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Australia to hold constitutional referendum on Aborigines

spud_meister

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MELBOURNE — Australia Monday announced a national referendum on recognising the country's Aborigines in the constitution, in a bid to improve conditions for the chronically disadvantaged community.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard said Australia had a "once in 50-year opportunity" with parliamentary support and widespread public backing, three years after former leader Kevin Rudd's historic apology to the native people.
AFP: Australia to hold constitutional referendum on Aborigines

I find this interesting, there is no doubt that the conditions of the indigenous population need to be improved.
Aboriginal men have a life expectancy 11.5 years shorter than their non-Aboriginal counterparts. Aboriginal women die 9.7 years sooner than non-Aboriginal women.
But I am sceptical as to how recognition on the constitution will help, it seems to me to be an empty gesture, perhaps to gain the votes of the indigenous population.

I found these quotes quite interesting.
Australia has not held a referendum since 1999, when a move to become a republic was rejected. In 44 referendums since 1901, only eight have passed.
So from that, it isn't likely to pass, but, aboriginals have a pretty good track record with referendums.

The 1967 referendum elevating the status* of Aborigines is widely considered the country's most successful according to the government, with its 90.8 percent agreement the highest ever yes vote.
*By elevating the status, it means recognising them as human.
 

Andalublue

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I find this interesting, there is no doubt that the conditions of the indigenous population need to be improved.

But I am sceptical as to how recognition on the constitution will help, it seems to me to be an empty gesture, perhaps to gain the votes of the indigenous population.
Not all gestures are empty. The First Australians' leaders seem positive and enthusiastic, what's the problem?
 

spud_meister

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Not all gestures are empty. The First Australians' leaders seem positive and enthusiastic, what's the problem?
Why do the aboriginals need to be mentioned specifically though? that's the bit I don't get, that, and the claims it'll improve their lot.
 

Andalublue

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Why do the aboriginals need to be mentioned specifically though? that's the bit I don't get, that, and the claims it'll improve their lot.
I didn't read any reference to 'improving their lot', but to the community's self-esteem. This is significant because some of the problems they face (alcoholism, drug abuse, domestic violence) can be linked to negative self image caused by their historically low social status.

Here's what I read:
Ms. Gillard said, "Recognition will demonstrate that we are a country that is united in acknowledging the unique and special place of our first peoples."

Aboriginal leaders say a positive result would have a "dramatic effect" on the community's self-esteem.
Source: BBC Online
 

spud_meister

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I didn't read any reference to 'improving their lot', but to the community's self-esteem. This is significant because some of the problems they face (alcoholism, drug abuse, domestic violence) can be linked to negative self image caused by their historically low social status.

Here's what I read:

Source: BBC Online
This interview pretty much sums up my thoughts on this.

SAM WATSON: If you went to Aboriginal people right across Australia and asked them what they needed right now, they would be coming back and saying we need jobs, we need better housing, we need clean water, we need proper schools for our children. We need to have our kids feeling safe on the streets.

They would certainly not be saying, oh yeah we want to be mentioned in this Constitution.
While I will be voting for the change when the referendum rolls around, it'll be to give more validity to the accompanying reform, which are much more important.
 

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While I will be voting for the change when the referendum rolls around, it'll be to give more validity to the accompanying reform, which are much more important.
You're right, of course. Better homes, better standard of health care and education, sanitation and a lot more jobs would make a much bigger change in living standards, but I can't see the constitutional amendment as a bad thing.
 

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You're right, of course. Better homes, better standard of health care and education, sanitation and a lot more jobs would make a much bigger change in living standards, but I can't see the constitutional amendment as a bad thing.
I see it not as bad, but useless, though I'll wait to see the text of the amendment before I form a more comprehensive opinion.
 

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Well, I don't think it'll help much, but it can't hurt either, so if it makes everyone feel better then I don't see why not. As long as it's not just a symbolic gesture and the necessary accompanying reform actually happens.
 

