User Comments

gigi2 September 19, 2023

@snorks I just don't think it's a quick fix to

close the gap. I think it requires a very long term effort eg several generations. Would be good if a future second referendum eventually occurs because the gap is finally closed enough.

If the question put to us in the referendum means that more and more of us make it our business to become trauma informed, then that will be good for all of our communities.

gigi2 September 13, 2023

@snorks not sure whom you mean by 'they'.

If a 'yes' vote gets up, it would mean Australians are solidly behind the intent of a VTP. That level of widespread support could eventually create enough pockets of positive change that they start to connect and become self-reinforcing.

gigi2 September 11, 2023

@snorks if the referendum is successful I think a key question would be how to create the right conditions in the system so that a new pattern can emerge.

I think Joss Colchester in the UK puts the kind of systems change highlighted by this referendum well: patterns start to form, then dissolve, then form and connect, then collapse, endlessly until you think nothing will change and you have lost all hope, and then things start to change at a large scale and you reach a tipping point, then there is no going back. I see a yes vote as providing a firm structural support for getting us to the tipping point.

gigi2 September 11, 2023

@snorks The outcomes from those workshops must have been disappointing and disheartening for the local council and the community.

From the thousands of FN people and tens of thousands of non-FN people already involved in the wide community consultations that led up to the Statement from the Heart 6 years ago, it sounds to me like there are many who have already thought long and hard about what they want and learnt from what hasn’t worked and what has.

Re the cut and paste. It’s taken 235 years to get to where we are now. It might take generations before positive change is endemic. Putting it in the constitution recognises the long and unrelenting effort required.

gigi2 September 8, 2023

Thank you for talking about healing @snorks. I think that’s where our nation is poised.

One of my favourite parts of the restorative justice process is when the harmed person is asked, ‘and what’s been the worst of it for you?’

I think that’s where the healing can start to happen. When people are given the chance to voice what it’s been like for them and be listened to. To not have to fight to be heard. To not have to ‘get over it’ by pushing the harm down. To participate in generating change ideas to make it better – which are always better when hearts have heard hearts. It’s so great that some schools have taken up this process to deal with harms done in school environments.

I hear your grave doubts that the government has any capacity to listen to a VTP. That a future government might even act out of spite by depriving a VTP of funds, choke it with obstructive processes, or heaven help us, do a Utopia on it. Hardly signs of an open heart responding in kind to the Statement from the Heart.

I agree we shouldn’t be naïve about these possibilities. It’s normal behaviour when people don’t feel safe, and bad handling could make it even worse. Might the post-referendum legislative design of the VTP take some ideas from the restorative justice process? Now that would be new.

gigi2 September 8, 2023

@snorks Well it's like Margaret Mead said 'Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.'

And as the often quoted pessimist philosopher from a couple of centuries ago, Arthur Schopenhauer, said 'All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.'

gigi2 September 8, 2023

@snorks To my way of thinking, it’s more like firmly holding the rudder off-centre to counter a cross-wind.

Previous attempts that temporarily held the rudder off-centre have shown both positive and negative impacts on the direction and even shape of the boat. Voices like yours are very much needed to inform the fine tuning.

Enjoy the barbie movie 😊

gigi2 September 6, 2023

Hello again @snorks :)

The wariness I’ve sensed from many voices about a VTP includes:
i) it’s not fair to single out a race for extra privilege
ii) it won’t work, so will waste taxpayer funds
iii) there’s not enough detail to know what we’re voting on
iv) it could be used to vexatiously slow down any legislation
v) it will be divisive
vi) it doesn’t go far enough because it lacks power
vii) it could backfire in a way that we can’t see yet
viii) if it can be done now via legislation why have a referendum?
Reminds me of the cognitive dissonance scene in the Barbie movie :)
It’s normal for any of us to be wary of change when people we might not trust propose it. It’s normal to be on guard about protecting our interests if it looks like ‘those others’ don’t care about our concerns.
Out of the list above, fairness seems to be pretty important to a lot of Australians.
Yet our nation already accepts a kind of ‘unfairness’ in divvying up the federal budget. When the largest single chunk of the budget is social security and welfare, it already shows a bias towards those needing support. So, perhaps an uneven distribution of money is not what’s really driving a belief that it’s unfair.
What about power? We already know that an advisory body doesn’t get any more voting rights than anyone else and it’s only Parliament that can legislate the details. So, it may not be about power either.
Is it about influence? There are many ways to influence legislation, and they variously need money. Those who have it can influence more, like powerful lobby groups. Perhaps there’s a belief that this ‘fair’ influencing system needs constitutional protection against an ‘unfair’ FN VTP?
Is the root of it about status? A belief that it’s deeply unfair if second nationers have to move over to let FNs stand tall again, as they had for 60,000+ years before second nationers took over, using what we would now call crimes against humanity which left intergenerational trauma in their wake. For me, our acceptance of a VTP says we have now learned to genuinely value FNs’ unique status in this ancient land, to the point where we change our relatively young constitution to permanently protect FNs voice to our country’s power structure.
After all they’ve suffered at the hands of second nationers, seems only fair to me.

