LETTER TO THE EDITOR
Arguments that proclaim that the Voice will be divisive and is affording one group special privilege are gaslighting on a grand scale. They are charging the afflicted with what they suffer from.
The Voice has been envisaged in order to respond to the existing undeniable division between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians and to help alleviate Indigenous underprivilege.
No one in Alice Springs, my hometown, needs convincing of the existence of a division in socio-economic terms or what that looks like.
We know well that the prison, hospital, rehabilitation centres, public housing estates and the Centrelink office are predominantly occupied by Indigenous people despite them being only 25% of the town’s population.
We know that the detainees in our juvenile detention centre are, almost 100% of the time, exclusively Indigenous.
The shocking fact that Indigenous people are the most incarcerated people on the planet comes as, tragically, less of a shock in our context.
If we wish to evaluate the legitimacy of the Voice in economic terms, that is, to consider the fairness of a tax-payer funded advisory group for one group alone, we should also consider that the tax-payer is already funding the costly fall-out of our system failing that same group.
Is stopping short of having a formal body for hearing what that group thinks may help their people really the point at which we need to cut costs and draw the line?
People in Alice Springs also know well the cultural divide. There are numerous languages spoken as a first language, and it is not uncommon for English to be the 3rd or 4th language held.
There is ancient law, lore, kinship systems and a set of social values that are unwavering regardless of the contemporary cost of adhering to them.
People here see newly initiated men, still covered in ochre, return to town from secret ceremonial practices.
We are aware there are “sacred sites”, dotted around the land, that are believed to be ancestral beings of the “Dreamtime”, and that songlines connect vast stretches of land.
There is a way of living that, if you are proximate enough to it, allows you to begin to understand what is really meant by “walking in two worlds”.
The comprehension of the existence of these other worlds (“worlds” plural, as the hundreds of Aboriginal Nations that exist in Australia have different histories and experiences) gives way to the realisation that the task of reconciliation is not just addressing the legacy of trauma left by our brutal colonisation, but also imagining and building a society that provides fertile ground for the two worlds to thrive together.
The Voice gives us an opportunity to grow, heal and learn, and with those lessons, challenge our modern nation’s oldest tradition that only Aboriginal people should be the ones to adapt and compromise.
Alice Springs-born youth worker and winner of the Fitzgerald Youth Award – NT Human Rights Awards 2018. Also by Rainer Chlanda: Youth crisis: broken window of tolerance
PHOTO at top by Lisa Stefanoff: Rachel Perkins facing reporters at a Yes rally in Alice Springs yesterday.