A Voice

My thoughts flowing from Noel Pearson’s opening 2022 Boyer lecture.

Constitutional recognition of Australia’s first nation peoples is a vital missing component, which as long as it stays missing keeps Australia immature, racist, in denial, and unable to face the truth. Conservative Australia fears recognition because it assumes that what follows recognition is repudiation, and it cannot face repudiation. And so it perpetuates denial or at least a wilful collective forgetfulness. But there need not be repudiation. The Uluru statement from the heart does not demand it. It wants the cleansing and universal empowerment of facing the truth, positive and negative. Noel Pearson depicts a marvellous three-tiered Australia comprising the heritage of the first people who had custody of this country for many thousands of years, the great democracy this country has become with institutions established by the British and adapted and developed over the years since, and, with the rescinding of White Australia, the great multicultural society that defines today’s Australian human population. What if the constitutional draftees on board the Lucinda in 1891 had the knowledge and hindsight of today’s leaders? What if they had representatives of first nation people attend that drafting session and put their case for recognition? What would the Australian constitution look like?

I can see why PM Albanese asked the people to go to iView and see Noel Pearson’s Boyer lecture. What NP asked for is so replete with love and goodwill that only an abject racist would reject it out of hand. Only the mean-spirited would say yes but…Something that is innately wholesome, innately good, innately healing, innately rights terrible wrongs, innately lets bygones be bygones, doesn’t need a mean-spirited ‘yes but…’ response. It needs to be embraced, accepted. It is an undertaking of love, of understanding, to turn around and face Australia’s racist past, acknowledge truths, admit to the crushing impact of dispossession on a human being, how it robs their very soul, particularly a human whose very existence is synonymous with their connection with the portion of the earth they inhabit, its soil, its flora, its fauna, its waterways, its climate, its droughts, its floods, how dispossession for such a human is a fate worse than death. How can a victim of generational oppression, of generational atrocities move forward while the perpetrators refuse to own up to the oppression and the atrocities. When John Howard refused to apologise to the stolen generations, when he argued that we, present-day Australians, should not have to apologise for events that occurred before we were born, it forever diminished him. He consigned himself to the ranks of right-wing populists. Take a step back (I say this often to myself because it is good to occasionally try and see a bigger picture than the one evident from the coalface). What do I see? Racism is not the confined to white races. Racism is a scourge that brings out the worst in human behaviour all over the planet. A multicultural nation like Australia is contaminated by a variety of racist antipathies. You do not leave your emotions, your irrationalities behind when you arrive in this country. You bring it all with you. They are a part of you. It is a strange quirk of humanity that the irrational is more firmly glued to your soul, your very being, than the rational, the objective, which you tend to wear more lightly. You take your soul with you wherever you go. But one act, yes just one, of reaching over a racist divide can start a ripple of healing that like a tsunami has the power to travel not only to the remotest corners of this vast country but beyond this country’s shores and touch the countries of origin of those who have made Australia their home. Is this a futile, idealistic sentiment, virtue signalling? I think not. Goodness is every bit as powerful as evil.

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