that. Everybody has the right to be in town. What if the recalcitrants are children and their parents are still in town?

Yes reader, of course you are right. But it is “they” who are demanding a different recognition as First Nations people. I endorse that aim: way to go. 

But if the parents are in town and not looking after their kids, it is the parents who are blameworthy; it is the parents who should be held responsible; it is the parents who should be given bills for damages etc. If the parents are unemployed, a job should be found for them in their country, not somebody else’s. 

It is Aboriginals who are talking about “traditional ownership” and I support that. Once upon a time, if you misbehaved in someone else’s country they killed you.

Crucially,  Australia is about to be hit with a compensation claim the likes of which we have never contemplated, let alone discussed. 

All the Voice and Treaty talks are forerunners to the First Nations representatives claiming compensation for dispossession, genocide, 200+ years of rent, lack of fiduciary care, you name it. 

There will be about 200 “nations” each claiming something like $10m. Incidentally, I am amazed that nobody is talking about prospects like this. People are too busy talking arrant nonsense about Voices and referenda, leading to treaties where nobody has the slightest idea of what is involved. But wait for it.   

I support REAL justice for First Australians, as long as it is a two way process, not – as activists insist –  a program designed by “us” and administered by “us” on “our terms”. 

In the two-way process there must be civilised bargaining. The First Australian position must include preparedness to be responsible for the behaviour of the members of their nations.

It is achievable, but it borders on madness: is a Wiradjuri person, alleged to have committed an offence in Perth, to be extradited to Wagga Wagga?

IMAGE AT TOP: Ted Egan’s book published in 2019. He came to the Territory from Coburg, Victoria, in 1949 at the age of 16 “in search of work and adventure”. His career has ranged from working with remote Aboriginal communities to songwriter, historian, entertainer and the Northern Territory’s top job of Administrator. He published more than 10 books, 30 albums and several TV documentaries, often reflecting on his “adventurous life in remote settlements, the inequalities between black and white Australians, the dilemmas of holding power over the communities in which he worked”. He lives in Alice Springs.

35 COMMENTS

  1. You can understand why the Powers That Be are saying little of substance about the real meaning of the Uluru Statement from the Heart and the changes to the Australian Constitution that entails, except just do it and we’ll tell you later mate, when its all about money going into the hands of a people that can’t even handle a grog or two let alone a money train, and all the hangers on living it up on the proceeds of decent working people who actually work in Australia, FOREVER!

  2. Agree completely Ted. Thanks for your great contribution. This is a gigantic con by the inner city elites now posing as real Aboriginal people.
    No concern or knowledge or respect for the bush or for proper Aboriginal culture, and for those fair dinkum Aboriginal people, living in the bush, were the needs are greatest.

  3. Where are the remote traditional Aboriginal people on the Voice Working Group? Not one!
    Surely this tells us a lot about the motives of such people.
    Most have almost no experience living in a remote community. However, many have lived in relative luxury in high end apartments – as senior academics or consultants.
    How can they really understand the pressing, fundamental needs of more traditional Aboriginal people?

  4. Alcohol and gambling companies along with their lobby groups donated at least $2.165 million to Australia’s major political parties in 2021-22, according to data published by the Australian Election Commission.
    This represents a 40% increase from the previous year (Source: FARE. Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education Newsletter. 3/2/23). Time to get on top of this before any referendum, Albo.

  5. This is bound to increase division in Australian society, rather than reduce it! This will not therefore assist overcome the huge problems facing many Aboriginal people.

  6. Erwin: How is it that you take one throw away line in Eagan’s essay, one line that is unargued, unexplained etc and make that you’re heading? The line, your headline, is ”All the Voice and Treaty talks are forerunners to the First Nations representatives claiming compensation for dispossession, genocide, 200+ years of rent, lack of fiduciary care, you name it.” Nothing else in this opinion piece about this unsubstantiated claim. How is it you use it as an headline, how other than blatant sensationalism driving divisive politics on your part?
    [ED – Thank you for your views, Sarah. The by-line is COMMENT by TED EGAN. He has more than seven decades of front line experience with Aboriginal people. His empathy for them is without doubt. His opinion is valuable. The Voice and the Treaty have daily been in the national news for months and are locally linked in public discussion about alcohol problems and crime.]

