Posted on July 31, 2023

Marcia Langton – A Key Architect of the Voice to Parliament – Details Plans to ‘Compensate’ Aboriginal People

Brittany Chain, Daily Mail, July 30, 2023

A key architect of the Indigenous Voice to Parliament thinks Australia is obligated to return ‘stolen cultural land’ and ‘compensate’ First Nations people.

Marcia Langton has republished her ‘Welcome to Country Handbook’ with new details pertaining to the upcoming referendum.

The academic said a No vote would ‘doom’ Aboriginal Australians ‘to a permanent status as marginalised peoples’ and cited a ‘growing impatience’ over the delays in ‘righting the fundamental injustice’.

The prominent anthropologist and geographer is the latest in a string of government advisors on the ‘Yes’ side of the referendum who have publicly discussed compensation and land being returned to traditional owners, after Thomas Mayo and Teela Reid made similar representations.

‘Our predicament is known the world over, and in other such countries there has been a reckoning with the colonial past,’ she said.

‘Repatriation of stolen cultural heritage, development and aid programs, compensation, and other measures are part of the global human rights response to the legacy of imperialism and colonialism.

‘Pretending that Australia has no such obligations is a head-in-the-sand approach, politically immature and distinctly unhelpful in overcoming the problems that we have inherited.’

Professor Langton continued: ‘The impoverishment of former colonies with the centuries of extraction of human labour and local resources all taken is now recognised as mass larceny.’

She recently noted that if the referendum were to fail, many non-Indigenous Australians would ‘not be able to look [her] in the eye’ as a result of the shame.

She will not speak at conferences, and she can’t imagine there will be too many of her peers who would be willing to perform Welcome to Country ceremonies.

Two years after last publishing her Welcome to Country Handbook, Professor Langton released a new edition with Hardie Grant, edited with new and up-to-date details about the progress of the push for a referendum.

She said she is ‘counting on [her] fellow Australians’ to vote Yes, vowing that doing so will ‘end the blame game and political theatre of white guilt’.

‘The First Peoples of Australia have a genuine right to take responsibility for our own futures, by advising parliament and government on the best ways forward,’ she said.

Professor Langton hoped her book would help to deepen the public’s understanding of the past to help them ‘overcome their colonial burden’.

‘If the referendum fails, the readers of this book will inherit this unfinished business,’ she said. ‘Should this happen it will have dire consequences not just for my people but for the nation.’

Professor Langton quoted Mr Mayo, a fellow member of the Referendum Working Group.

She said: ‘The view among most Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is well expressed by delegate Thomas Mayo.’

Over the years, Mr Mayo has made controversial comments regarding reparations, rent and land rights.

A series of tweets dating back to 2018 reveal he sought an eventual treaty that would see land handed back to First Nations people.

This vision for a Voice to Parliament appears to directly contradict Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s hope for a ‘modest’ concession to assist the nation’s most vulnerable.

He listed ‘all the things we imagine when we demand’ a Voice, including ‘reparations, land back, abolishing harmful colonial institutions’.

Mr Mayo said a ‘guaranteed representative body’ was ‘needed [to]… properly pursue the rent that is owed and an abolishment of systems that harm us’.

‘A constitutionally enshrined Voice is important to establish to use the truth to support treaty negotiations.’

Mr Mayo has since told Daily Mail Australia he is now of the understanding a Voice will ‘focus on practical issues that matter to Indigenous communities such as better employment outcomes and housing’.

And Teela Reid, a lawyer, Wiradjuri woman and public speaker, also once described the proposal to change the constitution as a ‘journey with all Australians to demolish the systems that continue to oppress us’.

Ms Reid, who sits on the government’s Voice to Parliament Referendum Engagement Group, says she is not ‘radical’, despite her views.

Ms Reid has said she is ‘concerned by the conservatism of [her] profession’ and urged lawyers across Australia to support the Voice in a wide-ranging interview on YouTube.

She also called for strong activism she likened to the push for communism in the 1970s.

In newly unearthed tweets from 2019, Ms Reid said: ‘Aboriginal people built the nation and now it’s time you pay rent.’

In January this year, Ms Reid demanded ‘every Aboriginal elder in NSW should be living rent-free’.

She said such action was the ‘bare minimum this state has to offer given the displacement and dispossession’.