In this historic week when the democratic institution of the USA was threatened with sedition and acts of treason were in full view to the world, those of us following along at home in countries with our own challenges took a deep breath and recognised the frailities in our systems. Australia is a country colonised and founded on ideas of white supremacy, where the White Australia policy thrived and underwrote migration and labour practices that were not dismantled until the 1970s and remnants are still visible in our constitution. We have plenty of our own kind of Village People marching in the streets, storming the barricades, it feels like only yesterday national media figures were calling for on the mob to ‘ditch the witch’ and naming the elected Prime Minister “Juliar”. The under belly of whipping up a mob is only a breathe away and we all saw what it can lead to – may the images in a foreign land be a reminder to us all. During our own Black Lives Matter rallies in the midst of COVID19 more Australians knew the name Geogre Floyd than any of the 432 Aboriginal Australians who died in custody between 1991 and 2020.
We have our moment to meet in Australia. There are still treaties to be made, constitutional recognition to be fulfilled, land rights to be granted, reparation and restitution to be completed. One of the things that struck me in Washington was how white privilege turned up, I even saw some doors being held open by law enforcement officers to the home grown terrorists. I am not sure we are any different, just a little more sophisticated. Many doors are closed to racial justice. Some slammed tight and will need prying open. This is the moment.
The Uluru Statement from the Heart invites all of us to listen and there are voices to be heard. Thomas Major has documented 21 of these voices who contributed to the Statement as part of his custodianship of carrying the statement on the journey towards voice, treaty and truth. Vignettes of the stories can be found on the book’s twitter feed if you can’t get a copy of the book Finding the Heart of the Nation. One of the ways to meet this moment is to to respond to voice by listening, treaty by supporting the Statement and truth telling by turning towards our history and learning more. The Statement is asking for three things: constitutional change to enshrine an empowered First Nations voice; legislative change to establish a Makarrata Commission to supervise a process of agreement-making with Australian governments and thirdly this Commission to oversee a process of truth-telling about Australia and colonisation. A Markarrata is a process of restoration, peace-making after a dispute. It is a Yolgunu word with many layers of meaning. A Makarrata meets the moment. Our political leaders failed to meet the moment of Uluru Statement being delivered and there have been countless failures of not following instructions all the way back to Arthur Phillip who failed to act on his orders from King George III to make a settlement. Ironically the last King for what is now USA was also King George III and we are not yet a Republic.
The First Nations Constitutional Recognition to Parliament Interim Report was co-chaired by Labor Western Australian Senator Patrick Dodson and Liberal member for Berowa Julian Lesser and this (also see below) is how Senator Dodson met the moment of the news that the government have instructed their advisory bodies not to engage with recommendations from considering a First Nations voice to parliament.
So now we arrive at this moment, a couple of weeks away from Australia Day/ Invasion Day, a day where we can reflect on how we, non-indigenous, come to be here, how we live listening to the call for voice, treaty, truth. What is being called out in you to meet the moment?