  7. @ Don Fuller: “This is bound to increase division in Australian society, rather than reduce it!”
    Maybe, but I think the division has been there for a long time and most in Australia have made up their mind on which side of the divide they are.
    Ted Egan makes some very valid and interesting points which deserve serious consideration.
    What I find most annoying in this debate (if you can call it that) is the political opportunism and ear splitting dog whistling.

  8. Well said, Ted. On ABC RN the other early morning there was a supposedly well informed commentator (with not an Australian accent) claiming that the alcohol problem was attributable to the colonialists bringing grape vines in on the first fleet! Same story for South Africa.
    Also the claim on NITV that “your laws don’t apply out here” in their promotional material. What message is that sending?
    There was also a figure drawn from the last census that there were 92,000 new people claiming Aboriginality. (I have only heard this figure on line).
    How many, I wonder, were newborn and how many suddenly found a new income stream?

  9. @ Frank Baarda: It’s not a debate. It’s a conversation involving concerned people which naturally involves a political point of view.
    Your comment “most in Australia have made up their mind on which side of the divide they are” is an example.
    The debate follows the referendum, if it is successful, in parliament.
    Some people would rather it be the other way around which is part of the conversation. I think that’s healthy and credit to the long-suffering editor for allowing it.

  10. Here is the news: “Aboriginals are bad drinkers and must declare war on alcohol, Aboriginal activist Burnum Burnum said recently.
    “The outspoken champion of Aboriginal rights criticised the Muirhead Inquiry into black deaths in custody for not addressing the alcohol problem within the Aboriginal community.
    “Burnum Burnum made headlines on Australia Day last year when he pitched a land rights flag on the shores of England and claimed the country for the Aboriginal people.
    “Speaking in Brisbane after studying Mr Justice Muirhead’s interim report, Burnum Burnum said it had “glossed over the real killer of Aboriginals in jail cells – alcohol.
    “‘Governments are no good at land rights and Aboriginals are no good at alcohol, so they should both give them away and look at other areas of service,” he said.
    “‘A purge should be carried out to protect the Aboriginal people not from racist police, but from alcohol.
    “‘Without this sort of action the Muirhead Inquiry has created a situation for real suicide in the future.
    “‘Alcohol mixed with Aborigines [sic] is just a slow form of genocide” (“Inquiry glossed over real killer – alcohol”, Centralian Advocate, 4/01/1989).
    For those who are unaware, Justice James Muirhead was formerly a judge of the Supreme Court of the NT and of the Federal Court of Australia (he was the judge who presided over the murder trial of Lindy and Michael Chamberlain in 1982).
    Muirhead retired to Perth in 1985 but was appointed as the Royal Commissioner into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, commencing in 1987.
    He was appointed as Administrator of the NT in July 1989, and replaced as Royal Commissioner by Pat Dodson.
    Almost simultaneously with the release of the interim report into black deaths in custody, national crime statistics were released for 1987/88: “The Territory has been branded as the crime centre of Australia.
    “The latest figures show that we live in the most violent and crime-prone area in the country.
    “Statistics released by the Australian Police Commissioners reveal that the NT’s murder and attempted murder rates are the highest in the country.
    “The shock figures also show the rate of assault occasioning grievous bodily harm and house breaking are also Australia’s highest” (“NT crime is the highest”, Centralian Advocate, 30/12/1988).
    In the same edition featuring Burnum Burnum’s story, an editorial opined: “The Territory’s 1987-88 crime figures were well above the rest of Australia.
    “Alarming? On the surface yes. Certainly something like 10 alleged murders, several attempted murders, rapes and countless assaults would indicate so”.
    Further: “Throw in Australia’s highest house-breaking rate … and the argument that Territorians live in Australia’s most violent, dangerous and criminally vulnerable area, seems strong.
    “But while figures are high, there are factors making the Territory unique … one is the Territory’s large Aboriginal population.
    “With about 70% of the jail inmates Aborigines, much of the crime that goes into police statistics is committed by Aborigines.
    “Another is a high transiency rate in the Territory … when there are no settled communities, crimes of violence and so on tend to show substantial increases.
    “Also to be considered in these statistics is the Territory’s youthful population. Drinking to excess and associated behavioural problems go hand in hand with youth.” (Advocate, 4/1/89).
    All of this was still a few years ahead of the introduction of the Living With Alcohol program of the 1990s.
    Nothing has really changed from that time despite all the contemporary furore over these exact same issues.

