Contributed by Joe Montero
Now that there are only days to the vote for constitutional recognition of the First Nations peoples in the Australian constitution, what is going on has become clear for anyone truly wanting to see the truth.
This is that most people, whatever their vote, want to see justice for the original inhabitant of this land, and believe there are good reasons to vote yes, no, or neither. There is also the political elite that is running both the Yes and No campaigns. They are of a different character, driven more by another motive.
The polls are all showing that most will vote No.
Image by Georgina Piper/ABC News
Take the Yes campaign. The way it has been controlled has neatly sidestepped the traditional social structure and decision-making processes. They have been marginalised and replaced by a return to the old paternalism that leads to assimilation and denial of the nature of First Nations societies.
The Uluru Statement from the Heart, which called for recognition. treaty, and truth, has been distorted and misused to create the illusion that this referendum process will automatically lead to positive change.
Most of those who will vote for Yes want much better than this. The trouble is that many of them will vote this way because they have mistakenly put their faith in the Australian political system, believing it will deliver the change needed. They don’t fully grasp that this political system primarily works to protect privilege, and in protecting this privilege, it will continue to operate for the big end of town. When the need of First Nations peoples come into conflict with the demands of big end of town, it is the First Nations’ needs that will be sacrificed.
It is no accident that the new assimilation comes when the funding of health, education, and legal services is being cut and management of what is left taken away from those they are supposed to serve. It is no accident when it comes at a time when deaths in custody continue to rise, when the world’s highest rate of incarceration continues is still going up, when intervention has become the order of the day, and when disadvantage and poverty in general continue to grow.
Assimilation and the denial of community-controlled services have always been the two sides of the same coin.
If the yes vote gets up and the promised elected advisory body is set up, those who control the political machinery will ensure that ‘reliable’ delegates get elected. They will be provided with the needed money and promotion, and the advisory body will be a powerless rubber stamp.
How do we know this? There is a long history of setting up advisory bodies, and the result has always been the same.
For non-indigenous Australia, the referendum process has served as a distraction from other issues like the multiple crisis of the cost of living, the lack of affordable housing, the loss of decent jobs, binging about rising inequality.
Those in control of the political machinery have distorted and misused the Uluru Statement from the Heart, which called for recognition. Treaty, and sovereignty, and this has been used to create the illusion that the process will automatically Lead to change.
Many First Nations people will be voting no. Others will not vote or spoil their ballots. They see right through what is going on. A large number of non-indigenous Australians will join them.
First Nations have been holding rallies around Australia to put their view against the Yes vote to the wider public. Muc of the big media has failed to report this.
First Nations have a voice today because they have always fought for since the arrival of the First Fleet. In modern times the epicentre has been the Aboriginal Tent Embassy in Canberra and the many other battles waged to put into place a range of needed services. Nothing was handed down. Every little gain was made by forcing government to make concessions.
Ongoing battle like these built the movement that recently gave rise to the Black Lives Matter movement and the momentum towards treaty and sovereignty. This movement has been at the forefront of the battles over the use of the land, protection of the environment, action on climate change, and more.
The real objective of the political elite is to contain this movement, make it respectable, and putt at its head a cast rom a well rewarded indigenous upper middle class. The intention is to use this mean to take away the initiative from the First Nations and hand it over to big brother.
The official no vote campaign is more insidious. It shares in the aim of containing the movement of the Frist Nations peoples for change, except that it goes about it in a more brutal way. Its stock in trade is to rely on fomenting fear and division through lies that set up First Nations people for scapegoating. This is the politics of hate.
At the same time, many of those who will not do so because they are racists. They will vote no because they do not believe the process will deliver what is promised.
Both campaigns are being driven by the big money and influence of competing factions of the corporate world. Their battle is ultimately over who will control the nation’s resources and people.
This doesn’t mean rejecting those who vote yes, no, or neither. The important thing is to build bridges among all those with a sincere wish to push forward the emergence of the Frist Nations. The focus must be on what happens after the referendum. and the best way to do this is to build unity around rejecting both assimilation and open suppression, for tangible improvements on the ground, and continuing the process towards treaty and sovereignty.