gigi2 September 3, 2023

@snorks That's the thing - whether a VTP is permanent or not (or as permanent as the constitution). As it currently stands, it's not.

gigi2 September 2, 2023

@howtoexplain and @snorks It sounds reasonable to me that when we are being asked to vote on something, we understand what it is. Hopefully, forums like this give us the opportunity to ask questions without fear of being cancelled.

I agree that the constitution describes how federal Parliament is structured to exercise its legislative power. To me, the VTP is different from Parliament in that the VTP would not have any legislative power. It would be an advisory body only.
The concept of advisory bodies, advisory boards, advisory councils, consultative committees etc is not new, although it is a growing trend for businesses and governments alike. They set them up to inform proposed strategy, policy, legislation and implementation, gathering diverse perspectives to improve the quality of decision-making so that decisions lead to the intended changes. But in the advisory model, the decision-making power stays with the respective business or the government of the day.
When such advisory bodies have been established before to advise Parliament, we haven’t had a referendum on how they should operate or how long they should exist. Instead, the constitution already gives Parliament the power to decide on that. This proposed constitutional amendment is no different. It’s consistent in that it says the Parliament would have the power to make laws for how the Voice would work too.

gigi2 September 1, 2023

@myopinion Yes, from the Productivity Commission figure from around that time. Closer analysis of that figure by fact checkers revealed that 80% of that figure was on mainstream services, leaving $5.6B on targeted indigenous programs.  So I accept that my $4.2B figure was a bit low compared to $5.6B. 

The large draw on mainstream government services by indigenous people indicates to me that they are significantly disadvantaged - but we know that already and probably don't need any more numbers to tell us that. 
The question is how do we make those dollars actually work to redress that disadvantage instead of preserving the status quo? 
I haven't heard anyone intending to vote no or yes say they're happy with the status quo. As far as I can tell there are many people of genuine goodwill on both sides of the referendum who want that to change. So our question is what do we do differently so that it has a better chance of working? Should indigenous people be involved in working out what actually helps them change their circumstances? What if, through the voice, they could work together with governments to figure out a better way to use those dollars? What might we learn from that for everyone else on that $230B of welfare? I think the principle is universal - if you're trying to help me through this difficult time, please let me have some say in that.

gigi2 August 31, 2023

@snorks Yes, I agree. Federally, about $4.2B per year across all portfolios over the forward estimates. To put that in context, federal expenditure on social welfare for the whole population is $230B, about 35% of the federal budget. If I'm reading the aph charts correctly, the federal budget is around $640B / yr. So I calculate federal indigenous spend to be about .66% of the federal budget for 3% of the population.

What's important to me is that that big number of $4.2B / year (it's big to me too!) has processes in place that increase the chances of achieving its ends to reduce disadvantage. 
How many of us have had the experience of someone trying to help us, and our inner voice is saying 'That's not helping! Please just listen to what I'm saying!' which means the helper can then feel offended because they see their efforts as being wasted, and see the recipient of their largesse as being ungrateful. 
At a very human level, seems to me ATSI peoples are asking, please, would you be willing to commit in the constitution to listening to us on the matters that affect us, so that those billions have a better chance of being directed wisely? 

gigi2 August 30, 2023

@Howtoexplain To me it's more like being asked to decide whether we are willing to make a contract with ATSI peoples to not ghost them on matters that affect them. To date, the government of the day decides whether ghosting is OK. Sounds to me like ATSI peoples are asking us to commit to not ghosting them ever again. How that happens would continue to be a matter for legislation with many eyes over it before anyone signs it.

gigi2 August 30, 2023

This is the best explainer I've seen to date. 

It makes a clear distinction between a decision about the permanency of a voice (ie a referendum on whether to enshrine it in the constitution), and the form such a voice might take, which would wisely remain the purview of legislation, successively shaped based on how well it achieves its intent.

It's security in the existence of a voice, not the form, that we are being asked to decide on in the referendum.