  11. Well said Ted, amazing how many urbanites have discovered their Aboriginality.
    Most of whom have never left the cities or towns or ever experienced towns like Alice.
    They have a romantic ideal that does not equate with reality and need to abandon their ivory towers and go see the real Australia.

  12. Anyone who reads the news knows that reparations have been part of the national discussion since the change in government.
    Even the ABC Indigenous Affairs editor Bridget Brennan is calling for reparations.
    Now Alice Springs businesses want to jump the queue for reparations!
    As always, Ted Egan captures the Zeitgeist.

  13. Ted graciously referred to me as ‘an old timer’ in one of his pieces a while back, so I will take the liberty of joining the conversation.
    Ted’s writings are a useful look at history, but don’t offer a lot that is relevant today.
    A small point, but important: ‘Aboriginals’ may have been recommended by the Commonwealth Style Manual in the 1960s, but as Marcia Langton said in the late 80s when she was my boss at CLC “the noun is Aborigine, I don’t give a fuck what the Commonwealth Style Manual says, they are trying to turn us into bloody adjectives.”
    Also, Erwin, to the best of my knowledge Ted has not been “on the front line with Aboriginal people” for 30 or 40 years.
    And a disclosure, I haven’t been “on the front line” for 30 years either, but we both take a strong interest in NT, and particularly Aboriginal politics.
    Don: I suggest you read CLC CEO Les Turner’s piece in the Guardian recently. It documents in detail the involvement of “traditional” Aborigines from Central Australia in the development of the Uluru statement and the support for the referendum. Also, Prof Langton worked with traditional people in Central Australia for several years when she was senior anthropologist at CLC.
    Don and Peter: The majority of Aborigines in Australia live in cities, and many suffer similar deprivation and discrimination. Read Stan Grant’s books.
    To suggest that “fair dinkum blackfellas” live only in remote areas is as silly as suggesting the same thing for non-Aborigines.
    To get to the issues. Ted says: “I support REAL justice for First Australians, as long as it is a two way process. In the two-way process there must be civilised bargaining.”
    May I suggest that for two-way civilised bargaining, there has to be some semblance of power balance between the two. Surely a constitutional recognition of Aborigines, and their Voice to Parliament is an important start?
    A treaty will take some time, but that process will also help the power imbalance, and formally acknowledge the prior ownership of the continent by first nations people.
    Thanks for more history Alex, and yes, these problems have been with us a long time, and are perhaps worse at the moment, although the likes of Dutton, Price, Paterson and Thompson are whipping up as much hysteria as possible for political reasons.
    As a senior Rural Health doctor said to me decades ago: “If I had limited English, education, housing, and no job prospects, I’d probably sit in the river and drinks grog all day too.”
    Alcohol abuse is a symptom of the many other issues, as other thoughtful and knowledgeable people have pointed out.
    Housing and education are necessary for good health, and employment which reduce anti-social behaviour and grog. But they require money, lots of money, not the pittances that are doled out, very slowly by governments, NT and Federal.
    Ted is prophesying compensation claims etc. But there is a simple, quick and easy source of the funds that are desperately needed. As Midnight Oil said, we could “pay the rent”.
    A small levy on all property owners throughout the country, but like the medicare levy, not on low incomes. An idea suggested to me by my partner Deb Clarke, but also by many others. In other words, rent.

