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Toxicity swirls around January 26, but we can change the nation with a Voice to parliament

Megan Davis writes in The Conversation (25.1.21) about the debate over the contentious date of Australia Day, and how it obscures an achievable path for meaningful national change through the proposed Indigenous Voice to Parliament.

‘We are on the eve of the nation’s annual ritual of celebrating the arrivals, while not formally recognising the ancient peoples who were dispossessed.

‘Each year the tensions spill over, rendering Australia Day/Invasion Day/Survival Day a protest as much as a celebration. But there is a quiet process underway, aimed at achieving substantive recognition of the First Nations that has so far eluded Australia.

‘… This is now an opportunity for Australians and First Nations peoples to make their views clearly heard. It is only an interim report, and it requires the feedback of many.

‘All Australians want to find a way through the annual debates about Captain Cook, the First Fleet and national identity, to a more inclusive and nuanced narrative of who we are.’

Australians back a voice to parliament. The moment is there to be seized

Paul Daley comments in The Guardian (4.6.21) on growing popular support for an Indigenous voice to parliament, suggesting that there is similar hope now as there was around the reconciliation movement in 2000.

‘This year Australia’s National Reconciliation Week went with the theme: ‘More than a word. Reconciliation takes action.’ Yes, the need for meaningful action is urgent and hard to fault.

‘“How and when are you going to pay the rent?” is the question so many Indigenous people want answered regarding reparations for the stolen land, countless murders and ruined lives.

‘Corporates and cultural organisations showcasing participation in Reconciliation Week might like to ask themselves how “paying the rent” works. Is it more than investing in Indigenous art for the boardroom? How many Indigenous staff do they actually employ? What NGOs that make real differences to Indigenous lives do they invest substantively in? What do they do for the rest of the year?

‘… It is almost 14 years since Howard – facing an electoral abyss – vowed to hold a referendum to recognise Indigenous Australians in the constitution if re-elected. Many Aboriginal people then, as today, don’t want recognition in the founding document of the settler state. They want treaties, truth-telling and reparations.’

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