To what extent will a treaty be more effective than Constitutional recognition in promoting equality and empowerment for Aboriginal peoples in Australia?


Research Paper (postgraduate), 2016
13 Pages, Grade: A+

Free online reading

1
Contents
Introduction ... 2
Will Constitutional recognition or a treaty be more beneficial to Aboriginal peoples? ... 2
Why is Sovereignty important? ... 5
Who will represent Aboriginal peoples in negotiations? How will initiatives aimed at improving
lifestyle be sustainable? ... 5
CASE STUDY- The Treaty of Waitangi ... 7
How will a treaty impact health? ... 8
How will change be measurable? ... 11
Conclusion ... 11

2
Introduction
In Australia, Aboriginal peoples face serious inequalities in health, education, and
employment due to disempowerment, but a treaty would provide Aboriginal peoples with
power for change. A treaty is `a formal agreement that sets down terms and conditions by
which two or more parties can co-exist.'
1
. In the Australian Constitution, Aboriginal peoples
remain unrecognised as primary custodians of Australia. Current debate between
Government and Indigenous communities about how to effectively promote equality and
empowerment encompasses two main arguments: to have either a legislated treaty or
Constitutional amendments. The majority agree that whilst Constitutional amendments are
part of the solution, they will not increase equality and empowerment to the same extent as
a treaty would:
Give people substantive power in their own affairs, encourage and support them in
taking responsibility for themselves, offer assistance as they design tools for the
exercise of that power - and chances are good they will do remarkable things.
2
If the Australian government provided Aboriginal nations with substantive power through a
treaty, leading to self-determination, these `remarkable things' would be improved
healthcare, housing, education, employment, human rights, and higher overall wellbeing.
Further, a treaty would empower First Nations peoples of Australia and begin a process of
healing.
Will Constitutional recognition or a treaty be more beneficial to Aboriginal
peoples?
"It was a fatal error that treaties were not entered at Australia's colonisation," stated
George Arthur, Governor of Van Diemen's Land, 1832.
3
Australia is the only Commonwealth
country without a treaty with its Indigenous peoples,
4
although several draft treaties have
1
BIMA, (2014). Let's Talk Treaty. [video] Available at: https://vimeo.com/88559908 [Accessed 1 Apr. 2016].
2
Brennan, S. (2004). Could a Treaty make a Practical Difference in People's Lives? The Question of Health and
Well-being. 1st ed. [ebook] Sydney: UNSW. Available at:
http://www.gtcentre.unsw.edu.au/sites/gtcentre.unsw.edu.au/files/mdocs/Issues_Paper4.pdf [Accessed 2
Apr. 2016].
3
Gilbert, K. (1993). Aboriginal sovereignty. Canberra: Burrambinga Books.
4
Toscano, N. (2016). Victoria begins talks about Australia's first-ever treaty with Indigenous people.
[online] The Age. Available at: http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/victoria-begins-talks-about-
australias-firstever-treaty-with-indigenous-people-20160226-gn52f1.html [Accessed 27 Feb. 2016].