  14. Charlie, you are right. I have not been personally involved in “coal face” activities for many years now, but I nonetheless have a background of 70 years of friendship and close contact. AND OBSERVATION.
    Just a few points. I occasionally still say “Aboriginals”. I once used words like “natives” as did First Australians themselves. Today I prefer First Australians. Marcia Langton is entitled to her opinion, but the Welsh are aborigines of Britain, the Greeks are aborigines of Greece, the Aboriginals (with a capital A) are the aborigines (first people) of Australia. There is no traditional word that covers ALL First Australians. I think Marcia Langton is correctly a Murri; she is also a distinguished First Australian.
    I am all in favour of a VOICE to the nation, but a Voice to Parliament is already achieved via Marion, Malandirri and Jacinta, Linda Burney and Pat Dodson, all of them elected by the total Australian electorate.
    The VOICE I advocate is a body elected by First Australians titled The Academy of First Australians (cf L’Académie Française. Now there’s a meaningful Voice to the Nation). No need for a referendum to authorise it. The Feds have Constitutional power as we speak via Section 51 (xxvi) of the Constitution; post the totally misunderstood 1967 referendum.
    I am all in favour of recognition of First Nations, all in favour of huge financial input by the Federal government to enable rehabilitation of those homelands, by the First Australians themselves with assistance. All Federal governments for the last fifty years, since the time of Harry Giese, have totally lost the plot. Ask Bob Beadman.
    If the development of Aboriginal lands had been continued as it was in the 50s and 60s, we would not have all these criminals marauding country where they have no given rights to be. They would all be educated, engaged in vital economic and ceremonial activities in their homelands, unique in world terms.
    Let’s forget Treaties, Let’s treat First Australians as “mutual partners”, primae inter pares. Have a look at my book KULILKATIMA for guidelines. Cheers mate.

  15. Fair call Charlie.
    Just one question.
    To whom would the levy/rent go?
    Would this levy/rent then negate current royalty payments?

  16. @Ted Egan: Most of what you write I agree with, if not the details, certainly the sentiment.
    Your choice of L’Académie Française as a model to be inspired by is I think unfortunate.
    To the best of my knowledge the Académie acts as the French language police and in no small measure contributed to the demise of many French regional languages.

  17. Ted, Thanks for your considered and detailed reply.
    A few points arise.
    I used the word Blackfellas in these pages a while ago, and was taken to task by some anonymous clown, but was immediately supported by several Blackfellas.
    Others mentioned the great Warumpi band song, Blackfellas, Whitefellas etc.
    As you say, there isn’t a suitable word (like Murri) to cover Centralian Aborigines.
    However, I have to explain that to East Coast friends who are embarrassed by “Blackfellas”.
    Perhaps we can re-legitimise the word.
    I don’t see a significant difference between your proposal for an Academy and the proposed
    elected Voice.
    The reason for the constitutional change is that a legislated body can be eliminated with the stroke of a pen by the next John Howard or Peter Dutton.
    While I respect the Australian democratic process, and people like Marion, Pat and Malandirri,
    they are elected by the whole (majority white) electorate, and have to operate within the party structure.
    Aboriginal issues take a low priority when the majority of votes are in the big cities (or Darwin).
    As for Senator Price, she is, as Noel Pearson said “trapped in a redneck celebrity vortex” and represents mostly her former employer, the right wing propaganda outfit, the so called Centre for Independent Studies in Sydney.
    Baffled: I appreciate your concern, and it is something that would require co-operation between the Feds and the states and territories, with major input from the Voice, but overseen by the Parliament.
    Some changes would need to be made, with direction and oversight by the Voice, but the current structures should be able to carry out the necessary reforms.
    As for royalties, they are completely different.
    They are payments for the use of recognised Aboriginal Land.
    Rent would be for the use of “alienated” land, that is, the rest of the country.

  18. Ted Egan: Thanks for writing a wonderful history but I can’t relate it to the present.
    Life is sterile in bush communities today.
    People I know in bush communities are almost always on the move visiting far flung relatives from here to Pt Hedland.
    Being with family is never sterile but employment or training would tie them down to one community.
    That would be considered a sterile life.
    • No medical centres in bush communities.
    Drop into your old stamping ground of Yuendumu and visit the Purple House dialysis clinic operating since 2010. While some communities, especially in the Barkly, are under serviced, most have their own clinics these days.
    • Most traditional Aboriginal adults (probably 90% if the truth was known) are today in receipt of welfare payments that are only payable in town. Factually untrue.
    • If Grandpa gets sick the entire family accompanies him to town. They must.
    Not correct. Grandpa’s wife may accompany him to town but not the entire family.
    • Any recalcitrant Aboriginal person / child held in custody for nighttime misdemeanours is placed on a bus at 9am, under police supervision and returned to their home “nation”. See you later. Elders, over to you.
    Elders do not have the authority assumed in your statement. When my vehicle was torched by a petrol sniffer on a remote community I asked the elders to assist.
    They told me that a long time ago they would have but now they can’t. They did point out the family car of the offender and said I should torch it and then shake hands with its owners to settle the matter. That was 25 years ago.
    • There will be about 200 “nations” each claiming something like $10m.
    Highly unlikely. No government would approve this as part of a treaty. Apart from Stolen Generations and any unsettled native title claims made before the sunset clause compensation will be measured and small scale.

