Every once in awhile I take a look through the Australian news. I’m sure this practice will become more common as we get closer to moving but for now I just scan the headlines every few weeks. Today an article caught my attention and as I read through it, I couldn’t help but think back on the training we received last week coupled with other cross-cultural experiences.
The headline Australian PM knocks back Indigenous constitution plan was interesting in and of itself. But reading the article it became more apparent that there were certain cultural norms and expectations at work. And these cultural differences could easily be what is holding the Australian government and the Aboriginal leaders back from coming to an agreeable decision for both sides.
The article is regarding changes to the Australian constitution that would recognize Indigenous Australians and remove some race-based provisions. It cites the following as the proposed changes:
- Recognising that the continent and its islands now known as Australia were first occupied by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples
- Acknowledging the continuing relationship of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples with their traditional lands and waters
- Respecting the continuing cultures, languages and heritage of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples
Repealing the two so-called “race provisions”:
- section 25 that recognises that the states can disqualify people on the basis of their race from voting
- section 51(26) that allows laws to be made based upon a person’s race.
Reading through this article multiple times, on the surface it seems like both sides have valid points but I think that somehow their cultural values and worldview are coloring their vision and making it more difficult to see the point the other side is trying to make. The Aboriginal community wants to have their own talks and come to a consensus separately regarding the constitutional changes and amendments. The amendments directly impact their lives. However, the Prime Minister has “anxiety about a separate Indigenous process is that it jars with the notion of finally substituting ‘we’ for ‘them and us'”. Not being Aboriginal, I actually relate to the PMs point more but I really wonder what cultural norms are behind the Aboriginal wishes and if they could just be allowed their own process, if that wouldn’t make the final decision easier and more unifying in the long run. It will be interesting to see how this plays out and how long it will take for an agreement to be reached.
Note: I’m not an Australian expert. I’m not an Aboriginal expert. I’m not a political expert or even well read in this particular political instance. I’m simply commenting on what I see as glaring cultural and historical differences that are keeping these two sides at odds with each other.