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  • Writer's pictureSerena O'Meley

Beyond the referendum we must hold the government to account

By Terry Mason

More than a little annoyed now by the increasingly facile memes and belittling memes being desperately posted as time draws to a close on this referendum.

The likening of the Voice to a School Representative Council has been particularly offensive. It is infantilising, denigrating and hearkens back to the concepts of ‘child like race’. As does the idea of small steps; Eddie Mabo did not take small steps when Reynolds told him his people did not own their land.

Some things to ponder that have not been stated so clearly.

Grounds for Sovereignty claims in Hawaii stemmed from:

  • Dispossession was contrary to international law or American Civil Law

  • America has not fulfilled the obligation to care for or protect the people - this is the basic obligation of a legitimate government

  • Hawaiians have the inherent right to exist as a distinct people on earth.

It can be argued that these principals apply to Australia but any means of addressing this be through a government controlled model without comprehensive and inclusive input is unbelievable.

In relation to Close The Gap outcomes, the passing of the responsibility to this advisory voice without veto powers or control of how the resources are to be implemented, means that any failure to close the gap might be seated at home with Aboriginal Peoples rather than the ‘legitimate’ government. Smacks of washing one’s hands of responsibility.

I am astounded by the acceptance of union people that this is proper without comprehensive consultation of the model. Imagine going into a workplace and asking workers to vote for a new Enterprise Agreement without their input and telling them that management will design the process, decide how they will be represented by a group you don’t choose and what will or will not be on the agenda and that you may give them advice on your desires but they will choose what they will accept and they have the choice to continue to deal with the representative group and resource it or not. Probably go down like a lead balloon.

So, outside of those who are involved in government funded organisations, who else may benefit most from a toothless advisory body?

One might look at the business influences that turned the Hawke promise of Treaty around. In a sustainable energy future Australia has many of the mineral resources in the north of the country. There is also great potential in the developing food production industry across the top end. Combine these with a rapid appropriation of land bases by military Australian and American and you may consider why a dismissible advisory body is highly regarded option. You wouldn’t want custodians having any real say in their land would you….

Whatever the result from the 14th, it will take concerted action to bring about change and in particular CTG. One would expect all those campaigners out there who have been so silent on social media until their vested interests became active to now turn that fervour into action.

Hold the government and the Executive to their responsibilities.

The Executive produce the annual reports of the CTG and are acutely aware of the problems and need to be held to account as does the relevant minister. Outcomes may be quicker with Go Fund me campaigns raising funds to sue the responsible bodies for Deaths in Custody etc. Similar to the cases brought by youth over climate change affecting their futures. Seems to work better than good will or advice.

There are some people on FB who are very involved in this political campaign with differing views to me but have not been attacking community people or myself with spurious accusations. They have stated their point of view in comments or on their own page without rancour or slavishly posting the ‘scripts’ without any real knowledge. I thank them for their civility. There are others who have overloaded people with vitriol, from both sides of the debate, or just piled on to crush people and they will soon be leaving my friends list. Again, thank you to the civil as we will have further work to do in this country.

Terry Mason is from the land of the Awabakal language group and has worked advising on and delivering curriculum at Deakin University and lecturing/coordinating in the Badanami Centre, Western Sydney University.

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