  19. Ralph Folds: Sorry mate, but it is you who “does not relate to the present”. I should probably have stopped reading after your opening remark that First Australians “would find employment and training sterile”. Wiyaripa!
    Yes, Aboriginal people are often “on the move” visiting rellies etc. They are of course entitled to do this and I wish them well.
    At the same time it is they – First Australians – who are (justifiably) promoting themselves as “First Nations People”. I support that; it is the responsibility of the Federal government to support the people of First Nations, on their land.
    As an example, Warlpiri people have no rights to privilege in a place like Alice Springs. They should all be millionaires on the basis of their recognised inheritance of their vast, acknowledged land.
    In Alice Springs they and their children are foreigners (like you and me) who are required to be well-behaved. If not, bush gate!
    I am aware that Purple House does wonderful work at Yuendumu and elsewhere. But don’t break a leg at Yuendumu. Why do Yuendumu women all come to Alice to have babies, when once they did it supervised by consummate, skilled midwives.
    And sorry, if grandpa gets ill, you tell me only grandma can come to town with him. Do a head count at the sordid Town Camps.
    Where did all those marauding kids come from? Then run a bulldozer through the Town Camps.
    Arranta people deserve to be adequately housed in town, or wherever, on the vast Arranta land.
    My good mate Joe (Pumeri) McGinness created Aboriginal Hostels to cater for bush visitors to come to town. Joe must be turning in his grave.
    You say: “Elders do not have the authority assumed” in my suggestion about putting recalcitrant people onto the Bush Bus under police supervision.
    Ralph, my good friend Pat Turner – now there’s an achiever – says that “only we [First Australians] can close the Gap”.
    So if Elders don’t have sufficient status, Ralph, who do you reckon should run First Nations? Who will close the Gap – sorry, the Chasm?
    You say that “no Government would approve anything like a total $2,000,000,000 payout as part of a Treaty”.
    First I advocate partnerships rather than treaties, and I’ll have a little wager with you that I am not far from the mark.
    Don’t tell me that the Statement from the Heart writers didn’t have compensation on their minds? $10 million per nation is in my judgement a very reasonable sum. We outlay similar sums on a daily basis for weapons of mass destruction.
    If the compensatory figure is to be spent judiciously on the various First Nations themselves, rather than line the pockets of ill-informed activists, it will be money well-spent.
    You name your estimate and let’s share a bottle of Hill of Grace as we discuss the outcome of this vital debate one day.
    Let’s make it quick though, I am 90. But I have been actively onside for the last 70 plus years.

  20. Frank: Ask any French person. They swear by the Académie on matters relating to the French language or French culture.
    It would be up to an equivalent Australian Academy of First Australians to display comparable expertise, but not one member of the current Voice advisory body can talk, let alone write fluently, the language of the Nation they purport to represent.
    The Welsh are the best nation in the world to copy. They suffered persecution in language and cultural matters for hundreds of years, but today the Welsh not only speak their own language admirably, they speak English better than the English. That’s what First Australians should seek to emulate.

  21. Charlie: Sorry mate, in the PC days there is no chance of “legitimising” words like “blackfella” and “whitefella” let alone “yellafella”. They will continue to be used by people at ease with one another, indeed we often see African Americans use the “n” word. Nugget, there I said it: I’ll await the reprisals.
    Two points: I’d back Jacinta Price against Noel Pearson any day for REAL knowledge. Noel is an expert on big words and metaphors, but changes allegiances too regularly for mine.
    And my suggested Academy could be legislated in terms of permanence. Seek High Court guidance.
    The legislative power is already there; no need for any referendum.
    Yes, John Howard took delight in sabotaging ATSIC, when the reality is that 90% of ATSIC bodies were competent, industrious, law-abiding. The problem was that there was enormous fraudulent and snoutish behaviour especially in Brisbane and Victoria.

