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Newcastle Herald
Newcastle Herald

It's not about race, it's overdue recognition

It's about overdue recognition

I AM starting to wonder whether the IQ of the population is declining.

Why is it that regardless of how often the proposal is explained, so many still hold the misguided belief that the Voice is about "racial discrimination" when it is actually about recognising the existence and ongoing lives of the descendants of our land's original inhabitants - its Indigenous people? And why does this proposal only seem fair? Could it be because those people were explicitly excluded from our constitution in the first place?

Then the others, those who were included, tried to wipe the Indigenous people off the face of the earth - over time and in one way or another - since officially they didn't exist?

The relevant issue, the whole reason for the proposal, is not about "race". It is about the facts of indigeneity and its short and long-term consequences.

What is so difficult to understand?

Kate Newton, Dudley

The Voice to Port Stephens Council

Port Stephens has openly afforded a Voice to its Aboriginal citizens for over the past 20 years, primarily through the Port Stephens Council's 355c Aboriginal Strategic Committee. The committee includes representatives from both the Karuah Local Aboriginal Land Council and the Worimi Local Aboriginal Land Council, councillors and council staff.

The role of the committee is to:

. provide advice in relation to issues of concern between council and the Aboriginal community;

. promote a positive public image with respect to issues for Aboriginal people in Port Stephens;

. provide a consultative mechanism with respect to development issues;

. improve relations between the Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal community of Port Stephens;

. exchange information between the Aboriginal community and council on issues affecting Aboriginal people;

. promote mutual awareness and respect for the cultures of both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities; and

. promote an increased awareness of the needs of Aboriginal communities and to assist with the development of programs to address those needs where possible and appropriate

An Indigenous voice to a local government has proved of significant benefit to our Aboriginal citizens, and therefore the community as a whole. From my experience as a former councillor of Port Stephens, I will be proudly casting a 'yes' vote.

Steve Busteed, Islington

Step forward isn't going too far

Some basic concepts thrown around in the Voice debate are either misconceived or poorly understood. Take reconciliation and recognition.

Reconciliation is the restoration of friendly relations. It assumes the two parties were once on good terms, had a falling out, and are now reconciled. This is not what happened in this country. Indigenous people had the terms of their relationship with whites imposed on them, and they weren't particularly friendly. To suggest they perpetrated a myth, and to that extent, the term reconciliation is a misnomer. But it's also a measure of the generosity and goodwill of Indigenous people that they are prepared to adopt it.

The concept of a "settlement" better accords with our history.

A process that faces the truth, provides justice for wrongs done, draws a line under grievances and allows a new beginning. The Voice is a good place to start.

As for recognition, one of the main arguments of the 'no' side is that constitutional recognition would be enough, and the Voice is a step too far. But what would the recognition be for? Presumably, it would be an acknowledgement that Indigenous people were the original inhabitants and owners of this country, and therefore have a unique status in it. But what logical, legal or moral sense would it make for a constitution to formally "recognise" a people as the original inhabitants and owners of a country without then giving that unique status a practical and enduring expression? Wouldn't such words, if left to lie dormant as a pretentious preamble, merely serve as an enduring reminder of the country's refusal to do justice to them? A salve for the country's conscience but an insult to the people it purports to "acknowledge"?

The Voice is not a step too far. It's a step forward.

Michael Hinchey, New Lambton

'No' result will achieve nothing

DARYLL Hadfield ("Voice remains unclear", Letters, 7/10), there are none so blind or deaf as those who will not see or hear. I see a hand extended in hope, I put my hand out to join with it in faith to achieve something that will benefit us all. I won't think about a win for 'no', we will achieve nothing if that happens. After a 'yes' vote there will be a Makarrata. Then, and only then, on the blank pages of our future history it will be written how we came together and decided how the Voice would work. Please unlock your door, open the windows, let some light in. The what ifs have not happened yet. We will deal with them if they do. If that is blind faith, I plead guilty. This wide brown land is home to us all, it will be better for us all after the Makarrata.

George Marshall, Windale


Working together is the right way

THANK you, Len Roberts, for your insightful views as an Aboriginal on the Voice referendum ("Let your conscience guide your vote in referendum", Opinion, 10/10). I hope readers will consider these views before voting on Saturday. Whether the referendum is won or lost, may all Australians heed Len's call to walk forward hand-in-hand to right the wrongs of the past.

Peter Newey, Hamilton

The message behind 'no' votes

WE stole their land, we stole their children, and if we vote 'no' on Saturday we'll steal their dignity too. Do we really want to do that? I think not. C'mon Aussie, do the right thing - vote for compassion and understanding. A 'yes' vote might go some way in healing the atrocities of the past too.

Robert Coombs, Swansea

Voice will help right past wrongs

I AM responding to Clive Jensen ("Don't change constitution", Letters, 9/10), regarding UN Conventions for discrimination. It appears the comment is assuming the Voice will be discriminating against the white population by granting special privileges to Aboriginal Australians. The privilege of being able to make representation to the government is an attempt to avoid past mistakes, a right not to be easily extinguished. The Voice's constitutional purpose is to acknowledge our history because these Australians already have privileges and rights to lands given by our highest court decades ago. They have unique historical rights to lands used for 65,000 years. If your family was granted lands 200 years ago you would expect to have rights to that land today. The Voice's purpose is to ensure these Australians, who have many problems, are helped and not hindered by future legislation. I am sure the UN would not see this as discrimination but a resolution to problems.

Darryl Stevenson, Coal Point


To offer a contribution to this section: email or send a text message to 0427 154 176 (include name and suburb). Letters should be fewer than 200 words. Short Takes should be fewer than 50 words. Correspondence may be edited in any form.

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