Jimmy Everett-Puralia Meenamatta comes from the Turbuna people of Noin the northeast midlands of Tasmania, but now lives on Cape Barren Island.
He won’t vote for Voice to Parliament because, he told ABC, he doesn’t believe it would result in meaningful change for First Nations people. Instead, he would prefer to see a treaty drawn up by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
I have worked most of my life, I have always been very busy. I’m a jack of all trades, master of none. I was a fisherman and merchant seaman and spent three years in the Australian Army Reserves.
Today I consider myself a poet, a writer and a filmmaker – a storyteller – but life wasn’t always like that.
I am an activist, but not radical: demanding the return of your land is not radical. But I have a long history of being involved in Aboriginal affairs and advocating for the interests of my people here in Tasmania, among other things.
What I think about the Voice campaign is that it is wasting money on deciding whether we will get more housing, education, health care or jobs.
But the fundamental reason we don’t have these things yet is colonialism. So, regardless of yes or no, nothing will change and we will be fighting again after the referendum.
The Australian government has made several attempts to establish representative bodies, to act on behalf of and advise the government on matters relating to First Nations Australians.
The only Prime Minister who I believe was trying to bring positive change to the First Nations mafia was Gough Whitlam. When Whitlam arrived in the 1970s, our country was in great change after the Second World War, with revolution across Australia – of whites and blacks.
But people should never believe that the Labor Government is a friend to Aboriginal people, any more than the Liberal Coalition, because that is not true. Although many Aboriginal people currently sit in Parliament, they represent their party leader before representing Aboriginal people. Lidia Thorpe is the only one with a little spark in her, she continues to make the voices of indigenous communities heard in Parliament.
I would prefer a treaty but that’s a whole other conversation
I would like to see an Aboriginal party in government that would be solely elected by Aboriginal people, but who knows when that will happen. Indigenous peoples need to write their own Constitution, write their own treaty and table it, because we never ceded our sovereignty and we should embrace it, instead of turning to the colonizers and becoming part of their system.
If the yes is obtained, I think that the establishment of the consultative body will be quite rapid. Hopefully this means the government or advisory body will listen to those of us who live in remote areas. But I’m not convinced it will do much for First Nations people.
The no vote might spark negative sentiment across Australia for a little while, but perhaps the real activists will then come forward, instead of these elected voices, to government, and make it clear what community leaders in their respective countries can advise on what really is. necessary in the country.
My preference would be for a treaty, but that’s far from it and that’s a whole other conversation. In the meantime, I’m writing an article to be published next year by Queensland University Press that challenges Australia on First Nations and Australian citizenship.
I argue that the government hasn’t really made a deal with us to accept citizenship, and that’s the perfect reason for them to come to the table and start treaty discussions. And any treaty tabled in Parliament should be written by members of the First Nations.
A healthy country means healthy people
We should first conclude a treaty with our country. The main goal should be to maintain balance and not destroy our country through mining, deforestation and poisoning our waterways. It would be great if we could return to our traditional way of managing the land and maintain balance to maintain a sustainable future for all Australians: a healthy country means healthy people.
Before the treaty, before the voice in Parliament, we need to create regional bodies so that our people can come together and make their problems known. These regional bodies should come together and form a National Assembly of First Nations Peoples which would then be a sovereign and unrestricted voice before Parliament.
Noel Pearson says a yes vote will be a good thing and if he wins we will all become a multicultural Australia. This is the assimilation agenda that is supported by people like him, Marcia Langton and even Jacinta Price and Warren Mundine.
When supporters of the official No campaign try to say that there is no permanent impact of colonization, they are talking about us all being one nation and the country being divided. But the country was divided in 1788, when the invaders arrived. It’s a rehash of everything we did in the ’80s and early ’90s.
I don’t vote, mainly because I don’t identify as an Australian citizen. I have an Aboriginal passport (issued by the Aboriginal Provisional Government), but I have to live with a dual passport to be able to get money, a job, Centrelink, the age pension, all sorts of things.
No matter who wins the referendum, we still do not have the right to make decisions for ourselves: it is non-Indigenous people who decide what type of social assistance they will give us.