  22. Ted: There are many training and employment schemes that have not led to long term employment. There are dozens of trained / qualified remote Aboriginal teachers who are not employed, along with dozens of trained Essential Service Officers.
    As shocking as it is, I have never, ever, heard a remote Aboriginal person admire our clearly superior lives or aspire to replicate them.
    Consider that being with family where-ever they are, is a lot more than “visiting rellies etc” as you put it.
    In my experience, it’s the most important thing in their lives, the absence of which makes life unbearable and creates an existential crisis.
    As long as fundamental cultural differences about what is important in life are unrecognised there will always be the same old catch cries and failed solutions.

  23. Ralph: Sorry mate, but it was not me, but you (verbatim) who said: “People I know in bush communities are almost always on the move visiting far-flung relatives from here to Port Hedland. Being with family is never sterile, but employment or training would tie them down to one community. That would be considered a sterile life”.
    My comment was: “I wish them well.” And I do. Are you suggesting that they should be subsidised for that desirable lifestyle?
    People can’t have it both ways unless they are financially independent. Landholders or itinerants?
    The current debates are about eliminating disadvantage. The vital words “land rights” came into the vernacular of Australia in the 1960s when thousands of people (me included) supported the Gurindji and other prime movers in their claims.
    It is generally agreed that there is a “Gap/Chasm” to be closed. I agree with Pat Turner that First Australians themselves should undertake that task, on their terms, with the economic backing of the Federal government, via employment, training, rehabilitation of language and culture on (IMPORTANTLY) their acknowledged, hereditary land holdings. Nation by Nation. Bring it on!
    If, as you suggest, you know “dozens of trained Aboriginal teachers and dozens of trained Essential Services Officers” perhaps you can introduce them to Pat.
    First Australians themselves are demanding recognition as First Nations People. I support their aims, but sadly the Voice and Treaty issues are being presented to the nation as a one-sided process, whereby the voters of Australia are being pressured to implement changes without being told the detail of the demands.

  24. Ted: The subsidy to live a desirable life began with “sit down money” in the late 1960s.
    Although condemned now, it allowed some tribal groups to break free of settlements where they were despised and set up communities on their own country.
    The movement of Pintupi Luritja people to Waru Wiya and Ya Ya and finally to Kintore in 1981 is one example.
    Along that journey, Pintupi Luritja showed that they are willing to subsist on very little to live the life they want to live.
    Your question: “Are you suggesting that they should be subsidised for that desirable lifestyle?”
    But how can you stop subsidising, in a minimal way, a people who are prepared to endure extreme hardship including poor health to live as they choose?

  25. Ralph: Don’t get me wrong. I admire people like the Pintupi and I respect their right to live frugally bot honourably in their traditional homelands. I was at Yuendumu in the 1950s when the Bindabus – as they were then known – were convinced to “come in” (not by me) to so called civilisation. Their skins were shiny, never having worn clothes, and they were just so healthy, admirable in every respect.
    The reality today is that thousands of people, including my granddaughter, genuinely present as First Australians because of genetic links to Australia in 1787.
    They are nothing like the Pintupi Luritja, they could not survive for five minutes in the bush, can’t speak language, they have pale skins as a consequence of exploitative miscegenation.
    BUT, they are entitled to be recognised as land owners on the basis of their inheritance. We all applaud the right of Prince William to become the next King of Australia. (Did I just say that???)
    Nobody should deny the rights of children anywhere to inherit the estates of their ancestors, but we have done just that in Australia with policies like terra nullius and White Australia.
    Woodward, Mabo and Wik have not changed the reality. We give First Australians tokenistic pieces of paper, call them Traditional Owners and conduct inept Welcome to Country ceremonies, often in English. It is high time for the Federal government to oversee and help organise the recognition of the inheritance rights of First Australians. In their respective homelands.
    But it must be a two way process, the government and First Australians in partnership, with the other 95% of the Australian population hopefully in support.
    That support will only be forthcoming if all the cards are on the table and the pale-skinned southern activists stop pretending it is about “blakness” but about inheritance.
    Then they, and all Australians can derive benefit from seeking to understand traditional First Australians like the Pintupi.

  26. [We are] one of the earliest democracies in the common law tradition, a multicultural nation with multi-First Nations, rich in natural resources, drifting on a rising tide of division, adding fuel to the fire, lacking a vision.
    With respect, sending the kids back to their country won’t stop them coming back. The solution is in Alice Springs or nowhere.
    The Aranda and the Kaytetye got together at the turn of the century and returned the stone from Flynn’s grave.
    They worked with the Presbyterian Church and replaced it.
    Three spiritual belief systems working for a common aim to honour a person who had a vision for all creeds and colours.
    It would be cool if the dam could get up. Kids would love that, but it would require great negotiating skills.

