Opinion The Voice which Walks

Like the vast majority of fellow Australians I do not belong to any political party.  Neither do I belong to a predominant group, within this this vast majority, who deeply dislike and distrust politicians.

Iam curious that, in the lead in to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice referendum and its post mortem, the lack of political bi-partisanship has been claimed as a significant factor in the failure of the referendum proposal.  If this is correct it means that a great mass of people who dislike and distrust politicians voted against the proposal because they needed to be overwhelmingly led by these same politicians.  I am amazed by this irony.

Now, as an overseas born person of colour who had to go through all sorts of hoops to become a citizen in the early 1960s when we were in the throes of the White Australia Policy, I am surprised that there are people who claim that our constitution is “colour blind” – a constitution free from racial consideration.  These claimants argue that it would be wrong to introduce a racial consideration into the constitution which is how they viewed the Voice proposal.  Anyone, even as young as a high school legal studies student, who reads the constitution would recognise the several racial based provisions that have been in it since its beginning.  Of particular relevance in my opinion is section 51 which sets out a range of things that the federal parliament can legislate on and this range includes a paragraph (xxvi) about the “people of any race for whom it is deemed necessary to make special laws”.  The rejection of the introduction of a special constitutional provision about Indigenous Australians means that the parliament must continue to rely on a long existing racialist constitutional power to make specific laws about them.  I am amazed by this irony.

From another angle, even though I was a YES voter, the sweeping generalisation that those who voted NO are ipso facto racist.  Those of us who managed to vote YES, may have been able to hear that many who voted NO did so because they felt the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice proposal was not strong enough, restricted as it was to an advisory role only.  This position could never reasonably be said to be the stuff of anti-indigenous racism.

As a YES voter, I did not vote like this to vindicate the Albanese led Labor Federal Government or to spite the Dutton led Federal Opposition.  If there were not many millions like me who simply wished to give an optimistic response to the humble invitation found in the Uluru Statement from the Heart calling for a “First Nations Voice enshrined in the Constitution”  the final sentence in it is touching, “We invite you to walk with us in a movement of the Australian people for a better future”.

The Australian people have not allowed a First Nations Voice to sit and talk to Parliament.  It is very likely that, now, it may well become the Voice which Walks …..

Nawal Maharaj

Harrington, NSW

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.