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AFP: Australia to hold constitutional referendum on Aborigines

I find this interesting, there is no doubt that the conditions of the indigenous population need to be improved.


But I am sceptical as to how recognition on the constitution will help, it seems to me to be an empty gesture, perhaps to gain the votes of the indigenous population.

I found these quotes quite interesting.

So from that, it isn't likely to pass, but, aboriginals have a pretty good track record with referendums.



*By elevating the status, it means recognising them as human.
I'm not much of a fan about doing things for indigenous people.

Reason being is that, if they are happy with their less technologically advanced groups, they should be left to themselves.
Even if they retain a lower life expectancy.

Doing stuff for indigenous tribes, to me, seems to have caused more problems than less.
 
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I really hate stupidness like this. Constitutions are the framework of a nation, not a playground for white guilt.
 

Andalublue

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Reason being is that, if they are happy with their less technologically advanced groups, they should be left to themselves.
Even if they retain a lower life expectancy.
Had this attitude been taken 200 years ago, I might agree. I think being left to themselves would have suited them just fine. I've got a big problem with Europeans, having walked in, stolen ancestral lands and placed peoples in reservations, maintained in poverty, then arguing for 'just leaving indigenous peoples alone'. This is a bit like a house-breaker stripping a home and then offering the home-owner a burglar alarm.
 

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Had this attitude been taken 200 years ago, I might agree. I think being left to themselves would have suited them just fine. I've got a big problem with Europeans, having walked in, stolen ancestral lands and placed peoples in reservations, maintained in poverty, then arguing for 'just leaving indigenous peoples alone'. This is a bit like a house-breaker stripping a home and then offering the home-owner a burglar alarm.
There is still plenty of opportunity to continue this with existing aboriginal people.
Various communities around the globe still exist in this form.

I'm not exactly privy to the specific tribes of Australia but I would think a fair compromise could be worked out.
 

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There is still plenty of opportunity to continue this with existing aboriginal people.
Various communities around the globe still exist in this form.

I'm not exactly privy to the specific tribes of Australia but I would think a fair compromise could be worked out.
The thing about the aboriginal culture is the art, music and oral traditions are fantastic, however the child abuse, rapes and wife beating that also form a part of it, especially in rural communities, are not compatible with modern standards, and it's these that need to be rectified, and rather than cracking down on these with a police presence, which just makes the communities more insular and distrusting of authority, they need to be educated and employed, to improve conditions and hopefully break the pattern of these behaviours.
 

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The thing about the aboriginal culture is the art, music and oral traditions are fantastic, however the child abuse, rapes and wife beating that also form a part of it, especially in rural communities, are not compatible with modern standards, and it's these that need to be rectified, and rather than cracking down on these with a police presence, which just makes the communities more insular and distrusting of authority, they need to be educated and employed, to improve conditions and hopefully break the pattern of these behaviours.
I'm assuming that they have succumbed to alcoholism, like most natives have done.
 

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Yes they have.
Yea unless they have jobs, there really isn't a lot of hope for them at this point.

A lot of the American Indians suffer from the same problem, that and the lack of the Feds to hold up on their end of the bargain.
It's crazy but that's what happens when you try to civilize a long standing culture.
It practically destroys it.
 

Hatuey

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Yea unless they have jobs, there really isn't a lot of hope for them at this point.

A lot of the American Indians suffer from the same problem, that and the lack of the Feds to hold up on their end of the bargain.
It's crazy but that's what happens when you try to civilize a long standing culture.
It practically destroys it.
Pretty eurocentric of you wouldn't you think? You'd think aborginees were savages or something when in reality, their societies were far more 'civilized' than anything that has come out of Europe since the Athenians.
 

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Pretty eurocentric of you wouldn't you think? You'd think aborginees were savages or something when in reality, their societies were far more 'civilized' than anything that has come out of Europe since the Athenians.
Where did I say that?

Civilizing in the sense, that people have used it before, meant to make people like modern European nations.
I never said they were savages and fully support them keeping their aboriginal lifestyle.
 

