The Voice: plenty of talk, not many listening.
Principles for Major Decisions
The coming referendum on the Voice is a major decision for each of us that has the potential to change the culture of equality and procedural fairness in Australia. When voting on the referendum to change the Constitution, each of us needs to consider responsibly the merits and implications of the Voice.
My Maturity Model for decision making was designed to help people become confident in making decisions important in their lives when the consequences of decisions must be lived with. The referendum on the Voice is one such critical point in time. Results factored into our Constitution will have to be lived with.
Elements of my Maturity Model balance choice, responsibility and expectation to maintain harmony. Once expectations increase, responsibilities increase commensurately, and choice diminishes. Such a situation is unsustainable, resulting in fragmentation of individuals and groups, leading to immense social and financial costs. All predictable.
Measured against my Maturity Model, the Voice has the potential for distortion of equality accepted by all. Anyone claiming to be aboriginal will have additional power over choices that affect us, at a time when eleven aboriginal representatives have been elected to stand in federal parliament alongside all others.
Defining the Problem
In Business 101, the first task is to define the problem before seeking and proposing a solution. We should be asking for what problem is the Voice a solution? Will the Voice solve the problem? And how?
According to proponents of the Voice, “Closing the Gap” is the intended purpose of going to a referendum to change the Constitution to give Aborigines special recognition, and it seems, special governance power.
Efforts to close the gap life metrics between aboriginal and others have now been ongoing since 2008. A lot of money, effort, good will and consultation has been invested to advance the wellbeing of Aborigines. Progress has been achieved in some areas yet remain stalled in others. Education and incarceration rates remain fraught. Outcomes in both are linked. Low educational achievement tends to result in poor health outcomes, unemployment and incarceration.
If ‘closing the gap’ is the problem, what difference will the Voice make that has not been achieved already after 14 years concentrated effort? Just as importantly, will a change in the Constitution recognising the importance of Aborigines as original inhabitants satisfy aboriginal demands going forward? Already moves are afoot to change place names for aboriginal ones, generate treaties and claim reparations. Seems there is no end to expectations. Remember using the MM, increased expectations from Aborigines means increased responsibilities and costs for us, along with diminished choice – not sustainable.
Inevitably Australia would have been settled by a foreign power; thankfully it just happened to be the British who brought universal equality in law and language. Over the last 50 years, despite innumerable special days acknowledging Aborigines, culture, apologies, flags, welcome to country, acknowledgement of elders at every session of every event, special indigenous sporting events, festivals, their radio and TV, equality in law and $33billion invested annually, racism is claimed at every turn. People of goodwill become weary when there is no end to demands.
The Voice demanding to be heard may find people of goodwill weary of listening to victimhood, racism, blame and guilt. Australians just want to move forward together.
Context and Facts
Without an understanding of context, poor decisions will inevitably be made. Rarely are facts allowed to get in the way of a political concept like the Voice.
Facts providing context for the Voice are not limited to:
- 120 years ago, lifespan for Aborigines and whites were roughly the same – around 48-50 years
- In the intervening years improvements in health, education and sanitation have extended by around 30 years the lifespan for most of the population, including 75% of Aborigines integrated into the wider community. Difficulties in attaining uptake in health, education and sanitation means 25% Aborigines on homelands now lag whites, despite extraordinary efforts and investment to ‘close the gap’. Unacknowledged is the 20-year increase in lifespan for Aborigines already attained through respectful efforts by people of goodwill.
- Infant mortality and morbidity were also similar between races. Again, concentrated extraordinary efforts have improved metrics for all, though not quite as much for Aborigines. Furthermore, parental alcohol consumption during pregnancy has resulted in too many aboriginal babies born with FASD (foetal alcohol syndrome disorder), condemned to a life of poor learning, intransigent behavioural problems and crime affecting themselves and everyone in the community.
- Education: it has only been since Labor Science Minister Barry Jones encouraged higher education in the 80’s that more students continued to Year 12 and University. Opportunities for aboriginal students are not so far behind so long as they engage in elementary education, an aboriginal community responsibility.
- Aboriginal culture and economy defined anthropologically by nomadism, have not done well when confined to western style housing on homelands. Sanitation and health suffer when historical nomads remain stationary. Overcrowding and alcohol disrupt social order. Violence and sexual abuse compound dysfunction. Aboriginal Senator Jacinta Nampijinpa Price from Alice Springs believes that changing the Constitution will not address the scourge of alcohol, sexual and physical violence and low education attendance demoralising remote communities.
- Storage, non-existent in nomadic culture, is difficult to inculcate in a traditionally nomadic culture that essentially consumed available resources on the day.
- In his book Whiteman’s dream(for aboriginal self-determination) Gary John’s believes that progress has been hindered by findings of the three major enquiries over 30 years that fostered aboriginal victimhood: Deaths in custody, Stolen generation and Hindmarsh Island. No claim has been proven. Yet ensuing policies continuing the disproven narrative have fostered victimhood, depriving Aborigines of responsibility for determining their future, loading whites with bottomless guilt, shame, racism and demands for reparation. Ultimately Aborigines must pick up their bed and walk, or else call an uber.
Walpiri/Celtic woman Price seeks real solutions for indigenous people that will help all Australians, echoed by Johns’ insights and solutions have little relevance to the Voice:
Land rights, welfare and culture have locked Aborigines out of the good life. Land has become a burden, welfare has become disabling, bad behaviour is mistaken for culture. There is a way out. Aborigines must abide by the same rules as every other Australian — seek out opportunities, study hard, and free themselves from a culture of bad behaviour.
The way to go
As changes to the Constitution have major ongoing legal implications for us all, it’s best if we identify the problem to be solved by the Voice and determine whether the solution offered in a “Voice” is the way to go.
A lot of people are talking, few are listening.
Alfredo Ortiz’s provocative new book, The Real Race Revolutionaries, provides genuine options based on facts. Oriz explores the debate contested between two African American thought leaders a hundred years ago. WEB Du Bois argued that activism and political power were the best pathway to racial equality and that capitalism was inherently racist. In the interim political activism has embedded racial division. Whereas Booker T Washington believed black Americans should harness the power of capitalism to become economically independent, pursuing an agenda of education, industry, thrift and ownership. Ortiz details black entrepreneurs who have been successful in building businesses, employing their peers.
Former tennis champion Yvonne Goolagong’s workshops for aboriginal entrepreneurship seem to be on the right track. My white woman’s dream is for teams of aboriginal tradies to rove remote communities affecting repairs and maintenance of properties, local aboriginal run bakeries and cafes to thrive, butcher shops and community gardens producing vegetables. At least such a dream, in concert with Booker Washington’s inspired idea, would be much better than the nightmare of violence, alcohol and racism inherent in the Voice.