3
been proposed. Kevin Gilbert's comprehensive draft
5
included Aboriginal sovereignty, land
and culture rights, compensation for genocide, land management, and Aboriginal
representation in parliament
6
. In Australia a treaty would be a "negotiated settlement that
could...enable...Aboriginal self-empowerment,"
7
encouraging change and leadership within
communities and recognising Aboriginal sovereignty.
The current Australian Constitution permits racial discrimination in Section 25: "any state
could prevent people from voting because of their race"
8
and Section 51:"legislate... people
of any race...for whom it is deemed necessary to make special laws,"
9
allowing
Governments to override traditional customs because they `deem it necessary' despite
often not understanding Aboriginal culture. In the Constitution's preamble, Aboriginal
nations remain unmentioned, inferring that Australian history began in 1788 with white
settlement.
10
George Williams, a leading Australian constitutional lawyer, states: "the
constitution was drafted to deny Aboriginal people their rights and voice, even in their own
affairs."
11
Recognise, a Government organisation campaigning for the offending sections to
be amended,
12
are significant stakeholders in Aboriginal affairs, but are wary of providing
too much power to Aboriginal peoples.
13
The current Australian Constitution is undeniably a
foundation of disconnect that encourages discrimination of Aboriginal peoples. However, it
is a microcosm of a larger issue and whilst it is important to reform Sections 25 and 51, this
is only a part of the journey towards reconciliation.
5
Ibid
6
Ibid
7
Williams, G. (2015). How an Indigenous treaty would build a better foundation for Australia.
Available at: http://www.theage.com.au/comment/head-20151212-glm14u.html [Accessed 11 Mar.
2016].
8
Williams, G. (2014). Does true reconciliation require a Treaty?. 1st ed. [ebook] AUSTLII. Available at:
http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/journals/ILB/2014/1.pdf [Accessed 1 Apr. 2016].
9
Ibid
10
Ibid
11
Williams, G. (2013). Treaty with Australia's indigenous people long overdue. [online] The Sydney
Morning Herald. Available at: http://www.smh.com.au/comment/treaty-with-australias-indigenous-
people-long-overdue-20131112-2xeel.html [Accessed 13 Feb. 2016].
12
RECOGNISE. (2016). FAQs - RECOGNISE. [online] Available at:
http://www.recognise.org.au/why/faqs/ [Accessed 10 Apr. 2016].
13
Rule, L. What is a Treaty, and why do we need one? Interview. 2016.

4
Within Aboriginal communities, most believe they would not benefit from Constitutional
recognition (see Figure 1) as it is deemed `purely symbolic.'
14
Survey group IndigenousX also
revealed 87% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people prefer a treaty to create
change,
15
and Yothu Yindi's popular song `Treaty' captured these emotions: "Treaty, yeah,
treaty, now!"
16
Many Aboriginal leaders argue Constitutional recognition will not improve
living conditions. However, a proportion of the Indigenous population still support
constitutional recognition as they believe it is impossible to make change when Australia's
founding document condones racial discrimination. The Government prefers this option as it
is simpler, despite making no fundamental change.
17
Divisive debate continues to slow
negotiations as neither side is willing to compromise.
Figure 1: Survey conducted by IndigenousX about Constitutional Recognition
18
14
Ibid
15
Liddle, C. (2015). 87% of Indigenous people do not agree on recognition. You'd know if you listened
| Celeste Liddle. [online] the Guardian. Available at:
http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/jun/19/87-of-indigenous-people-do-not-agree-
on-recognition-youd-know-if-you-listened [Accessed 28 Jan. 2016].
16
Yothuyindi.com. (1996). Yothu Yindi - Homeland Movement. [online] Available at:
http://www.yothuyindi.com/music/treaty.html [Accessed 16 May 2016].
17
Ibid
18
Liddle, C. (2015). Constitutional Recognition Survey | IndigenousX. [online] IndigenousX. Available at:
http://indigenousx.com.au/constitutional-recognition-survey/ [Accessed 28 Jan. 2016].

