The result of the Voice Referendum highlights the work needed to eradicate racism and ignorance from the Australian nation, writes Bilal Cleland.
HERE IN AUSTRALIA, October 2023, the lying, racially tainted campaign against the recognition of an Indigenous Voice to Parliament was successful.
The First Nations leadership went into one week’s silence, mourning the rejection.
Naïve voters were told that they might lose their homes, Muslims were told that they would no longer be able to bring relatives here. Vague conspiracy theories like those during the pandemic were touted, such as a hidden wicked Zionist or fascist agenda behind the move to change the racist Constitution.
Opposition Leader Peter Dutton, with his record of walking out on the National Apology, warning of African gangs in Melbourne and laughing about rising sea levels in the Pacific, made great use of two Indigenous faces to call for a “No” while accusing “Yes” campaigners of divisiveness.
He topped it off after the failure of the Referendum by trying to get a royal commission into child abuse in Indigenous communities, to the shock of many of his own party, one of whom crossed the floor in parliament.
The Referendum results were catastrophic.
They showed that White colonialism was alive and well in the Great Southland. The strongest “No” vote was in Parkes electorate, with the town of Moree where Indigenous children were banned from the pool until the Freedom Rides of 1965. Just on 80 per cent voted “No” in that electorate.
On the other hand, there was light within the inner city electorates. Teal electorates, which were once strongly Liberal supporting, voted “Yes”, suggesting that the Liberal Party crusade will not deliver seats in old strongholds.
The “No” supporters tried to claim that the First Nations electorates voted against the Voice. Although the northern electorates, all with White majorities voted “No”, examination of booths showed a different reality.
‘If you drill down within electorates to voting patterns in communities with a high proportion of Indigenous residents, you detect more information about how Indigenous voters in these communities voted. And the majority voted “Yes”. But even this is difficult to extrapolate to a broader Indigenous vote scattered in smaller proportions across the country.’
Racism and ignorance
The Referendum campaign brought out racists from under their rocks.
As reported in The Guardian on 22 August:
The CPAC conference, of which [Warren] Mundine is chairman, was dominated by criticism of the Indigenous Voice Referendum. Mundine and [Jacinta] Price, the leaders of the Fair Australia campaign from conservative political group Advance, were the headline speakers of the two-day conference.
Other speakers included sitting Coalition MPs Barnaby Joyce, Bridget McKenzie, Keith Pitt, Alex Antic and Ted O’Brien, as well as the former Prime Minister Tony Abbott, the former Liberal MP Bronwyn Bishop and the former Nationals leader John Anderson.
Rodney Marks, billed as a “comedian”, told the audience at Sydney’s Star Casino to cheers and laughter:
I’d like to acknowledge the traditional rent-seekers, past, present and emerging.
But seriously, I’d like to acknowledge the traditional owners — violent Black men.
Senator Price, who failed to get elected in the House of Representatives in 2019, was plonked into the Senate by the Country Liberal Party. She sits with the National Party.
She was a much-used crusader by corporate media against the Voice.
Just how popular she is with First Nations people is indicated by the Guardian article titled: ‘Central Land Council leaders say Jacinta Nampijinpa Price “needs to stop pretending we are her people’”.
The article states:
‘Ninety leaders in Northern Territory issue statement condemning comments from Coalition spokesperson on Indigenous Australians.’
Her declaration that colonisation had no bad effects but, in fact, positive effects on the Indigenous community was an important reactivation of the assimilationist mindset which we were in the process of eliminating on the grounds that it did not work for 200 years.
Killing for Country
That the publication of David Marr’s Killing for Country came just after this drivel was fortunate. It received wide publicity in both corporate and social media.
It traces the history of colonisation from the days of the Limits of Location.
The colonists saw the land as freely available to them, for the First People did not apparently cultivate the land but just wandered across it. The official government line was that the Aborigines were British subjects with the rights of British subjects, but this was not enforced. Those British subjects could not give evidence in court because unlike the civilised Europeans, they could lie without fear of Hell if sworn upon Scripture.
The Myall Creek Massacre by White thugs was actually punished so the squatters decided to be more subtle in their killing of Blacks — they poisoned the flour they gave out.
The Native Police, recruited from tribes far from other nations and commanded by White officers, were used for many years to subdue the tribes, to the extent that any large gathering of Indigenous Australians could be fired upon.
Those who spoke out in defence of these victims were called “croakers” and were regarded as traitors to the White colonists and the Empire that the colony served. The colonial equivalent of “woke”.
The pattern of colonisation was clear. Invasion and land occupation, resistance by the original inhabitants, reprisals from the colonists, intensified resistance, topped by genocide, physical and cultural. The Native Police and the squatters did the physical while the Mission Stations did the cultural
For someone purporting to speak for Indigenous Australians, to claim this was positive is ludicrous.
Lessons from October 2023
While the Voice to Parliament was defeated and the Government has accepted that defeat, all is not lost.
We have identified the sources of racial hatred in the community. We heard Opposition demands that we not be racialised by the Voice, but its first action after the defeat was to attempt to get a racialised royal commission into sexual abuse in Indigenous communities.
We have seen in action the role of the corporate media including the publicly funded ABC, in the “No” campaign in support of the politicisation of the issue. The stacked ABC Board is now better understood.
We have established the extent of public ignorance over the Gap between the First Nations and the general Australian community on basic indicators like life expectancy, suicide rate, educational level and incarceration rates.
A larger proportion of the Australian population, over 40 per cent, has been made aware of the need to Close the Gap, more than were aware before the campaign.
Millions have been mobilised and their activism will not just disappear, but will be reflected at the grassroots level across the country.
It might be disconcerting that we are surrounded by a sea of racism and ignorance, but it is likely that ignorance is the main enemy.
That can be overcome with effort, assuming the basic decency of the people.
Bilal Cleland is a retired secondary teacher and was Secretary of the Islamic Council of Victoria, Chairman of the Muslim Welfare Board Victoria and Secretary of the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils. You can follow Bilal on Twitter @BilalCleland.
- CARTOONS: Dutton makes his own voice heard
- Central 'No' campaign lobby hiding behind wall of lies
- Referendum silences First Australians
- EDITORIAL: Referendum silences First Australians
- Fear and ignorance saw demise of Voice Referendum
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