‘Educating for Democracy’

EDUCATING FOR DEMOCRACY?

 

A classic address on the Australian Constitution. I do not know if this is Brandis’ speech or the PM’s speech delivered by Brandis. If the latter, then I am sure there would have been an outcry again, against the PM.

I call it a ‘classic’ address because it clearly messages that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples are on the verge of joining the very, very British instrument called the Australian constitution. (I am not mistaking the message, am I?)

Brandis cites this pending achievement as a ‘unifying’ moment. Despite every single protest of late by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples about our political status in Australia, it seems the official interpretation from the governmental leaders of this country is that we are finally ready to assimilate.

“The principles enshrined in Magna Carta have in common principles enshrined in our own constitution… The Constitution has helped move us from colonies to an independent nation.” How has the constitution helped us to move from colonies to an independent and democratic nation? Last time I checked the constitution denied us our identity or a place in governing our own affairs. At the time, in 1900, the intention was to ‘smooth the dying pillow’. How has this changed in the lifetime of the constitution? It is still a demand to assimilate or die out. Isn’t that what the policies of stolen children, youth incarceration, alcohol control and imprisonment all about?

Brandis speech is a clear example of ‘dog whistling’, a way for government to redirect attention to a different purpose of the proposed constitutional reform. How much more dog whistling can we expect during the term of this government.

Some scuttlebuck is afoot, I gauge.

 

Did anyone take objection that the PM placed that ‘unknown cricketer’ event as more important than talking about our Peoples and ‘educating for democracy’?

Don’t answer that!

 

Les

 

 

SENATOR THE HON GEORGE BRANDIS QC

 

ATTORNEY-GENERAL

MINISTER FOR THE ARTS

 

RECEPTION FOR THE CONSTITUTION EDUCATION FUND OF AUSTRALIA’S (CEFA) 10TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE ‘EDUCATING FOR DEMOCRACY’ PROJECTS IN AUSTRALIAN SCHOOLS

NATIONAL ARCHIVES OF AUSTRALIA, CANBERRA

 

WEDNESDAY 3 DECEMBER 2014

 

General Jeffery, David Fricker, Kerry Jones, members of the CEFA board, Senator the Honourable John Faulkner, Mr Freeland, who’s firm Baker & McKenzie have kindly been sponsors of this event, Mr Howe thank you for your very gracious welcome to country, other distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.

It is a pleasure to be here with you this evening, but I’m afraid you must be a little disappointed to see me because of course you were expecting to see the Prime Minister who conveys his regrets and apologies as I’m sure you all know the Prime Minister has been in Northern New South Wales this afternoon for the very sad occasion of the funeral of Mr Phillip Hughes and has asked me to represent him this evening and to deliver the remarks that he wished to deliver on this important anniversary.

Can I begin by acknowledging the traditional custodians of the land on which we meet and pay my respects to their elders past and present.

It is fitting we hold this event in one of the great buildings of our democracy – the custodian, the showplace of so many of the great instruments of our democracy and I was privileged to be shown a few of them just before. You can almost smell the history in this building – you can certainly see it with your own eyes. We understand when we see the treasures which this building holds what Edmund Burke meant when he said: “Society is indeed a contract. It is a partnership . . . not only between those who are living, but between those who are living, those who are dead, and those who are to be born.” In this building if you watch, and if you listen closely, you can read and you can hear the echoes of debates past – and as you listen, you know it is part of your own history – part of what it means to be Australian.

One of those great echoes is the speech Neville Bonner gave in defence of our Constitution during the Constitutional Convention held in 1998. We have a rich history founded on the firmest of foundations – our Constitution. Australia is one of the oldest continuous democracies in the world and we owe so much of the success of that democracy to its constitutional foundation. We can build a stronger, more prosperous Australia because the foundations have been laid and set by the instruments, by the documents which are the treasures which this building preserves.

