Australia’s citizenship saga resurfaces ‘legacy of pain’ for Indigenous MPs | The Guardian

Interesting wrinkle to Australia’s s 44 dual citizenship prohibition for parliamentarians (some Indigenous Canadians have likely also had citizenship issues given lack of documentation):

Requiring Indigenous politicians to prove their Australian citizenship has been an upsetting and anger-inducing process that resurfaced a colonial “legacy of hurt and pain”, two federal parliamentarians have said.

Some were unable to say when or where their family members were born because the Australian government never registered the births or recognised them as citizens.

Linda Burney, a Wiradjuri woman, was not considered an Australian citizen until she was 10 years old, and in her maiden speech described her experiences of “racism and exclusion”.

Being forced to justify her place in Australia again, as the federal parliament sought clarity on everyone’s citizenship status, was “gut-wrenching”, Burney told Guardian Australia.

In an attempt to end the continuing parliamentary chaos over breaches of section 44 of the constitution, all parliamentarians have been required to lodge declarations and evidence of their citizenship. The forms request the date and place of birth for parliamentarians, their parents and their grandparents, as well as any evidence required to show any citizenships to other nations were renounced.

“I have been made to feel quite angry about what I had to go through to find out about my father and his parents,” said Burney. “The only way that we could find out anything was to go to what was left of the old Aboriginal Protection Board records, and there was a document written by my grandfather to the mission manager on Brungle reserve, requesting permission to build a home.

“To go and have to do that, to go to the old Protection Board records, to realise the best they could do was a letter requesting permission to build a roof over their heads, it really stirred up a lot of deep emotions. Some of that was just disgust and an understanding of the way our people were treated.”

Burney said she understood there had to be a “circuit breaker” in the citizenship crisis and she hoped this process would achieve it. “Somehow or other this issue needs to be dealt with, intelligently and sensitivity, because I suspect there are people – not just Aboriginal people – who are going to find out some very difficult family histories.”

The NT Labor senator Malarndirri McCarthy told Guardian Australia there were “moments of outrage” as she sat in her office trying to complete the questionnaire. “Because just a simple act of filling out this document reminded me of how far our country still has to go in recognising First Nations people in our country, and the legacy of previous policies and the impact they still have today,” she said.

“It brings up a lot of hurt, the legacy of hurt and pain, because we reflect on very real circumstances on the past that impact on the present.”

McCarthy was raised on Yanyuwa country, near Borroloola in the Gulf of Carpentaria, to an Indigenous mother and a father of Irish descent. She is a traditional owner of Yanyuwa land and uniquely has declared as much on the parliamentary registry.

“The difficulty for my maternal side of the family is that we don’t know the dates of when my grandparents were born on Yanyuwa country and Garawa country, or even the dates of my mother’s birth, although we’ve always guessed it was around 1950,” she said. “My maternal grandmother we guessed around 1930.

“I don’t know [details for] my maternal grandfather and that’s largely because statistics and birth certificates were just not part of the way of Australia and the policies of the time didn’t include us.”

McCarthy said she had no concerns about an unknown second citizenship in her background, but added the Labor party’s vetting was strict.

Other parties appeared to be more lax. Among those to have been found ineligible is Jacqui Lambie. The former Tasmanian senator is Indigenous, but her father’s Scottish heritage bestowed upon her dual citizenship, overriding her place as a First Nations Australian.

Western Australian senator and Yawuru man Pat Dodson declined to be interviewed but in a speech to farewell Lambie he decried the system which “put to one side” her Indigenous heritage. “It’s an absolute tragedy that our constitution was written by all these white folks that never bothered to consider and incorporate the First Peoples in it,” he told the Senate.

McCarthy said: “This is what the non-Indigenous men of the day, when they wrote this constitution, this is what they determined for this country.

“The question is do we want to change that?”

To change it would require a referendum. Referendums are difficult to win – something Malcolm Turnbull recently cited to justify his total rejection of an Indigenous voice to parliament.

McCarthy said constitutional recognition of First Nations people must come before any changes to section 44. “If there is a genuine approach to [the concerns of First Nations people], and if First Nations people can see and will believe that, then any steps towards changing the constitution would probably follow suit,” she said.

via Australia’s citizenship saga resurfaces ‘legacy of pain’ for Indigenous MPs | Australia news | The Guardian

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: