Today’s attempt to kick off the perennial Australia Day culture war reminded me of the cartoon I entered in the Walkleys this year. It was a tough call what with the shenanigans over leadership and section 44 etc, but the one that stuck with me was the extraordinary missed opportunity that was the government’s rank dismissal of the Uluru Statement From The Heart late last year.
Arguing over whether the date of an early unauthorised boat arrival to this nation’s shores is an appropriate day to celebrate our nationhood is, as some suggest, somewhat small beans in the scheme of things, but the reason it’s perfect culture war fodder is because it’s a symptom of a much greater malaise, which is our failure to engage with and push forward reconciliation with Australia’s First Peoples in a serious way for a long time.
The cartoon and general blurb about it follow.
The Uluru Statement arose from nationwide dialogues with Indigenous group on constitutional recognition followed by a four day First Nations National Constitutional Convention.
In essence, after years of imposing half-arsed attempts at reconciliation which inevitably amounted to nothing, this was a real attempt to ask people what they actually wanted.
The result was a call for the establishment of a First Nations Voice enshrined in the Constitution and a Makarrata Commission to supervise a process of agreement-making between governments and First Nations and truth-telling about our history.
This was an opportunity for the Turnbull government to push reconciliation forwards and have a real national conversation about how this might all look, and provide a legitimate pathway towards a treaty and eventually a Republic, which you would think might be a goal quite close to Malcolm Turnbull’s own heart.
Instead, they kiboshed the whole thing by press release at 4:45 on a Friday afternoon on the grounds that it would all be much too difficult. No negotiation. No discussion.
A lot has and will be said about why Turnbull’s Prime Ministership failed, but this was a perfect example of a glaring problem, which was simply not listening.