I congratulate CEFA on the 10th anniversary of its ‘Educating for Democracy’ projects in Australian schools. By promoting understanding of the Constitution, you are strengthening it – because the more people understand our Constitution and its importance, the more will rally to its defence. For ten years, the ‘Educating for Democracy’ projects in Australian schools, run by CEFA, have empowered students to become knowledgeable, responsible and active citizens.

In the course of teaching Australian school children about our constitution you, I know, remind them that it is largely because of that constitution that Australia was born of evolution, not revolution. Not a single drop of blood was shed in its drafting.

We can trace our Constitution back some 800 years to the fundamental principles enshrined in the Magna Carta: limiting arbitrary power, holding the Executive to account, and affirming the rule of law. I look forward to celebrating the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta next year, together with CEFA. The principles enshrined in Magna Carta have in common principles enshrined in our own constitution. They are principles that underpin our sense of a fair go and our democratic values. The Constitution has helped move us from colonies to an independent nation. And it is a Constitution governed by the people because only the people can change it. That is why it has been changed so few times.

Changing the Constitution was meant to be hard: it requires an act of Parliament, a vote from the people and a majority of four of six states. It is rightly much harder than changing a law but it is not meant to be impossible because our Constitution’s founders never imagined that this core document should never change.

In coming years, there will be a debate on how we can complete our Constitution – by recognising Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people in our founding document. Modern Australia has an Indigenous heritage, a British foundation and a multicultural character. Indigenous Australians have lived up to the ideals of the Constitution: they have fought for ‘King and country’ in both World Wars; they have served in our Parliaments; and they sit as judges in our courts. Indigenous culture, after all, is part of our common heritage as Australians; as much as our language, our Parliament, our system of law and our crown.

The Prime Minister, like the former Prime Minister, John Howard, and the members of Mr Abbott’s Government have come to the realisation that we must support the recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in our constitution.

The Constitution is founded on our British political and legal traditions. Just as the Constitution recognises our British heritage, it is right that the Constitution also recognise the first peoples of Australia, and their special, but not separate, place in our national life.

My hope is that any future referendum to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples will echo the success of 1967 referendum. In 1967 we saw a small change to our constitution, but a big change to our country. A referendum on Indigenous recognition won’t so much change the Constitution as complete it.

The bipartisan committee, chaired by the House of Representatives’ first Indigenous MP, Ken Wyatt, will soon be making final recommendations about the precise words that the committee thinks should be included in the constitution. We should be prepared to consider and refine any proposal for some time because it is so much better to get this right than to rush it.

A successful referendum would be another demonstration that Australia can be, in every way, a beacon of hope and an exemplar of unity and decency. Recognising Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in our Constitution will be a unifying moment for our nation – just as the 1967 referendum was a unifying moment for our nation. It will draw together the two strands of our history, rectify an oversight and ensure that the Constitution continues to be of the people and for the people – for all the people of Australia.

CEFA have been over these past ten years champions of the Constitution. I ask all of you here today to become champions of Indigenous constitutional recognition as well, so we can ensure that the document we cherish best reflects our modern Australian society.

[ENDS]

 

One thought on “‘Educating for Democracy’