  27. Russell: So Aboriginal First Nations is a myth? I suggest you tell that to Marcia Langton. What do you mean by “multi-First Nations”?
    I hope you are not talking about descendants of Irish (like me), Italian, Indian, Kiwi, etc newcomers? Sorry mate, Australia is an admirable multi-cultural” nation, yes! But the only REAL First Nations people in Australia are those who can establish authentic genetic links to Australia 1787.
    It’s not about the colour of peoples’ skins, work ethic, whatever. The single relevant issue is INHERITANCE.
    Flynn’s Grave and the proposed dam are in no way related to the debate in hand.
    You say: “The solution [to today’s deplorable crimes] is in Alice Springs or nowhere.”
    To a point I agree. PART of the solution is for Arranta elders to be assertive and insist that ALL newcomers (including you and me) behave appropriately.
    Sadly, today’s activists have not done their homework. On the contrary. Even the smartest of them continue to use motherhood statements as the basis of their demands; but don’t try to tell them that!

  28. Ted: I’m not sure how you construed that I referred to Aboriginal First Nations as a myth. I certainly didn’t mean that.
    Likewise, I said that there are multi-First Nations, i.e., many, which is a fact. The Flynn’s grave episode is about Reconciliation, i.e, blackfellers from two different nations and whitefellers under the Australian nation, worked together, rather than in division to solve a community issue based on spiritual recognition. Bone up on it.
    I refer you to Martin Hall’s post @ “Will someone fix all this criminality” which contains the kind of pragmatism that I’m trying to find in the social situation tearing Alice Springs apart.
    Like Graham Buckley @ “Kid’s trouble: The Government has to fix it, says Mayor”, he expresses the realpolitik of Reconciliation.
    Inheritance and Sovereignty are pipeline issues, like the Voice. Meanwhile, do you really think Government is going to fix the problems in Alice?
    I can give you the cessation of the Stronger Futures Alcohol Restrictions and the News’s Floodspeak article as two examples of Government not listening to the people. That’s a problem we have in our democracy, as you would be well aware.
    Finally, in my opinion, you put too much on the Arranta / Aranda elders, whereas Matthew Hall is more succinct.
    I can’t see them turning up every morning at the police station to vet overnight recalcitrants and then having a police officer take a long bus trip to country.
    I’ve already said that I don’t think the kids will stay there. They want to be in Alice, like most young people, where the action is, which calls into question the subject of law.
    I appreciate your critique of activists, which is more tongue in cheek than revelatory, but you are not alone there.
    I believe a pragmatic Reconciliation is the only workable solution. Behaving “appropriately” at the insistence of the elders is manufacturing myth. You can’t have it both ways, as you said to Ralph.
    Surely, we can sort it out, but first, there has to be a premise and a goal. At the moment, it’s a dog’s breakfast. I believe that’s Irish Australian.

  29. Ted: Furthermore, when dealing with issues of sovereignty as is the case you outline in Alice Springs, a body not unlike the United Nations could be impaneled to air grievance and outline expectations for consensus.
    In case this is seen as another talk-fest, certain expectations should be tabled by those who fly the Australian flag alongside the Aboriginal, i.e., the idea of a recreational dam or lake for added sports-minded pursuits by kids of all nations confronts the “ringbarking” of Alice by the sacred sites ethos laid down in the 1980s.
    The moratorium on flood mitigation expired in 2012, so it’s fair to put that on the table for sensitive negotiation which would relieve some of the vandalism by giving its energy a new focus.
    “We give, you give for the good of the one” is not a new axiom in diplomacy.
    There are numerous proposals put forward in these recent posts, some of which I have tried to deal with as well as yourself. Some get a guernsey and some get shot down in the conversation, which leaves a skeleton to build on by the Alice Springs UN, otherwise, the caravan meanders out into the desert and impotent speculation continues ad nauseam.
    Productivity Commission Estimates give a figure of $30b per annum spent on Indigenous programs.
    That could be redirected for the benefit of all if wisdom prevailed.
    Many will have heard all this before in various guises, but lets start with the dam/lake idea and see how the two laws shake down. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, something old, something new, etc. Pragmatism, not navel gazing.