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I will be voting 'no' at this referendum if it is ever held, for both legal and political reasons.

Firstly, the proposed new preamble would not have any effect on Government powers to legislate for Aborigines. That power is established in s 51(xxvi) of the Constitution, known as the 'race power' (the Australian Constitution establishes 'enumerated powers', similarly to its American counterpart). This power empowers the Parliament to legislate with respect to 'the people of any race'. Currently it is unclear whether this authorises only beneficial legislation, or also detrimental legislation. In my opinion, if this referendum was successful, a legal challenge instituted over a discriminatory piece of legislation which relied on the wording of the preamble would likely fail, as the preamble does not alter in any way the actual substantive content of Constitutional sections. The upshot of this is that Government powers are unlikely to be affected, and will remain as is. So legally, the referendum will confer absolutely no benefits on Aboriginal people.

Secondly, if we are going to recognise anyone in a preamble to the Constitution, why not recognise the whole people of Australia? Hasn't every single one of them contributed to the history of this country? To recognise only Aborigines seems exclusionist and discriminatory to me, and since it will not improve Indigenous welfare, pointless.
 
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Hatuey

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Where did I say that?

Civilizing in the sense, that people have used it before, meant to make people like modern European nations.
I never said they were savages and fully support them keeping their aboriginal lifestyle.
Yes, that's called Eurocentrism. The belief that European nations are the ones who are civilized and everyone else isn't. It is that 'civilizing' that 'people' engaged in which led to the problem in the first place. Alcohol was meant to be used as a tool to help the Aborigine and African be more like the European. It was the introduction of such vices which made these communities deteriorate faster than they would have otherwise. The same 'civilizing' was done in China with opium. Millions of Chinese were supplied opium by the British. Some of the 'uncivilized' peoples rebelled, like the Boxers. Others simply had no means by which they could rebel. More Eurocentrism isn't going to fix the problem. It'll simply make it worse.
 
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Yossarian

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Yes, that's called Eurocentrism. The belief that European nations are the ones who are civilized and everyone else isn't. It is that 'civilizing' that 'people' engaged in which led to the problem in the first place. Alcohol was meant to be used as a tool to help the Aborigine and African be more like the European. It was the introduction of such vices which made these communities deteriorate faster than they would have otherwise. The same 'civilizing' was done in China with opium. Millions of Chinese were supplied opium by the British. Some of the 'uncivilized' peoples rebelled, like the Boxers. Others simply had no means by which they could rebel. More Eurocentrism isn't going to fix the problem. It'll simply make it worse.
Sorry but what you are saying, essentially a critique of (neo)colonialism, grossly oversimplifies the issues that blight indigenous populations around the world, and especially the Aborigines.

In Australia's case, the problem was, and continues to be, a dogged emphasis on treating the indigenous as separate from everybody else. This is what inspired the large-scale slaughter of their people in colonial times, as well as the modern pejorative references to them as 'Abos', 'noongas' etc. I fully support policies which are designed to assimilate Aborigines into greater Australian society, for we ought to treat them like fellow countrymen, and not poor benighted people who have a right to live in squalor and abuse alcohol and their own children.

The myth of the 'noble savage' is exactly that, a myth. Indigenous cultures are not perfect. The Australian Aborigines have a long history of patriarchy, with skulls of physically abused females dating back millennia having been uncovered in recent years. Their justice system is centred largely around the concept of 'revenge' and physical violence as a substitute for punishment, like a mediaeval 'trial by ordeal'. These elements of Aboriginal culture are not consonant with modern community values and, in fact, are tantamount to human rights abuse. Aborigines will not improve their lots in life until they cast off these cultural shackles.

It is totally ridiculous to suggest that everything will be fixed if we simply 'leave these people alone', throw money at them and emphasise their differences from the rest of us. All cultures, indigenous or not, should be encouraged to become productive members of society, and if this requires a certain level of assimilation, then so be it.
 
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