  1. before i made my way to the aboriginal summit i posted the congress statement from les malezer and kirstie parker, as the co-chairs of the congress, to their calling on the foul abbott to go to the next meeting of coag and get the governments of wa and sa to not close down the remote communities that they had nominated for closure in their states.
    i believed, and still do, that such an exercise would be doomed to failure and that no such support from that quarter would be given much credence as the foul abbott government is as strong on over-turning land rights in the nt as the two premiers are. the need, from their often stated point of view, is that our peoples must be moved off their traditional lands into intervention hubs for their own good, of course, but more importantly, as was clearly put just over 12 months ago, “australia is open for business.” and the stolen aboriginal lands are just chock-full of lovely minerals that the world is desperate for. especially uranium. so no joy there for the congress, in my opinion.
    a few years ago however, les and i were firmly in agreement in one area of government attack and that was the ‘recognise’ campaign and the puerile propaganda being shoved down our throats that somehow inclusion in the british constitution of 1901 would assuage all the concerns we aborigines had, and still have, since the invasion nigh on 227 years ago, was possible. rubbish, of course.
    below, les takes to task an address that was given by the “it’s ok to be bigoted” brandis but singing from the foul abbott hymn book of a land full of nothing until we flora and fauna were saved by the ‘defining moment’ of the invasion and the consequent genocide and horror that has been incumbent since.
    les hits some home runs so i will not need to copy what he has said in what i believe is his personal views rather than a congress view.
    i will, however, make a few points on the turgid remarks from the minister for aboriginal despair.
    if this is an example of the brainwashing of our children, of all races, that cefa is behind then i despair for the multicultural learning that is so badly needed in our schools. teach civics by all means, educate our children on government and its processes, teach of the trade union movement to a level at least of knowing what a trade union is and what it does, and by all means teach ethics and religious and atheistic histories and not just that of christianity. educate to ask questions and to avidly seek information and not just to elicit a racist wasp-ish outlook on life. not just aboriginal and torres strait islander culture but all cultures. the 40’s and 50’s are long gone. we need to educate to a world view and not a closeted and mean-spirited one that christopher pyne and his ilk want.
    the second point i wish to look at concerns the following statement, “In the course of teaching Australian school children about our constitutionyou, I know, remind them that it is largely because of that constitution that Australia was born of evolution, not revolution. Not a single drop ofblood was shed in its drafting”.
    if the government in canberra truly believes this tripe, this blatant insult to our ancestors, then i can now better understand their collective inhumanity to the asylum seekers, but especially the children of those incarcerated in their inhuman and illegal detention camps.
    these pitiful politicians have no humanity, no conscience and most certainly no religious morals. nor did the nazis in their death camps. their xenophobia and racial hatred of the 11 million europeans they killed in an orgy of blood lust and nationalism is cruelly shadowed by your xenophobia and your racial prejudices to keep ‘your’ australia white. may the hottest parts of your christian hell be specially reserved for you all.
    to absolutely gloat that ‘your’ british constitution evolved because not a drop of blood was spilt in its making is the talk of sociopaths indeed. from 1778 to 1901 the number of aboriginal warriors fighting to protect their families and their nations is unknown but we can at least make a conservative estimate of hundreds of thousands, perhaps over a million. those past academics who believed that there were no more than 300 000 aborigines in this country in total were merely putting into practice the invaders need to lower the demographics to therefore lower the genocide figures.
    the british constitution was soaked with our ancestors blood as its very drafting and existence would have not been possible had your troopers, your so-called ‘settlers’ and your police forces not driven us to near extinction. and to add salt to our festering wounds, in 1901 we were not even to be included or even counted as human beings. our warrior ancestors are not even to be recognised for their valiant stand throughout the frontier wars. you shame humanity greatly!
    the current constitution is as anathema to us as is your invader’s flag or your nationalistic celebrations to our day of mourning! your anthem mocks us to our very graves.
    soon will be the time of resolution as we gather as one voice and one fist to take back what has always been rightfully ours. our days of passiveness are at an end as we collectively right the wrongs of the invasion crimes
    recognition equates to assimilation and please take all your ‘r’ buzzwords and stop bombarding us with your evil intent. there is no justice to be found there. we, all of multicultural australia, need a modern 21st century constitution to better reflect the australia of today and included in that for aborigines is the only ‘r’ word possible.
    rights!
    fkj
    ray jacksonpresidentindigenous social justice association
    prix des droits de l’homme de la republique fraincaise 2013(french human rights medal 2013)
    1303/200 pitt street, waterloo. 2017isja01@internode.on.net61 2 9318 09470450 651 063
    we live and work on the stolen lands of the gadigal people

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