5
Why is Sovereignty important?
Defined as `the right of authority in a people to control their territory and those in it,'
19
sovereignty encourages empowerment and `can still exist even if a people are prevented
from exercising it.'
20
In Australia, Aboriginal sovereignty remains unrecognised, but was
`never ceded.'
21
"Recognition of sovereignty is a device by which other rights can be
achieved...it is a starting point for recognition of rights and inclusion in a democratic
process,"
22
stated Larrissa Behrendt, Professor of Indigenous Research. Debate about
effectively realising Aboriginal sovereignty provoked a 2012 conference `Does Constitutional
recognition negate Aboriginal Sovereignty?'
23
George Williams spoke at the conference,
stating "...Indigenous sovereignty should be expressed and asserted through...treaties in
Australia."
24
Constitutional recognition will amend sections which discriminate against, and
do not recognise, the traditional custodians of Australia, without improving living conditions
or community control. Alternatively, signing of a treaty would restore equality and self-
determination to Aboriginal peoples, and force recognition of Aboriginal sovereignty by
acknowledging custodianship of land.
Who will represent Aboriginal peoples in negotiations? How will initiatives
aimed at improving lifestyle be sustainable?
A key element in a treaty's success will be ensuring Aboriginal peoples are fairly represented
in negotiations. Monica Morgan, Aboriginal rights campaigner, stated "the Treaty has to
come from grassroots...and people who speak for it have to be from grassroots and selected
by the mob."
25
This is emphasized by Indigenous Education leader Dr Chris Sarra: "do things
19
Mansell, M. (2003). Citizenship, Assimilation and a Treaty. Treaty. Canberra: Aboriginal Studies, p.5.
20
Ibid
21
Australians, C. (2014). Treaties. [video] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nU_H0oIQy60
[Accessed 2 Apr. 2016].
22
Brennan et al., S. (2004). Treaty ­ What's Sovereignty Got To Do With It?. 1st ed. [ebook] Sydney: UNSW.
Available at: http://www.gtcentre.unsw.edu.au/sites/gtcentre.unsw.edu.au/files/mdocs/Issues_Paper2.pdf
[Accessed 2 Apr. 2016].
23
RECOGNISE. (2013). Does Constitutional reform negate Aboriginal Sovereignty? - RECOGNISE. [online]
Available at: http://www.recognise.org.au/blogs/does-constitutional-reform-negate-aboriginal-sovereignty-2/
[Accessed 10 Apr. 2016].
24
Williams, G. (2012). DOES CONSTITUTIONAL RECOGNITION NEGATE ABORIGINAL SOVEREIGNTY?. 1st ed.
[ebook] Sydney: UNSW. Available at:
http://www.ilc.unsw.edu.au/sites/ilc.unsw.edu.au/files/George%20Williams.pdf [Accessed 10 Apr. 2016].
25
BIMA, (2014). Let's Talk Treaty. [video] Available at: https://vimeo.com/88559908 [Accessed 1 Apr. 2016].

6
with us, not for us."
26
The recurring theme of Aboriginal representation in Aboriginal affairs
must be understood by Governments if Aboriginal Nations are to be empowered and attain
equal living standards, because studies have demonstrated a direct correlation between
community control and sustainable change. The Harvard Study, conducted in North
America, was a comprehensive investigation into effective reconciliation between First
Nations and Governments in colonised lands.
27
Many key findings were extracted,
particularly that "redressing advantage over the longer term depends upon Indigenous
people having...power to make decisions that affect them."
28
A treaty would empower
Aboriginal peoples to make these decisions, paving the way for lasting results. Personal
observation in the South Australian Aboriginal community of Mimili revealed the
community-operated `Mimili Maku' Arts centre provided purpose, empowering the
community.
29
Director of Mimili Maku Arts, Mike Williams, reinforced this, stating "When
we paint...we are demonstrating our proud and strong culture."
30
The Australian Human Rights Commission released a report on `Social Determinants on
Indigenous Health.' Findings supported those in the Harvard Study, by suggesting that
`communities can be empowered by exercising control of local services.'
31
Examples of
successful community control, include the `Townsville Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
Health Service's Mums and Babies Project,' where the number of women presenting for
antenatal care increased from 40 to over 500 visits per month in one year. Further, the
number of pre-natal deaths per 1000 reduced from 56.8 prior to implementation of the
program to 18 in its first year.
32
These results demonstrate the importance of community
controlled services.
26
Gordon, M. (2015). Indigenous push for treaty gathers momentum. [online] The Sydney Morning Herald.
Available at: http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/indigenous-push-for-treaty-gathers-
momentum-20151112-gkxdvi.html [Accessed 1 Apr. 2016].
27
Williams, G. (2014). Does true reconciliation require a Treaty? 1st ed. [ebook] AUSTLII. Available at:
http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/journals/ILB/2014/1.pdf [Accessed 1 Apr. 2016].
28
Ibid
29
Dawe, G 2014, Fieldwork in Mimili, Fieldwork, Mimili, SA
30
Mimilimaku.com. (2016). [online] Available at: http://mimilimaku.com/home/mimili-art-centre [Accessed 16
May 2016].
31
Calma, T. (2007). Social determinants and the health of Indigenous peoples in Australia ­ a human rights
based approach | Australian Human Rights Commission. [online] Humanrights.gov.au. Available at:
https://www.humanrights.gov.au/news/speeches/social-determinants-and-health-indigenous-peoples-
australia-human-rights-based [Accessed 21 May 2016].
32
Calma, T. (2007). Social determinants and the health of Indigenous peoples in Australia ­ a human rights
based approach | Australian Human Rights Commission. [online] Humanrights.gov.au. Available at:

7
Constitutional amendments alone, whilst recognising Indigenous land ownership, are
unlikely to increase self-governance within communities as effectively as a treaty, as they
will still allow Governments to control most aspects of Aboriginal life.
33
However, treaties
negotiated between grassroots representatives and Governments will provide Aboriginal
peoples with purpose, resulting in self-determination, more equality in health and
empowerment in work, culture and other areas.
CASE STUDY- The Treaty of Waitangi
British settlers of New Zealand signed a Treaty with native Maori people in 1840 at Waitangi
70 years after colonisation, intending to create unity.
34
Personal observation revealed a high
level of integration of Maori peoples within society.
35
Australian treaty campaigners refer to
the Treaty of Waitangi when proposing change, as New Zealand's triumph emphasizes its
value. Despite conflicts due to mistranslation, New Zealand has been successful in
promoting equality and empowerment of Maori peoples. Currently there are seven
dedicated Maori parliamentary seats in New Zealand's federal parliament,
36
where Australia
has none.
37
There is a life expectancy difference of 7 years between Maori and non-Maori
males,
38
compared with the 21 year gap between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal males in
Australia.
39
Replicating the Treaty of Waitangi in Australia would improve equality and
empowerment, as demonstrated by higher overall wellbeing of Maori peoples.
40
In the
words of Tony Abbot, "the Treaty of Waitangi (helped)...two peoples become one nation."
41
https://www.humanrights.gov.au/news/speeches/social-determinants-and-health-indigenous-peoples-
australia-human-rights-based [Accessed 21 May 2016].
33
Ibid
34
Claudia Orange. 'Treaty of Waitangi', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, updated 7-Dec-15
URL: http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/treaty-of-waitangi
35
Dawe, G 2015, Fieldwork in Auckland, Fieldwork, Auckland, NZ
36
Electoral Commission. (2014). Mori Representation. [online] Available at:
http://www.elections.org.nz/voting-system/maori-representation [Accessed 13 May 2016].
37
Aph.gov.au. (2009). Dedicated Indigenous representation in the Australian Parliament ­ Parliament of
Australia. [online] Available at:
http://www.aph.gov.au/About_Parliament/Parliamentary_Departments/Parliamentary_Library/pubs/rp/rp08
09/09rp23#_Toc223150953 [Accessed 16 May 2016].
38
Stats.govt.nz. (n.d.). Life expectancy. [online] Available at:
http://www.stats.govt.nz/browse_for_stats/snapshots-of-nz/nz-social-indicators/Home/Health/life-
expectancy.aspx [Accessed 13 May 2016].
39
Ibid
40
Ibid
41
Ibid

