Australians have far too much in common to divide over a treaty

Australians have far too much in common to divide over a treaty, by Gary Johns.

It is hard to pick the instant when the movement to recognise Aborigines in the Constitution died. There were signposts. An early one was prime minister Julia Gillard’s rejection of the (ambit) recommendations of the “expert committee” on constitutional recog­nition. More recently, Paul Keat­ing’s support for a treaty did damage, but the meeting of Tasmanian Aborigines last week in Hobart at the behest of the referendum council confirmed its death.

Having grown frustrated with the political process of recognition, the Aboriginal leadership in Tasmania and elsewhere has lost control of the debate among its followers. They want something more radical than recognition; they want a treaty.

The recognition debacle has reached this point because no Australian prime minister could put a proposal that was acceptable to both the Aboriginal leadership and the electorate. Game over.

Rather than let Australians tell Aborigines what they really think, which would be something along the lines of “‘just play by the same rules”, politicians and the Aboriginal industry will start the next part of the game — treaty talk. …

Johns talks about the usual problem with racism: people of mixed race. Then:

The polling also made clear that any attempt to end discrimination via the Constitution was anathema. Australians would interpret it as ensuring that Abor­igines are treated differently. How right they are.

Australian schoolchildren are fed material from the fantasy world of latter-day historians, and reconstructions of the world they would like to have witnessed: glorious battles against the invader.

Unfortunately, the record was mundane: a hunter-gatherer people met its match in a far more sophisticated group of later arrivals. Around the world, all hunter-gatherer people have suffered that same fate.