Ms. Julia Gillard,
Prime Minister of Australia
Dear Prime Minister,
We refer to the reports below for your information.
Mr. Peter Gebhardt is to be congratulated for telling the truth as positive action is long overdue.
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Unity Party WA
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It's time Aborigines get due recognition
Peter Gebhardt - January 26, 2011
A change to the constitution would show our maturity.
LATE last year Prime Minister Julia Gillard, Attorney-General Robert McClelland and Minister for Indigenous Affairs Jenny Macklin banded together to announce a referendum proposal concerning Aborigines and the Australian constitution. It was the most bland and passionless occasion.
It ought to have been a significant one because it involved the future of relationships between the originals and the usurpers. Does political power rob the power-bearers of blood in their veins?
Newspaper commentary on this pointed to the long-term importance of the issues for this country, for the proper independence and maturity of the citizens and for the potential for a distinctive civilisation.
Australia Day, that artificial and trumped-up celebration, the excuse for manufactured emotion, should force us to look closely at our history and the truths of that history vis-a-vis the Aboriginal population and the brutal facts of that history.
Mostly, Australia Day is designed to suffocate truth and fact. We are not asked to think about those first steps by the governor and the imprint they left on the landscape and the inhabitants. That first step was the beginning of a history we have refused to acknowledge, to understand and to negotiate, all to our historical detriment. Succeeding hordes of imprinters do not know and do not want to know. The triumphalism of Australia Day is tainted by the tragedy of ignorance and imposed ignominy.
It has been apparent with respect to asylum seekers that courage in our political leaders is smothered by populist attitudes that bear no relation to the alleged Christian values that are supposed to prevail in this nation; it is no better with our attitudes to the Aborigines. We take what we want from them - sport, film, drama and art - but we do not expose ourselves to their value systems for we are too smug in our own and too hypocritical about theirs.
We will enliven our civilisation when we learn to appreciate the original owners and their diverse cultural achievements. It is not good enough to adopt the "Howard Defence" - I didn't have anything to do with the past and, therefore, there is no need for me to come to terms with it. He couldn't accept guilt but, worse still, he couldn't express shame.
Howard was too much of a coward to embrace what was good and right for the country. He extinguished hope.
The resilience of the Aboriginal people has been a palpable marvel. We ought to respond to that by putting aside all ignorance and prejudice and inviting them to our collective table as equals.
I have been working alongside some Aboriginal tertiary students for the past few years.
It has been a wonderful listening experience. I have come to realise that we have so much we can learn and take into our own lives. They value their culture but want to be part of the broader community. We should all embrace the history and the culture and incorporate it into the fabric of our institutions and our lives. We got part of the way there in 1967. We should go all the way this time and push the political ninnies by our own persuasion.
If Australia Day is to have any legitimacy, it will only be so because Australians understand what that first footprint did to an ancient civilisation. Currently, Australia Day attempts to legitimise conquest. It is not a day of celebration for a revolution (France) or independence (US).
Of course, there have been great achievements in this country, great contributions to the world stage and significant developments politically. It has become a desirable place to live - obviously, the asylum seekers think so.
There are gaps; some, sadly widening, such as that between rich and poor. There is extensive poverty and homelessness. Many lead desperate lives because they are not secure. Rights and freedom are enjoyed.
Who remain the most deprived in the community? The Aborigines. That is something of which we ought to be ashamed. While a referendum won't address the deprivation, it should allow the Aborigines to feel attached to what was once their territory. They remain aliens in their own land. We have made them thus and it is time to dress the deep wounds, and to repair the dysfunction we have erected. It would do us so much good and make us so much wiser and so much more mature.
We are not talking about the "black armband" views of history. We are, or should be, talking about the ''whitewash'' views of history. It is time to attend to our national colour-blindness. It is truly time for supremacy to give way to the equanimity of equality, to the sustenance of sharing.
There are two issues that will manifest our maturity: first, proper constitutional recognition of the first people; second, independence from the regal pantomime in England.
Peter Gebhardt is a Melbourne poet and former County Court judge.
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Australia to face UN examination
January 26, 2011
FOREIGN governments will interrogate Australia on its human rights record at a United Nations meeting tomorrow.
Australian officials will appear before the UN's Human Rights Council in Geneva for what is known as a universal periodic review.
All of the UN's 192 member countries are required to undergo a review - which aims to examine every aspect of a country's human rights record - every four years.
The delegation, led by parliamentary secretary Kate Lundy, will be forced to respond to tough questions on Australia's record. The council will pose questions about Australia's treatment of Aborigines, asylum seekers and same-sex couples, UN documents show.
The federal government submitted its own assessment to the council last year, highlighting efforts to close the life-expectancy gap between indigenous and other Australians.
But a coalition of more than 70 human rights organisations delivered a critical assessment of Australia's record when they briefed foreign diplomats in Geneva earlier this week.