8
How will a treaty impact health?
A pressing issue within Aboriginal affairs is inequality between Indigenous and non-
Indigenous health. Ranked The World's Second Most Liveable Country, Australians generally
enjoy `high living standards, affordable housing, and integrated Medicare,'
42
yet overall
wellbeing of Aboriginal peoples is worse than some developing nations.
43
An Aboriginal
woman can expect to die 10 years before her non-indigenous counterpart, and "we are
world record holders in some of the most preventable, treatable diseases,"
44
(Figure 2) The
graph highlights the life expectancy difference between men. Despite this data being
collected between 1995-97, recent results have shown little change. In fact, the gap
between both populations is widening, with an 11% increase in deaths due to cancer for
Aboriginal peoples and a reduction of 5% for non-Aboriginal citizens,
45
suggesting drastic
action is needed to improve Aboriginal welfare.
Figure 2: Age standardised death rates for selected causes, 1995-97
46
42
Gawde, M. and Ghosh, S. (2014). Top 10 Most Livable Countries in the World - List Dose. [online] List Dose.
Available at: http://listdose.com/top-10-most-livable-countries-in-the-world/ [Accessed 8 Apr. 2016].
43
Ibid
44
Ibid
45
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Performance Framework. (2014). 1st ed. [ebook] Canberra: The
Commonwealth of Australia. Available at:
https://www.dpmc.gov.au/sites/default/files/publications/Aboriginal_and_Torres_Strait_Islander_HPF_2014%
20-%20edited%2016%20June2015.pdf [Accessed 16 May 2016].
46
National Strategic Framework for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health. (2003). 1st ed. [ebook]
Canberra, pp.3-12. Available at: http://www.naccho.org.au/download/naccho-historical/nsfatsihcont.pdf
[Accessed 7 Apr. 2016].

9
However, health is not limited to physicality. `Close the Gap' advocate Lynore Geia states
"Health is crucial. Not just physical health but our whole holistic sense of health...emotional,
mental. Health is about survival."
47
A World Health Organisation (WHO) study conducted in
2003 - Social Determinants of Health: The Solid Facts - revealed "reducing...education
failure, insecurity, unemployment and improving housing standards"
48
are key to improving
overall welfare of all people. This holistic approach was summarised in the 1989 National
Aboriginal Health Strategy:
Health to Aboriginal peoples is a matter of determining all aspects of life, including
control over physical environment, dignity, community self-esteem, and justice. It is
not merely...provision of doctors, hospitals, medicines or absence of disease.
49
A recent survey revealed a common stereotype is Aboriginal alcohol abuse, with one
respondent assuming they are all `drunk and poor.'
50
Despite being an incorrect
generalisation, alcoholism is prevalent within many Aboriginal communities, and the WHO
study discovered "people turn to alcohol to numb the pain of harsh economic and social
conditions ... dependence leads to downward social mobility."
51
A treaty would aim to
reduce discrimination, thereby decreasing depression and drug-dependence and
significantly improving Indigenous health. Figure 3, below, outlines the impact of external
factors on health, signifying the importance of holistic health and overall wellbeing.
47
Oxfam Australia, (2016). Close the Gap 2016. [video] Available at:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1tZaTf21D64 [Accessed 8 Apr. 2016].
48
W
ilkinson et al, R. (2003). Social Determinants of Health: the solid facts. 2nd ed. [ebook] Denmark: World
Health Organisation Europe. Available at:
http://www.euro.who.int/__data/assets/pdf_file/0005/98438/e81384.pdf [Accessed 3 Apr. 2016].
49
Ibid
50
Survey conducted by Gemma Dawe, SA, 2016
51
Ibid

10
Figure 3: Factors impacting on Aboriginal health status- interactions of social and physiological
determinants of health.
52
Currently, the Australian Government spends 22 cents more per person on Aboriginal
healthcare than non-Aboriginal Australians,
53
yet health standards are well below those of
non-Indigenous. Whilst improving health, a treaty would have economic benefits for the
Australian government as community-initiated health facilities and funds would require less
external support and have greater success.
Overcrowding due to lack of adequate housing is an environmental factor of serious
concern. In 2011 Indigenous households were three times more likely to be overcrowded
than other households.
54
Approximately 1 in 20 experienced homelessness every night,
including children, compared to 1 in 284 for non-Indigenous people,.
55
This is unacceptable
for families and can be solved through greater self-determination. To improve Aboriginal
living standards this cycle of inequality needs to cease, for the benefit of future generations.
Some Aboriginal people argue that exclusion from Australia's founding document
significantly impacts Aboriginal health, and they estimate that Constitutional recognition will
52
Ibid
53
Ibid
54
Ibid
55
Al-Yaman, D. (2014). Indigenous home ownership on the rise, while overcrowding declines (AIHW). [online]
Aihw.gov.au. Available at: http://www.aihw.gov.au/media-release-detail/?id=60129548055 [Accessed 7 Apr.
2016].

