To build a future we must acknowledge our past
Credit:Illustration: Jim Pavlidis
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Another Australia Day has been and gone demonstrating that our history provokes a range of emotional responses – pride, sorrow, happiness, anger and guilt. If you accept – as I do – that the Australian frontier was a violent place, and many Aboriginal lives were lost in this violence, and that Aboriginal Australians have suffered because of the loss of livelihood, disease, and poverty, then there is much to provoke a sense of guilt. Guilt, however, prevents constructive dialogue.
Instead, I want an honest conversation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians about our shared past and its consequences. I want to have this conversation in ways that enable us all to address a legacy of the past and create a shared future.
Whoever we are – Indigenous, descendants of settler Australians, migrants or refugees – we all have a stake in our nation’s future. A generous approach to dialogue based on empathy, respect and compassion, would seek to find a date to celebrate our nationhood that is inclusive of all Australians.
Sarah Russell, Mt Martha
A celebration, imperfection and all
When we celebrate a milestone with a friend, we do not demand that their past be free from fault. We celebrate our time shared together, the good and the bad. It is our history, and it is inextricably, irrevocably, woven into who we are today. There should be both joy and remorse in an honest relationship. But, in the best celebrations, we are thankful for what we have and that we have each other. While we aim not to repeat the mistakes of the past, we look forward to the future, and we celebrate that we are here, together, today.
I will approach Australia Day the same way. As a celebration with an imperfect but special friend, without whom my life would be but a fraction of what it is.
Hamish Weatherly, Mortlake
Something worth celebrating
The date for the true Australia Day is yet to be determined. That will be the day we have a Constitution that is not part of a British Act of Parliament. Then we will be a truly independent country with something to celebrate.
Steve Dixon, North Melbourne
We were postwar 10-pound poms, and in 1982, along with my husband, we became “new citizens”. We received a Bible, a pot plant and a little flag. Later we had a party with our children and friends who made Vegemite sandwiches, pavlova and lamingtons. So proud to be an Aussie.
Myra Fisher, Brighton East
Memories to mark
As a nation, we clearly have things we can do better. But we also have things we can celebrate. Such as January 26, commemorating the day in 1788 when Australian cricket captain James Cook scored 309 in one day on a sticky wicket at Gallipoli against a determined Japanese pace attack.
Or did I get something wrong?
Tony Ward, Elsternwick
A work in progress
People who wish to move Australia Day or abolish it altogether may consider that there were other significant dates, not just the 1967 referendum, when things improved for a large, previously neglected, section of the population. What about the date women got the vote? Or the first woman was elected to Parliament? Or Mabo Day? Or when marriage equality was passed? Do people even know what dates these occurred on?
Australia is a work in progress and that work started on January 26, 1788. For better or worse it marked the difficult and contentious beginning of what has become a vibrant and free democracy. Like statues of white pioneers like James Cook, we don’t need to tear Australia Day on January 26 down, just make sure it is updated to reflect the diversity of views about what happened then, and since. Australia Day can, and should, be a day of profound reflection, and sorrow for many, as well as joy.
James Glover, Jam Jerrup
Demolish house of cards
Braveheart Indigenous leader Noel Pearson both eloquently and convincingly explains the “what”, “how” and “why” Australians of good will need to support the referendum for Indigenous constitutional recognition and a Voice to parliament (Comment, 26/1). That is, it is essential to demolish the house of cards that our nation’s identity was built on and to unite all Australians once and for all.
As Pearson says, the stakes are too high to let this opportunity slip away due to the wrecking ball tactics by political opponents hell-bent on killing reconciliation.
Jelena Rosic, Mornington
Statement of truth
Noel Pearson has some powerful arguments in his plea to Australians to support the upcoming referendum. He makes it clear the referendum is a unifying mechanism for “…settlers, natives and migrants”, a three word phrase that simply defines our country’s inhabitants. The Voice to parliament as defined in the Uluru Statement is not to be feared, it is to be a mechanism to enable our First Nations peoples to try to improve their lives. We must try to right the wrongs that have occurred since settlement, no matter the intentions of people in the past.
I would ask that every Australian read the Uluru statement and that politicians, particularly Peter Dutton, approach the referendum with the intention of a positive outcome.
