Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Actions Speak Louder Than Words?

In developments in the long running debate on whether there should be Constitutional recognition of Australia's Indigenous Peoples, it now appears a referendum is targeted to be held in 2017.  As one commentator has noted, there is a debate within the Indigenous Peoples of Australia as to the desirability of Constitutional recognition---or whether there should be a recognition of Aboriginal sovereignty. 

One of the first steps in preparing for a referendum is a consultation with representatives of Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders to craft language that would be acceptable to them. 

And yet, with this focus on sensitivity to language, it might be something of a surprise that at the same time  it is being reported that "The parliament of Australia's Northern Territory turned down the request by an Aboriginal minister to speak in her Indigenous language." The request follows an incident in December 2015 where "Northern Territory MP Bess Price was ­chided by the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly for an interjection in her mother tongue, Warlpiri".

What value is there is Constitutional recognition versus the value placed on the use of Indigenous languages in daily life and the life of a state? One gives a sort of symbolic recognition, the other is about making space for an active exercise of an existent culture-- the official existence of which continues to be a vacuum in the Constitution. 

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