11
improve health inequalities for Aboriginal peoples.
56
Whilst this is a possibility, amendments
to Sections 25, 51 and the preamble could be included in the terms of a treaty. The
combined impact of Constitutional recognition and a treaty would most certainly have a
positive effect on Aboriginal peoples, however Constitutional recognition alone may not
have the same impact as it would not directly improve self-determination. A treaty could
empower Indigenous citizens by allowing them to develop sustainable healthcare and
housing within communities.
Statistics show Indigenous life expectancy is far better in New Zealand, Canada and the
United States, all countries where governments entered into treaties with Indigenous
peoples.
57
The "catastrophic impact of colonisation on Indigenous health and welfare"
58
needs to be rectified within Australia to promote equality and empowerment within
Aboriginal communities, which research concludes will occur most effectively with a treaty.
How will change be measurable?
Contrasting priorities between Government and Aboriginal communities means their
assessment of a treaty's benefits will differ, as Government agendas focus on issues
including employment and education, whilst Aboriginal peoples highly value culture.
However, some factors are measurable and provide the quantifiable response required by
Government. Better health, increased employment, reduced mortality rates, improved
education outcomes and higher incomes are factors that will appease Government concerns
and improve Aboriginal welfare. A treaty will acknowledge traditional custodianship and
ignite a cultural revival, both fundamental to increasing empowerment and self-
determination. Whilst this disconnect between Government and Aboriginal communities is
problematic, the overall benefits of a treaty will support Aboriginal peoples and meet
Government expectations simultaneously, profiting both parties.
Conclusion
"Treaties are a means to empowerment and a pathway out of poor health towards real
improvements," stated Olga Havnen, Aboriginal activist.
59
Whilst there is division within
Aboriginal communities and the Australian government as to whether Constitutional
56
Interview, Alecia Mathews-Tucker. `Why do you support Constitutional Recognition?' 2015. Adelaide, SA.
57
Ibid
58
Ibid
59
Ibid

12
recognition or a treaty would most effectively achieve equality, numerous studies and
experts in Aboriginal affairs have discovered a treaty would be the best path to increased
wellbeing. A treaty in Australia would encourage self-determination leading to greater
empowerment and better health. However, it will only be successful if `grassroots'
Aboriginal representatives are involved in negotiations. "It is something that needs to be
done both to achieve reconciliation and underpin long-term prosperity of
Aboriginal...people."
60
Whilst there is no question that Constitutional amendments should
be made, a treaty is likely to be significantly more effective in promoting equality and
empowerment for Aboriginal peoples in Australia.
Words: 1,998
60
Ibid
13 of 13 pages

Details

Title
To what extent will a treaty be more effective than Constitutional recognition in promoting equality and empowerment for Aboriginal peoples in Australia?
Course
Research Project B
Grade
A+
Author
Year
2016
Pages
13
Catalog Number
V336260
ISBN (Book)
9783668267039
File size
773 KB
Language
English
Tags
Aboriginal rights, Aboriginal wellbeing, Aboriginal affairs, Treaty, Constitutional recognition, Australian treaty, Aboriginal empowerment, Aboriginal equality, Close the Gap, Aboriginal sovereignty, Sovereignty
Quote paper
Gemma Dawe (Author), 2016, To what extent will a treaty be more effective than Constitutional recognition in promoting equality and empowerment for Aboriginal peoples in Australia?, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/336260

Comments

  • No comments yet.
Read the ebook
Title: To what extent will a treaty be more effective than Constitutional recognition in promoting equality and empowerment for Aboriginal peoples in Australia?


Upload papers

Your term paper / thesis:

- Publication as eBook and book
- High royalties for the sales
- Completely free - with ISBN
- It only takes five minutes
- Every paper finds readers

Publish now - it's free