Shaun Quinn, Yarrawonga
The chance to enshrine the Voice in the Constitution is slipping away. Though the Calma-Langton report provides one possible comprehensive model, we are not voting to endorse that or any substitute structure. We are simply voting to ensure that an advisory body of some sort, designed to present a distilled Aboriginal viewpoint to parliament, should always exist. It is about how to spend taxpayers’ money most effectively to improve the lives of First Nations people, while respecting culture and tradition. Everything else is smoke and mirrors.
Peter Barry, Marysville
The Voice? Like the build-up to the US elections, I am at saturation point before we even get to the event. How about a blanket media ban until a month before the referendum. By then, hopefully the facts are spelt out and we shall be well informed as to what the Voice is actually aiming to achieve.
Barb Kingston, Mt Waverley
Naysayers to the Voice, remember the late Archie Roach’s Took the Children Away, and imagine if that had happened to you and all your family and friends. The Voice is just a small part in addressing the injustices of our past.
Pat Rivett, Ferntree Gully
Time to listen
We (the non-Aboriginal Australians) through our institutions and individually have not listened to the voices of the Indigenous owners of this country for hundreds of years. We have assumed we know best. Now we must face the tragedy of our mistakes that have heaped humiliation, disease and contempt on our First Peoples.
As Ken Wyatt says, the Voice is the first step in acknowledging our mistakes and moving towards parity, healing and justice. It is time for Peter Dutton and his fellow travellers to change tack and urge people to vote Yes in the referendum. It is only by acknowledging the past that all Australians can move forward.
Meg Paul, Camberwell
Lack of unity
Adam Bandt’s nitpicking on the Voice has only succeeded in giving Dutton some cover as only one of many petty naysayers. When are the Greens going to stand up and be counted?
Sarah Bone, Wonthaggi
Lyric strains clarity
The second last line of both verses of the national anthem should substitute the word “strains” with “voice” to read “In joyful voice then let us sing, Advance Australia Fair”. Both words are monosyllabic and “voice” reflects a more appropriate reference to “let us sing” while also echoing the Voice to parliament. Most people do not understand that strains is a reference to singing.
Nick Toovey, Beaumaris
Bail laws fail
It is timely that Victorian bail law may be revised (“Urgent push for bail law reform gathers pace”, 25/1). The laws have always been discriminatory and especially in the case of Veronica Nelson. Her offence of shoplifting did not indicate she posed a risk to the community and she should have been released on bail. Monetary payments to enable bail are not affordable to disadvantaged persons such as Nelson and some other means of surety needs consideration. Other conditions in her case appear to have not been considered such as her withdrawal from heroin and her undiagnosed medical condition. Both these things should have led to medical treatment rather than incarceration.
This is precisely the sort of issue that the proposed Voice to parliament could advise upon, specifically what sort of community support would benefit such offenders and the means to bring that about.
Jan Marshall, Brighton
I love the idea that we should reclaim the village-model of parenting (“All parents need help and support of the village” 25/1). Parents are (and always have been) exhausted by their many, frequently isolating roles, including the vital role of planning, purchasing, cooking and serving meals. Perhaps one of our offerings to parents could be the sharing of a simple home-cooked meal each week. So after a visit to the playground and while you’re “teaching the crime of double dipping” you could engage in the incredibly valuable art of breaking bread – of sharing a family meal and basking in the company and the knowledge that you’ve made a difference to all.
Karen Campbell, Geelong
Re: “Sleep-talking to the Dream-walkers” (The Age, 25/1). As a child I was a prodigious lucid dreamer. On several occasions I experienced a “lucid dream envelope”, starting with a lucid dream from which I deliberately woke up — but into another lucid dream. This could lead to some five dream envelopes with a final real wake-up. My recent experience of lucid dreaming led me to dream-arguing with my deceased wife that she could not possibly return, as I witnessed her funeral. As in real life, she managed to convince me that it indeed was possible for her. Many of my childhood dreams I still remember vividly; I only wish I could just as easily remember what I had for dinner last night.
