Much has been said about ‘closing the gap’ that exists between Australia’s ‘First Migrants’ – namely the indigenous people who originally migrated from Melanesia and who now comprise just over 3% of our population – and the 96+% who are part of the second major wave of migrants who started to arrive in 1788.

In order to close the gap, our Prime Minister and ‘Yes’ supporters talk endlessly about the need to “listen” to our indigenous people – and they believe that can best be achieved by installing the race-based Voice in our Constitution. However, the fact is we have been listening as can be clearly seen from the Australian Government’s Productivity Commission report, the introduction to which reads as follows:

“In March 2019, a formal Partnership Agreement on Closing the Gap was established between the Commonwealth Government, state and territory governments, the Coalition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peak Organisations (the Coalition of Peaks) and the Australian Local Government Association. For the first time, Australian governments shared decision making with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peak representatives to develop a new National Agreement on Closing the Gap (the National Agreement).

The Coalition of Peaks comprises over fifty Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peak organisations, formed for the purpose of negotiating with governments to develop the National Agreement. The Coalition of Peaks represent the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled service sector. Members of the Coalition of Peaks are accountable to their communities.

The National Agreement on Closing the Gap (the National Agreement) has 19 national socio-economic targets across 17 areas that have an impact on life outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.” (See https://www.pc.gov.au/closing-the-gap-data/dashboard for more details).

So, my question is, why do we need a major change to our Constitution in order to ‘listen’ when that process has already been undertaken? The Productivity Commission’s report was the culmination of an extensive listening process that led to the 19 national socio-economic targets across 17 areas referred to above.

Given that the target objectives are clear and agreed upon by all the representative bodies referred to, surely it’s ACTION that’s required – not just more ‘listening’?

The Voice is therefore totally unnecessary. It would just lead to even more talkfests and written reports and even more funding – in addition to the $30 billion currently spent on indigenous issues each year.

What the governments and heavily funded indigenous groups in Australia should be doing is getting on with what clearly needs to be done; in short, politicians and bureaucrats need to get off their collective butts and get on with it. And that includes the relevant Minister Linda Burney.

They also need to demand from the numerous indigenous groups that receive funding that they provide a clear explanation of how this colossal amount of money is being spent. My bet is most of it is wasted with very little, if any, getting down to the indigenous people at the grass roots who need it most. It’s a shameful situation – and the Voice will only make it worse.

When the targeted objectives are examined, it can be seen that they largely encompass 7 key areas: health/longevity; education; employment; housing; crime and criminal justice; family/child safety; and cultural matters.

These all require action at a local level. Apart from funding, the federal government needs to step aside and let State/Territory/Local governments and regional indigenous organisations get on with the necessary tasks such as building schools, housing and hospitals, helping to establish local businesses, and encouraging cultural activities.

None of this is hard – it just takes money, which is already available, and effort on the part of bureaucrats, indigenous groups and the local people themselves.

What cannot be easily fixed are health standards, domestic violence, criminal activity, and the number of indigenous people in custody.  Much of this is in the hands of the indigenous people themselves as Nyunggai Warren Mundine AO, Director of the Indigenous Forum at the Centre for Independent Studies and leading ‘No’ advocate, has been saying for many years. He stated recently: “We want our future determined, like our ancestors, through our own hard work and determination.” He is sick of being patronized by politicians.

He further pointed out that there are indigenous doctors, nurses, health workers, lawyers, magistrates. judges, engineers, teachers, entrepreneurs, business owners and sporting champions. There are also indigenous politicians at all three levels of government – federal, state/territory and local. They all became successful, so why can’t others?

One reason is that the parents of these successful people undoubtedly helped their children become successful, so why aren’t other indigenous parents helping their children by encouraging them to attend school, discouraging them from drinking alcohol, doing drugs and rampaging in the streets?

Moreover, why aren’t more steps being taken by local communities to stop domestic violence? It’s not just up to the government to fix these problems.

One issue that cannot be easily remedied is life expectancy. The fact that indigenous people have shorter lives than non-indigenous people is always trotted out by ‘Yes’ supporters as if it is somehow the fault of the white folk. That’s just plain ridiculous!

According to the United Nations, Monaco has the highest life expectancy of 87 years and Eswatini has the lowest at 61 years. In other words, there is a huge variation on lifespans and that’s based on many factors such as genetic variations, living conditions, lifestyles, and nutrition. The fact that Australia’s indigenous people have shorter lives isn’t straightforward because all these factors need to be taken into account.

One good example of why life expectancy is lower for indigenous people is their high level of alcohol and drugs use because this impacts on health, domestic violence, crime and incarceration. Northern Territory internal police data showed a significant drop in domestic violence calls and alcohol-related violence in Alice Springs after the reintroduction of stricter alcohol laws in January.

In the months since restrictions were brought in, property break-ins are down by nearly 46%, domestic violence calls are down more than 30%, youth offences dropped 36% and alcohol-related incidents were down between 45% and 67%. In the first week of January, before the restrictions were introduced, alcohol was a factor in 76% of the domestic violence incidents police attended.

As Northern Territory politician and leading ‘No’ vote advocate Senator Jacinta Nampijinpa Price stated just a few days ago, indigenous people are “worrying about making sure we don’t get beaten up, and making sure that our kids get fit and aren’t joyriding and ram-riding police cars at night.” Evidence of that came to light just recently when it was reported that in Alice Springs yet another car was stolen and driven off the road by children aged under 12. That’s the third time in just over a month. Where were the parents when all of this was taking place? 

Senator Price also pointed out during her maiden speech in Parliament, which everyone should read, the fact that the majority of murdered indigenous people are actually murdered by other indigenous people and this is one of the reasons why indigenous Australians are incarcerated at such high rates.

Her belief is that the proposed Indigenous Voice to Parliament is an “elitist” proposal that is more about relieving non-indigenous people’s “white guilt” than solving the problems faced by indigenous Australians.

It’s hard to argue with that, but I’m sure PM Anthony Albanese and the ‘Yes’ supporters will make another futile attempt to do so. Firstly, however, the PM should read – apparently for the first time – the full 26 pages of the Uluru Statement from the Heart.

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