Letter to The Editor - In this respect the past is a closed book
To The Australian Marcia Langton correctly states ("Ancient cultural 'belonging', more than race, is the issue", 15-16/2) that "a cultural and historical view of indigenous peoples, their antiquity and their belonging, is key to getting constitutional issues right." This is true, but leads to a conclusion different from those she draws. No living Australian has been here for 65,000 years or carries within himself or herself the dignity of the whole of Aboriginal history and culture. Constitutional matters can and should only deal with present-day and future Australians, not "the Aboriginal people or peoples" (abstractions). In this respect the past is a closed book. Moreover, the law should firmly recognise that every living Australian citizen should be regarded as an Australian first, before his or her ethnicity is considered. This means that, as regards proposed constitutional reforms of any kind, citizenship should be the primary aspect considered, not ethnicity, nor the longevity of the existence here of some of one's ancestors. The current three-part definition of an Aboriginal person may have "worked well as an administrative guideline" but should not be inappropriately applied in constitutional contexts to the detriment of "non-indigenous" citizens.
Nigel Jackson, Belgrave, Vic