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Australia’s Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, with the support of all the state and territory premiers, has officially backed the “First Nations Voice”—a standing consultative body to advise the government on laws and policies arguably affecting the Aboriginal community but, potentially, the nation as a whole. He says it is a priority for the government to secure a successful referendum that will constitutionally entrench this “consultative body.”
Supporters of constitutionally enshrining an “Indigenous Voice” to parliament often claim this will improve practical outcomes in Indigenous communities. This is an assertion, nothing more.
Of course, it is not unusual for laws and policies, although well-intentioned, to have the opposite effect as that allegedly contemplated.
Arguably, modern Australia’s worst suffering and deprivation in the dysfunctional remote Indigenous “homeland” communities have been greatly caused by the continuing implementation of the welfare policies which began in the 1970s.
Since the Second World War, governments around Australia have maintained and nurtured a burgeoning and expensive bureaucracy specifically focused on the welfare of the Aboriginal community.
Despite this, welfare dependence has aggravated the very conditions that have perpetuated poverty and dependence in the Aboriginal community and have miserably failed to improve their lives.
Currently, more than half (53 percent) of all the Indigenous Australians aged 16 and over are receiving some form of Centrelink income support payment, compared with 26 percent of non-Indigenous Australians of this age.
To a great extent, any behaviour the government rewards generally tends to increase. Accordingly, the prevalence of passive welfare dependence in the Aboriginal community could be directly responsible for the scourge of drugs, pornography, child abuse, and the effects of “humbugging.”
By handing out welfare checks impersonally to all who qualify without addressing the underlying behavioural problems, the government is, in essence, “rewarding” dysfunctional patterns of behaviour that affect not only the recipients of such assistance but their community at large.
Of course, culture can also be used to excuse bad behaviour.
The entrenchment of The Voice in the Constitution will engender further difficulties where Aboriginal culture must be defined, with the possible acceptance as “cultural” of behaviour which otherwise would not be necessarily tolerated.
Therefore, according to Gary Johns, a former Labor MP and minister in the Keating government, “some Aboriginal elders and, following their lead, recent government enquiries into child sexual abuse, having found bad behaviour among Aborigines, make a leap to the refuge of ‘culture’ to solve the problem.”
For example, the practice of placing Aboriginal children in need of care with “culturally appropriate” carers have, on many occasions, ended in tragedy.
According to Anthony Dillon, an academic lecturer who identifies himself as a “part-Aboriginal Australian,”
“Some children have suffered, all in the name of ‘culture.’ A colour-blind culture or way of life, characterised by love, is a far more important consideration than a culture that is assumed to be Aboriginal simply because the potential adult carers themselves have some Aboriginal ancestry.”
Advocates for The Voice also talk about Aboriginal self-determination and empowerment.
They fail to say that these objectives will never be achieved without the Aborigines taking responsibility for themselves, their family, and their community at large.
However, this requires Aborigines to make their own decisions and support themselves and their families without government dependency and bureaucratic oversight.
According to Nyunggai Warren Mundine AO, the former national president of the Australian Labor Party,
“There can be no self-determination or autonomy for any community if there is total dependence on governments and bureaucracies or if there is no real economy. No country or community can survive without an economy to support it. The greatest threat to Indigenous Australians … is chronic dependence on government without needing meaningfully to contribute in return.”
Bearing Responsibility for Actions
The Australian government is now dedicated to upholding the Uluru Statement from the Heart as a constitutionally enshrined “Voice” to parliament. This statement is particularly problematic because it shifts accountability for behaviour and accomplishments from the individuals involved to the culturally defined group.
According to Amanda Stoker, a former Liberal Senator, this appeal to the group represents a shift away from personal responsibility to the notion that “individuals are valued based on genetic attributes over which they have no control, rather than on the content of their character.”
The problem, she says, is that “when group identity is the organising principle, individuals don’t bear any responsibility for their part in the decisions that have led to their lives outcomes.”
The Voice, in its practical operation, will enshrine in the Australian Constitution a socially harmful separatist approach to Indigenous affairs. Any reluctance by the government to listen to The Voice will be sure to trigger accusations of a return to pre-Voice days.
By functioning as the mouthpiece of the Aboriginal industry, The Voice be in a powerful position to shape the political narrative around Indigenous affairs and influence parliament against adopting policies it believes to be discriminatory.
However, further empowering a self-serving “industry” that seeks to maintain its own relevance certainly does not help to advance the well-being of Australia’s Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and quite to the contrary.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.