Letters to
the editor

Open collaboration led to Uluru statement

The Uluru statement was a historic achievement of First Nations agency. The process was demanded, designed and led by Indigenous leaders. Delegates called for a First Nations voice in the constitution and a Makarrata Commission outside it. They should be congratulated on their consensus. Yet last weekend The Saturday Paper tweeted to undermine their achievement: “How the Uluru statement was drafted with non-Indigenous constitutional conservatives” with a link to Karen Middleton’s article (“The making of the Uluru statement”, June 3-9). The tweet was wrong and deleted. The Uluru statement wasn’t drafted with non-Indigenous constitutional conservatives. Noel Pearson engaged with conservatives to develop an Indigenous body proposal, but it wasn’t secretive. They weren’t “behind-the-scenes” or “quiet consultations”, “unbeknown” to participants, which some could view as “sinister”. Some insinuations of secrecy have been deleted. None were supported with evidence. The engagement was public and extensively reported since 2014. This history wasn’t kept secret at the dialogues. Strange, too, that engagement with “non-Indigenous” conservatives is framed as “sinister”, whereas previous engagement with non-Indigenous human rights lawyers on a racial non-discrimination clause – also discussed by participants – is automatically benign and not mentioned. The article states I “revealed” after Uluru that “the basis for what Indigenous people agreed on at Uluru was actually drafted in consultation with the non-Indigenous constitutional conservatives”. This suggests conservatives secretly drafted the Uluru statement. They did not, and I did not say they did. The words “revealed” and “actually” have now been deleted, but the improper contextual framing remains. Constitutional conservatives helped draft an amendment to establish a body, three years ago. I “revealed” nothing I haven’t already explained repeatedly and publicly for several years. The article incorrectly reported Julian Leeser MP as opposing an advisory body. Yet Leeser helped devise it, was reported as supporting it last week, argued for it in his maiden speech and published an essay on it. The article incorrectly stated the Referendum Council engaged Professor Anne Twomey to draft the body design report. Twomey drafted a body amendment on her own initiative, long before the Referendum Council formed. Despite its focus on Pearson’s collaboration, the article calls the Indigenous body proposal “completely Noel Pearson’s idea”. Indigenous people have advocated representation for decades. It’s not a new idea and Pearson’s proposal was the result of extensive collaboration. 

– Shireen Morris, Cape York Institute

Leaders failing to lead

The comments of Senator Barnaby Joyce and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on the Uluru statement show a lack of leadership and vision. What divides us is not the amazing courage and leadership emerging from First Nations people from Uluru, but the small-minded views of some such as these. I apologise to the First Nations people, yet again. Until we face and acknowledge our past, our present, and how we treat First Nations people and deny them a voice in how their affairs are run, none of us will have a bright future. As a developed country how can we continue to allow disadvantage and not enable those with lived experience and culture to have a say and a voice? In 2006, I wrote an opinion piece entitled, “Aborigines are still treated with disdain”, based on my firsthand experiences of racial discrimination while journeying as a white person beside Indigenous colleagues. Let’s think about how little we have moved on. Let’s not wait for the politicians and right-wing think tanks to sabotage the debate again. As Lowitja O’Donoghue once told me, “It’s for the people to lead and the leaders will follow.”

– Dr Liz Curran, ANU School of Law

Lacking in ideas of substance

Great piece on Quadrant and its online editor Roger Franklin (“Quadrant and its slide into deluded extremism”, June 3-9). Mike Seccombe confirms what a shallow and septic pool of double standards “civil” discourse has become. Vested interest-driven thought bubbles, not ideas of rigour, served up as main course in the buffet of bullshit we call mainstream media. Damn the Franklin, it’s a sewer. 

– Glenn Nelson, Abbotsbury, NSW

Not subscribing to Quadrant’s views

I was fascinated and repelled by Mike Seccombe’s article on Quadrant. Years ago I subscribed to it in the belief I should learn more about different political views to my own. I was expecting intellect and reason, if not necessarily a compatible way of seeing the world. I found it badly written and rantingly tedious. I let my subscription lapse. 

– Anna Le Masurier, Earlwood, NSW

Gratitude for Anthony Foster’s advocacy

“The strength of the Fosters” (Editorial, June 3-9) appropriately acknowledges the debt of gratitude we owe Anthony Foster and his wife, Chrissie, and family for seeking justice when the Catholic Church was failing to acknowledge the monstrous injury inflicted on their family. I was pleased that the editorial reminds readers of the 2008 remarks of Anthony Fisher (successor to George Pell in Sydney) that families such as the Fosters “were dwelling crankily … on old wounds”. There is no doubt that after the exposure by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse of the full horrors of the abuse that clerics such as Anthony Fisher might repudiate such abhorrent statements. I do wonder, however, whether such repudiation is born out of genuine contrition or follows prompting by church officials anxious to minimise the damage from the commission’s findings. 

– John Myrtle, Mawson, ACT

Letters are welcome: [email protected]
Please include your full name and address and a daytime telephone number. Letters may be edited for length and content, and may be published in print and online. Letters should not exceed 150 words.

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on June 10, 2017.

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