Now is the time to sit, reflect, and grieve a lost opportunity, and to acknowledge the feelings of hurt, distress and anger generated by the national decision to reject the request for a Voice to Parliament for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Time to make sense and make meaning of this decision. There are many meanings that could be derived; that this is a racist and hateful country, that people are uncaring and unconcerned and that the failure of the coalition to support the ‘Yes’ vote was a cynical attempt to claw back ground before the next election. Perhaps there is truth in all of these but there are other meanings to be had and the meaning we choose to privilege may determine all our futures.
Disappointment and Hurt
If we think about contentious decisions made in families, we often see that the more polarised the positions the more there is disappointment and hurt for those who feel they have not been heard or valued by those who have exercised their power to decide. When we work with families whose genogram is marked by generational fracture, we see that they have solved the problem by cutting off members who do not agree. We also understand that fracture is unlikely to serve them well and so we work to either negate the power of the disconnection or seek some form of repair.
Meaning Fuels Pattern
Systems continue to replicate themselves unless information that makes a difference is apprehended. Acknowledgement of this requires an acceptance that unless there is fundamental change at a whole society level the future will look like the past. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people will continue to be marginalised. However, grasping this truth allows the possibility of a different future.
Bhiamie Williamson in The Conversation speaks of the referendum as a ‘political disaster’ but notes that ‘opportunities after a disaster lay in the rebuild, in learning and adapting, and in recognising systemic features of our society that produce vulnerabilities.’ He goes on to say that it is now time for new political strategies and passing the baton to the next generation. Further, he adds ‘With concerted effort, and sympathetic yet radical activism, October 14 may be remembered as the firestorm that tore through our nation, but from which green shoots of opportunity sprung.’ While the majority of Australians voted ‘No’ many voted ‘Yes’ and, as he says, ‘May each “Yes” vote cast at the referendum be a drop of rain that nourishes the land as it seeks to heal itself.’ This is a generous meaning that contains hope for a different future.
Bhiamie Williamson The failed referendum is a political disaster, but opportunity exists for those brave and willing to embrace it. Published: October 14, 2023, 9.19pm AEDT