From The indigenous Voice to Ukraine and Palestine
The indigenous Voice
I too was disappointed that the Australian referendum rejected altering the constitution to establish an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice (‘Splitting the vote’, 27 October).
Since visiting my daughter and my sisters’ families in Queensland earlier this year, I have watched with dismay as the polls turned from sixty per cent in favour to sixty per cent against. Nevertheless, I think there are grounds for hope that a better solution may be found.
The clauses stated that the Voice could make representations on matters relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and that the parliament would have power to make laws relating to the composition, function, powers and procedures of the body. It is difficult to conceive any issue that would not relate to indigenous people. They were guardians for 60,000 years, during which time territorial boundaries existed, and people co-existed sustainably with plants and animals.
Given the history of forcible removal of children from their families, definitions of who might qualify to contribute to the Voice might more reasonably be left to representatives of the First Nations. The Uluru Statement from the Heart (https://ulurustatement.org) came from the 2017 National Constitutional Convention, which could provide a suitable starting point for detailed considerations of how the Voice should function. The plea for a First Nations Voice and Makarrata Commission (the coming together after a struggle), surely comes from the heart and speaks to it.
The statement also refers to rates of imprisonment and alienation of children from their families. These echo problems of identity, motivation and social breakdown encountered by dispossessed people throughout history and the world.
I recognise the reluctance to make race-based laws. Aspiring to a society free from racial bias cannot restore the many indigenous lives lost through disease, slaughter and displacement. The one person, one vote mantra of democracy does not always serve minorities well.
The statement from the heart did not ask for reparations, it asked for reconciliation and recognition of traditional values alongside government based on European models. An indigenous Voice could provide a valuable contemporary contribution to: managing land use, biodiversity and climate change, and could balance the power of the mining and logging companies, personal land ownership and dominance of capitalism.
Please stop the killing
‘Oasis of Peace’ is the name of a multi-ethnic kibbutz in Israel I try to support. And yet as a Quaker I confess to intense feelings of rage more than peace this last month: rage at the murder of many children of God working on peace and community-orientated kibbutzim, somewhere I was welcomed as a student worker over one long summer. And then, in the past few weeks, the raining of bombs of death on children in Gaza so very clinically – and at the push of a button from planes overhead.
This has upset me hugely as a former Save the Children aid worker, and also as a supporter of the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel, which Quakers passionately support.
So how do I move from my probably-understandable feelings of rage towards a place of peace and reconciliation, in me as much as in the biblical land known both as Palestine and Israel? Deaths continue to mount up almost hourly. So my prayer is please everyone stop the killing – by whatever name you call a truce, ceasefire, whatever. Please begin to talk – and stop the killing before yet another child dies.
I would love one day to return to Palestine. To walk to Massada in the heat, drink cold water in an oasis, and in the cool of the evening watch eagles and hummingbirds come to rest by the setting sun.
As the prophets might say, truly this land is beautiful.
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