Tuesday, 5 February 2008

Constitutional recognition

A great difficulty with the whole issue about apologising to the stolen generation is the minimalist approach. That is, we will do as little as we possibly can to avoid having to accept any unforeseen consequences.
I think strategically this is a mistake and a policy that will fail.
Whilst the fear of blank cheques and unforeseen consequences is rife in our community. Let us not attempt the impossible and think that there are no costs and no consequences.
Indeed the best startegy, it seems to me, is not to do as little as possible but rather to do what needs to be done.
One aboriginal group at least (here) suggests that another issue to be picked up concerning indigenous peoples is constitutional recognition.
It has been settled some years ago (Wik and Mabo) that Australia was not "no man's land" or 'terra nullius' to use the legal term (see here for example...but it is worth Googling terra nullius(here) to get a very good range of discussions about this important idea).
And this, it seems to me is what the Constitution should recognise. There were already people here when the British decided this should be their country, and the consequences of that need to be lived with.
I had converse with someone today about the palce of Maori people in New Zealand society, she was expressing surprsie at the amount of power and influence they have.
My response to that is that the place of Maori people was recognised by the colonists by the Treat of Waitangi. While that is no perfect document or understanding, and NZ indigenous society is far from problem free at least they were not just totally ignored, or treated as if they never existed.
The anniversary of the signing of the treaty of Waitangi is tomorrow, February 6th

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