Monday, July 15, 2024

The freedom of the press still furnishes that check upon government which no constitution has ever been able to provide – Chicago Tribune.

HomeVolume 28Yes to two worlds thriving

Yes to two worlds thriving


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. 

Rainer Chlanda

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.


  1. Oh, I do wish the Voice foregrounded the vision of “a society that provides fertile ground for the two worlds to thrive together.”
    Around the world, we see many examples of how a house divided cannot stand!
    Unfortunately, the Voice focuses on the Referendum Council’s desired Outcomes of autonomy and self-government, which is likely to entrench our existing structure of two-way social exclusion.
    Ever forward!

  2. Fair enough Paul.
    Googling one of my favourite authors (Eric Blair) I found this: “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”
    A quote from Animal Farm by George Orwell explaining disparities that exist in society.

  3. Animal Farm (published 1945) is about a group of farm animals who rebel against their human farmer hoping to create a society where all animals can be equal, free, and happy.
    Ultimately their rebellion was betrayed, they falling under the dictatorship of Napoleon (one of the pigs) with their farm ending up in same state it was before.
    I often screened a cartoon version, as most enjoyed it, some perhaps unaware we need remain aware of what is happening.
    “Equality, no more, no less” requires ongoing attention.

  4. We have two worlds, and there needs to be change. Stop asking for handouts, it creates a sense that someone will always be there giving out money.
    Corporate greed and royalties need to stop.
    Children need to go to school and be educated. The NT Government needs to do something instead of sitting on their behinds.
    And going on about incarceration, well, don’t do the crime, you won’t do the time! Duhhh.
    And mistreating people of any age is not right.

  5. David, I agree, there needs to be change.
    If you want two worlds to thrive and you want this to be driven by change then both worlds need to change.
    The changes you propose are all one way. The dominant society needs to look in the mirror from time to time.
    Look at education alone, it isn’t just a matter of kids need to go to school.
    Nothing is simple, you also need to look at what is being taught.

  6. In a distant part of Fiji – once my world – a relative of my wife came into town proclaiming that in his region of four Fijian villages and three Indian communities there was in need for a secondary school, the nearest secondary government school was 120km away. The community already had a primary school for Fijians and one for Indian kids. The community approached the government and got a negative response because the government had no money.
    It was a subsistence area of the country, so they decided to build a junior secondary school themselves.
    The women sold roadside produce and the men cut and milled their own timber.
    I recall the men mixing 20 tonnes of concrete BY HAND for the septic system (design taken from the UNESCO Handbook) and digging 2 km of drain by hand to get water. Within a year they had a junior secondary school for 320 kids. No help from government, thank you, and they took pride and ownership of it.
    Within a year they also built a dormitory as some of the kids were walking six km through the rainforest to get to school.
    Again it was theirs and they took ownership. My wife and I had the privilege of starting the school over four years with books donated from Australia and in retrospect that was the most rewarding period of my life.
    I live for the day when the Indigenous communities here would follow the same model and accept responsibility for their own welfare rather then wait for government to do everything for them and then ignore the responsibility of owning and maintaining them.
    The same applies to housing and accepting some responsibility for their own welfare.


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