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Australia’s Hidden Racism

Federal Opposition Leader Peter Dutton and Liberal Senator Jacinta Nampijinpa Price hail the defeat of the referendum. CREDIT: DAN PELED, The Sydney Morning Herald

By Steve Trotter

Posted on 22nd October 2023

Another Sad Day in Australia’s Black History

Australia’s history has not had many celebratory moments in regard to its treatment of Aboriginal people and the result of the referendum was no exception. The ‘No’ result was a very humiliating one for Aboriginal people and their supporters. While Aboriginal people and ‘Yes’ voters mourned the decision, Peter Dutton, the leader of the Liberal Party, actually celebrated the result.

His ‘victory’ of destroying Aboriginal people’s chances of being recognized in Australia’s constitution was one of the most humiliating political speeches since Trump’s speech to halt learning about African slavery in American schools because it was un-American.

Trump’s speech at the National Archives Museum on the anniversary of the signing of the U.S. Constitution.

Australia, the New South Africa

Dutton is so out of touch with Australia’s international reputation and what is best for the country that he exalted in his party’s victory. The subtext of his passionate speech had racist undertones that Australians haven’t seen since Pauline Hanson’s ‘It’s okay to be white’ speech in 2018.

Hanson’s place in Parliament has long been a blight on Queensland’s and Australia’s reputation, especially overseas, and has been a massive contributing factor in our international perception as a racist and xenophobic country. Dutton’s politicizing of the campaign has divided Australia but at least it has allowed all of us to see ourselves as we truly are. We are, at heart, a racist country.

CREDIT: CNN, Stringer/AFP/Getty Images

Prejudice is often hard to identify in people, unless there is a public collection of data like the result of the referendum.

The Libs and Nats ran one of the dirtiest campaigns this country has ever seen to secure their ‘victory’. The worst part is the Libs didn’t even care about the Voice, they just wanted to oppose the Labour Party to score some points for their party.

One Small Win for the Libs, One Big Set Back for Reconciliation

The tragedy is that the National Party were able to influence the Libs to join them. The Nats, of course, felt they had a lot at stake. They represent the big rural land holders. They had an agenda to leave the law regarding their possession of that land, Aboriginal land, unchanged. You can see why they might be afraid of change down the track. But this referendum wasn’t challenging land ownership. This referendum was asking for Aboriginal people to be recognized in the constitution and to be consulted in matters that affected them. Fear does strange things to people and there aren’t many people stranger than some of the more conservative politicians in Australia.

So when Dutton back-flipped his support behind the referendum to keep in line with the Coalition, the referendum was 100% destined to fail, as the Prime Minister said, ‘the truth is that no referendum has succeeded in this country without bipartisan support.’

It was a coalition of the unwilling, at first, as the Liberal Party had been in support of the referendum; but, as the polls rose, the Libs saw an opportunity to take a shot at their rivals. They deliberately muddied the issue simply to earn some political points. What was worse was that they virtually bribed the help of two prominent Indigenous Australians to be the face of the No campaign by offering them seats in Parliament.

Jacinta Price was offered a front bench seat with the Liberal Party for her support.

Warren Mundine looks set to snap up a NSW senate seat for his support.

The Coalition knew there were hard ‘Yes’ voters (not racists) and there were hard ‘No’ voters (racists) and then there was a large demographic in the middle who cared more about buying a pie than talking about politics and that’s where they secured their ‘win’.

What Australians Said To Aboriginal People When They Voted ‘NO’

This is what you agreed to when you wrote ‘No’ on the ballot paper.

I don’t blame Australians for not understanding what they were voting about. I like pies, and politics sucks; BUT, when someone runs a campaign that says, ‘Vote No, if you don’t know’ the campaigners make a mockery of our political system and of us, as voters.

If you voted ‘No’ because of that campaign, then you’ve been had by American-style politics. In fact, the Libs’ media campaign was so beautifully crafted it would make an American Presidential campaigner blush. Trump will probably want to hire them. It was a campaign full of fear and propaganda. It worked. But it comes at a cost. To all Australians. Especially to Aboriginal Australians.

The result of the referendum, and the ‘No’ campaigners’ part in its success, is yet another deeply shameful incidence in a long list of transgressions against Aboriginal people in this country since the British invaded it in 1788.

What Next?

At some point we have to come to terms with the TRUTH of history, and shirk off the misconceptions and outright lies promoted in the colonialist re-framing of our country’s history if there is to be a reconciliation with Aboriginal Australians.

Australians have done a lot of damage to the Aboriginal people of Australia. Until we educate ourselves and begin to listen to our Aboriginal brothers and sisters we will continue to do harm.

If you, as a white Australian, do not feel ashamed of Australia’s Black History, then you have not yet learnt the truth about our real history. I urge you to find out, because if you’re bed isn’t on fire from shame, you’re probably in denial. 


Get informed and help to right the wrongs of the past. Read up about Australia’s Black History and find out why it’s important to recognize Aboriginal people in Australia and why it’s important to give them a Voice in the matters that concern them. Let’s walk with our black brothers and sisters into a better future.

There’s a whole lot of stuff like this out there that we weren’t taught about in schools. It’s worth checking out.

Want to Know More About Aboriginal Culture?

If you or your children would like to know more about Aboriginal history and culture, check out Magpie Publishers’ bookstore. There you will find stories that celebrate our First Nations’ People and detail the impact of colonization on Aboriginal people, the environment, and their culture. 


Walk on Country

How about a tour? If you want to learn about a deeper time history of Ballina, why not arrange a tour of the Nyangbal people’s country? Eli Cook, and the other Nyangbal custodians, will guide you through their country, share their culture with you and tell you about their history, in person. 

We acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of Australia and honour the Elders past and present.

© Steve Trotter 2023

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