Truth-telling first, then the hope

August 04, 2018

"It is time for truth-telling in this country," declares a sombre but hopeful Malarndirri McCarthy.

Truths about the darker episodes of Australian history - particularly the massacres of Indigenous people at the hands of European settlers must be properly aired if the nation is to be united and move forward, the NT Labor senator and Yanyuwa woman says.

Australia must have this discussion in a mature way, Senator McCarthy says, otherwise: "We continue to enable wilful blindness and deafness to our history. And that does nothing to encourage hope among younger Australians for a better country."

And the upshot, should the nation collectively wrap its head around the legacy of colonisation?

"A better Australia, a more mature Australia, allowing all Australians to feel enormously proud of our country," Senator McCarthy argues, fresh from attending the 20th annual Garma Festival in the Northern Territory, the gathering that brings together senior figures from Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australia.

The principle of truth-telling is the theme at Garma this weekend. It was also highlighted as a central element of last year's historic Uluru statement, which recommended a "Makarrata commission" to oversee a truth-telling process and treaties between Indigenous people and Australian governments.

The centrepiece of the Uluru statement, adopted by the nonpartisan Referendum Council in its final report to the Parliament, was the Indigenous "Voice to Parliament", a constitutionally enshrined body that would involve Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in federal legislation that affects them.

At last year's Garma, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten announced Labor's support for the Voice but it has failed to gain bipartisan backing, with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull strongly rejecting the proposal late last year.

Speaking at Garma yesterday, Gumatj elder Djawa Yunupingu noted the disappointment felt by many Indigenous people after Mr Turnbull's rejection of the Uluru statement and called on the festival's attendees to confront hard truths.

"And let's see if together we can find a pathway where we can all be included in the nation's constitution," he said.


Source: Sunday Age page 4 August 5 2018