Recognition of Indigenous Australians in the Constitution: Why? Who Benefits?

Recognition of Indigenous Australians in the Constitution: Why? Who Benefits?

by Chris Dawson

5 August 2016


A constitution is a set of rules to run the nation — the operations manual, not the birth certificate. It is certainly not the document in which to embed racial discrimination.

My grand-daughter is an ‘indigenous’ Australian, as they define it, whereas I am not, so I took a closer look. Who is defined as ‘indigenous’ and how do you qualify?

There were at least three waves of migration before the Europeans, so who were the ‘first peoples’ really?

In 1829 British sovereignty was extended to cover the whole of Australia, so everyone born in Australia became a British subject by birth, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

From the 1850s to the 1890s the Australian colonies become self-governing. All males over 21 who were British subjects became entitled to vote. This included indigenous people, except in Queensland and Western Australia. There were also other milestones where indigenous people were granted rights alongside other British subjects.

Australian aboriginals

Why this push to recognise ‘indigenous’ Australians in the Constitution?

The global liberal elite is using the power of the state to further their “Grand Narrative.” Suffice to say, this is neither good for free speech nor for assessing people by their character rather than by their skin color.

And in the beginning was the Grand Narrative and the Grand Narrative was paramount and the Grand Narrative said many things. Indigenous people alive today must be compensated for past wrongs committed against earlier indigenous peoples, by:

  • Discrimination against ‘non-indigenous’ people but in favor of ‘indigenous’ people.
  • Providing race-based benefits.
  • Granting ‘native title’ land and rights.
  • Saying ‘sorry.’
  • Changing the constitution to recognize ‘indigenous people’ as ‘the first people.’
  • Signing a Treaty with descendants of the ‘first peoples.’

Bill Shorten, the current leader of the opposition in the national parliament, defined the constitution as our nation’s Birth Certificate. Our respective sovereign states had already gone through their respective births in colonial times, and only came together under the Australian Constitution.

Bill Shorten knows perfectly well that a constitution is a set of rules of a nation is run, procedures for governing the operations, obligations and structures of the government and how these may be amended. It is therefore not a birth certificate, which merely records the details of birth. Satisfying the fashionable elite’s Grand Narrative is insufficient justification for changing the rules of Australia, so Shorten complicated constitutional recognition by adding the notion of a Treaty.

What the preamble might say

At its simplest, it seems we are being asked to insert something of the Grand Narrative into the preamble of the Constitution, not into the active body of the Constitution. It would be something like,

We recognize Australia’s indigenous Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders as the ‘first peoples’ and that when European settlement commenced it ignored their existing land rights and history and severely damaged their culture.

The problems with this are that it does not clearly define its terms, and it inserts race-based concepts and discrimination into the Australian Constitution.

Who are the ‘first peoples’?

In Australian high schools and universities in the 1960s and 1970s, the widely taught Triumph of the Nomads from leftist historian Manning Clark that suggested the existence of, at the very least, four waves of human settlement.

The first known wave, as the writer recalls, was of dark skinned, curly headed pygmies (Negritos), related to the pygmies of New Guinea. These ‘first people’ pygmies arrived some 50,000 years ago, and populated the whole East coast from New Guinea to Tasmania (sea levels were lower during the ice age, which ended 10,000 years ago). Some Negrito pygmies were still alive and photographed and interviewed in the 1900s.

The second wave came 20,000 years ago, from Asia.

These newcomers, called Murrayians, were comparatively lightly skinned, wavy-haired, stocky in build, with a lot of body hair. They drove the (pygmy) Negritos before them until the latter retreated to the highlands of New Guinea, the rainforests of North Queensland and to then ice-capped Tasmania. The Murrayians became the dominant population on the east coast of Australia, and the open grasslands and parklands of the south and west of the continent.

The third wave of hunter-gatherers arrived about 15,000 years ago:

They were comparatively tall, straight-haired and dark skinned, with very little body hair. Named Carpentarians, they colonised northern and central Australia.”

The fourth wave was of Europeans.

It was noted at the time of European settlement that the Tasmanian Aborigines were racially distinct from mainland Aborigines, having been isolated from the mainland when sea-level rise cut the land bridge between Tasmania and the rest of Australia. This sea-level rise left the pygmy Negritos and the Murrayians to interbreed fully over the 10,000 years of Tasmania’s isolation.

Each wave, including the Europeans, displaced and interbred with the previous waves. As happened all over the world throughout human history and before, the more powerful and successful group displaced the weaker. If Japan had prevailed in World War II, my guess is that our Japanese overlords would not be talking about recognising any indigenous Australians, white or black, in this part of the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere of Japan.

Who qualifies as an ‘Indigenous person’?

It seems that aboriginality is simply self-defined.

The definition of Aboriginality has a long and contentious history in Australia. Different classification systems (many with significant personal and social consequences) have moved in and out of fashion. Even today, two very different definitions are concurrently in use. One, predominating in legislation, defines an Aboriginal as ‘a person who is a member of the Aboriginal race of Australia’. The other, predominating in program administration but also used in some legislation and court judgements, defines an Aboriginal as someone ‘who is a member of the Aboriginal race of Australia, identifies as an Aboriginal and is accepted by the Aboriginal community as an Aboriginal’.

There have been many problems with both of the currently used definitions. The ‘race’ definition is somewhat tautological, and offers no indication of the sort of evidence or ‘blood-quotum’ required to satisfy it, let alone any indication of how such evidence is to be collected and assessed. The 3-part definition can also be problematic when it is unclear as to what constitutes a ‘member of the Aboriginal race’, when self-identity as an Aboriginal might not be all pervasive, and when the Aboriginality of the community doing the accepting is brought into question. As a result, in addition to much debate about which definition should be used and when, there has been much debate about how these definitions might be judged to be met, which criteria are the most important in satisfying the definition and who should do the arbitrating.

How can we constitutionally recognize or enter into treaties with ‘indigenous’ Australians as the ‘first peoples,’ when we can’t satisfactorily define aboriginality, when we can’t make the link with the ‘first peoples,’ and when we can’t morally or intellectually ascribe a percentage of racial purity to aboriginality in terms of defined social security and treaty outcome benefits?

One might cynically ask, if we are going to have a race-based symbolic constitutional recognition of the people who were here before the place became civilised, perhaps we should simply install a full blood aboriginal female person and her female heirs as hereditary Queens of the Politically Correct Peoples Republic of Australia?