I contend that while the treatment of indigenous peoples in Australia has been far from perfect, it stands as one of the most favorable examples on a global scale. In modernity indigenous peoples are respected and well funded.
Australia was home to more than 250 distinct small aboriginal tribes, each with its own language and no collective name for the land. As a result of isolation and other contextual factors, Australian aborigines had the lowest measured intelligence quotient worldwide. This issue, however, cannot be remedied solely through education.
Understanding the predicament faced by aborigines when confronted with modern civilization is not difficult. It follows a common narrative where the subjugated must adapt and integrate to ensure their survival. Christian missionaries played an inadvertent role in the evolution of aboriginal communities, paving the way for their eventual condemnation. This lengthy and successful transformation leads us to the focal point of this article.
In 1967, Australians voted through a Referendum to amend the country’s constitution to include all Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders. Fast-forwarding to 2023, this indigenous constituency has significantly grown. They have transitioned into the modern era and, as a whole, are no longer at a disadvantage. On the contrary, I posit that they now enjoy advantages.
The count of self-identified indigenous individuals has surged. Welfare spending on a per capita basis for indigenous people in 2013 averaged $13,968 annually, more than twice the amount spent on non-indigenous Australians. It is worth noting that even individuals with fair features, such as blonde hair and blue eyes, are now claiming indigenous heritage vocally and with frequency.
One estimate posits that in the year 1900, the indigenous Australian population numbered merely 117,000. The present claim from the indigenous constituency asserts that 3.2% of Australia’s 26 million residents are of indigenous descent—a claim that appears implausible.
The pivotal Australian High Court ruling in the Mabo case upended two centuries of legal precedent and was subsequently embedded in legislation. Its impact was to reinstate Aboriginal recognition over more than 50% of Australia’s landmass. Granted, the process of asserting Aboriginal land claims involves intricate legal procedures and the establishment of an unbroken spiritual connection to the land.
The Australian High Court intrusion into the political arena in the Mabo case was akin to placing the cart before the horse. The ramifications, coupled with Land Rights legislation, have been and continue to be complex. Ultimately, this trajectory could result in the emergence of an elite Aboriginal class, benefiting only a select few. Alternatively, Australia could have followed the model of the USA by establishing Indigenous reserves, however, the results would have been the same.
In my view, a more effective approach would have focused on addressing disadvantages without regard to race, color, or creed, allowing natural evolution to take its course in an environment of equal opportunity. The quote “giving a leg-up, not a hand-out” is apt.
The upcoming 2023 Referendum aims to determine whether the Australian Constitution should be amended to grant special Constitutional ‘Rights’ to indigenous Australians. A ‘Yes’ vote would lead to provisions enabling an Indigenous body to provide advice to the government and the broader Parliament on matters and policies concerning Indigenous communities. The implications, consequences and likely outcome of such folly will be disastrous.
Although the Referendum date remains unspecified, it is anticipated to occur within the final months of this year. However, there is a possibility that the Labor Government may abandon the Referendum if there is little hope of it passing, perhaps to avoid potential embarrassment.
The ‘Yes’ vote is endorsed by the incumbent Labor Party Federal Government, while the ‘No’ vote garners support from the conservative Opposition Liberal-National Party.
As the author is an Australian citizen, he will cast his vote in favor of the ‘No’ stance.
By Will Keys