Jerry Koliha, South Melbourne
Stadium debate lacking
It was pleasing to see an objective analysis of the Hobart stadium “debate” in The Age (Comment, 24/1) since those of us in Tasmania are not likely to see one in the local press. Ironically the local paper’s orgiastic promotion of this billion-dollar white elephant flies in the face of its own “Big Issues Survey” over the Christmas break which revealed 70 per cent of their readers were opposed to the stadium.
John Ellsmore, Tasmania
I am fortunate that most days I cycle past the silo art in Melbourne’s north depicting Jacinda Ardern hugging a community member after the Christchurch mosque shooting. The significance and powerful emotion never fails to astonish me. Every politician, department head and adviser should have a copy in their office to remind themselves the purpose of what they do: to serve their community, listen to them and assist.
Contrary to recent commentators who responded to Ardern’s retirement, no one achieves all their goals during their career. The most successful people are those who are nimble, able to adapt to different priorities and walk away having inspired others.
Michael D’Aloia, Coburg
Dress to impress
We have just had the joy of a significant wedding anniversary and we decided to celebrate at one of Melbourne’s top restaurants. We put on our glad rags and sallied forth. The food, wine, staff and decor were all truly impressive. What was not so good was the dress code of others in the restaurant. Shorts, T-shirts, beachwear dresses. Melburnians, please, our city is a foodie heaven, we can do better to add the ambience of our wonderful restaurants.
Carmel McNaught, Balwyn North
To promote better driver behaviour at tram stops, PT Victoria seems to feel it must appeal to familial connection. Thus, we see streetside advertisements saying “STOP, it could be your granny getting off.” Clever, I suppose, in trying to reach the high danger group, young males, but have we really sunk so low as a community that we are unable to feel concern for others unless there is a blood connection?
More uplifting – and provoking – would be an ad saying STOP, it’s a human being getting off.
John Wallace, Breamlea
No sense in slaughter
The Age reports (24/1) “a grieving community is struggling to make sense of it all as investigators continue to search for a motive” after another US mass shooting. There is no sense to be made of slaughter.
Better to look to the culture that desensitises children to thousands of TV deaths before they make it to school (where, guess what, many teachers will be armed), and it seems the solution to any episode of disgruntlement is to shoot fellow citizens. How bizarre that the twentysomething New Hampshire couple we met in Timor Leste, where they were Peace Corps volunteers, owned 11 guns. “We go shooting like others go tenpin bowling” they said. Anyone been skittled to death recently?
My gratitude to, of all people, John Howard for his steel in response to Port Arthur.
Greg Malcher, Hepburn Springs
And another thing
Credit:Illustration: Matt Golding
Your correspondent (Letters, 25/1) does not support changing Australia Day to Invasion Day as it “conjures up connotations of war and violence”. Sadly though, for the First Nations peoples of Australia, this exactly what colonisation has meant for them.
John Togno, Mandurang
The true Australia Day is when Australia became a nation: January 1, 1901, when the six British colonies agreed to federate into a self-governing nation.
Rosslyn Ellis, Newport
I hope the Indigenous Voice can be heard above all the “white” noise.
Graham Cadd, Dromana
Your correspondents recommend reading the original report on the Voice, but the answer is surely to distil hours of reading into a few pithy lines. People are surely not going to read a document online, however detailed.
Peter Russo, West Brunswick
The grog laws in Alice Springs should apply to white fellas across this country.
Bill Clark, Melbourne
What great courage from Jelena Dokic, through the whole of her life. May she be able to do the job she loves for many years to come.
Jon Aloni, Bentleigh
Starry-eyed commentators speak of Zelensky as if he is the new Churchill. Close, but no cigar.
Kevin Rugg, Sandringham
PC can mean polite and civil.
Michael Helman, St Kilda East
Having heard the expression “retail footprint” used instead of “shops”, I groaned when I read “sound signature” as an alternative to “noise”.
Roger Farrer, Hampton
If that’s a picture of the Great Aussie Burger (Good Food, 24/1), why has it got pickles in it? Sacrilege!
Anthony Clifford, Wendouree
Great idea to have Pamela Irving’s mosaics decorating and enhancing the drab parts of the city. Bring it on.
Pamela Pilgrim, Highett
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