  30. I said in these pages in July last year that it was a good thing that a debate was emerging on the Uluru Statement from the Heart. I’m a little surprised at how completely the issue has dominated all forms of media.
    Especially the Alice Springs News!
    I have followed the impassioned discussion on Ted’s paper closely, and while reluctant to join in, I believe a few things need to be clarified.
    Why a Referendum?
    A body created by legislation will never do. A change of government can legislate to remove it. Remember ATSIC? First Nations peoples have been without a National representative body since the Parliament passed legislation to abolish it.
    Australia is the only Commonwealth country where European migrants have not concluded a Treaty with First Nations peoples. Nor did we acknowledge in our Constitution that they were here first.
    Constitutional entrenchment of The Voice is of immense importance for many reasons, including its symbolism.
    As former Chief Justice of Australia Murray Gleeson explained, the Voice would be “constitutionally entrenched but legislatively controlled”.
    Will people from remote areas be overwhelmed by urban people?
    The Indigenous Voice Co-design Process Final Report reveals that the authors were acutely aware of this risk. The recommended regional and national structures will be weighted to create balance; the final shape will be determined by the Parliament.
    Efforts to divide First Nations peoples by State, remote or urban, language, skin pigment, traditionality should stop now. First Nations peoples cover diverse circumstances (but not nearly so diverse as other Australians). Fair go.
    Will Constitutional entrenchment open the way to a flood of compensation claims?
    NO. Not according to another former Chief Justice of the High Court.
    The current wording for the referendum on the Indigenous Voice to parliament leaves “little or no scope for constitutional litigation” and does not infringe international agreements on racial discrimination, according to former High Court chief justice Robert French.

  31. @ Bob Beadman. The surprise you express over the Uluru Statement from the Heart morphing into the Voice and occupying so much media is what happens when you send a snowball down a mountain.
    It’s become an issue about sovereignty and treaty becoming part of the Constitution, although I doubt if that has much meaning in the crisis-ridden streets of Alice Springs, an argument made by at least two NT government members.
    The latest $424m Albanese commitment to Closing the Gap is a result of the situation in Alice catching the PM’s attention after years of not listening.
    The Kimberley, Ceduna and Yarrabah are facing similar profiling. The Federal Government financial commitment is in addition to the $1.2 billion included in the October budget, leaving the recent Productivity Committee Estimates spend of $30 billion p.a. on Indigenous programs lagging.
    Your advocacy for an additional listening horn for hard of hearing governments cites “symbolism” as immensely important, on top of a National representative body as being essential.
    We remember ATSIC and the others, as well as Reconciliation, but it’s my opinion that many Australians are not much interested in symbolism. Pragmatism is becoming more popular.
    You might see Matthew Hall’s post at “Will someone fix all this criminality” and Graham Buckley at “Kids’ Trouble: The government has to fix it, says Mayor” as voices of pragmatism.
    Particularly, the dam/lake upriver circuit-breaker which has been nominated as a new solution to the present stoicism. We’ve seen government inaction and in action and you are asking us to put our trust in what is increasingly becoming a non-democratic process.
    I think, given your past comments on the NT being sent bankrupt by the alcohol industry, you would appreciate Orwell’s turn of phrase: The “little or no scope for constitutional litigation” looms large in the detail, meanwhile, FASD and nightly break-ins continue.

  32. Welcome to the fray Bob. Who better to participate? If the Feds had listened to you 30 years ago we would not be in the crisis situation that prevails today.
    Mind you, my proposal for a legislated “Academy” involves subsequent incorporation in the Constitution, based on national approval of its actual performance in sticking to its prescribed mandate.
    The French Academy has such a reputation. First Australians need to display the same level of knowledge and scholarship, regarding the matters on which they pontificate.
    There are so few REAL scholars in bi-lingual terms. Many speakers, but how many can read and write both English and a traditional language at academic level? Ten in Australia?
    I have often suggested that Alison Anderson should lead a First Australian delegation to Wales to meet real scholars who have survived huge persecution on language and cultural issues.
    Not only have they survived, preserving their language and culture at an esteemed level, they also speak English better than the English.
    The High Court Judge who imagines there won’t be compensation claims should contact [the betting company] Ladbrokes. They’d be so happy to accommodate him. Gamble responsibly.

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