In a letter written by Bess Nungarrayi Price, she discusses the impact of the proposed Voice to Parliament and why she believes it will make life even worse for Indigenous Australians. Drawing on her own family’s history and her experiences as a former chair of the Northern Territory government’s Indigenous Affairs Advisory Council, Price highlights the complexities and challenges faced by Aboriginal communities.
Price begins by recounting her father’s experiences in navigating the interaction between Indigenous people and white settlers. She explains how he witnessed the violent aftermath of an incident involving a white man being killed by one of their own and how this event shaped his perspective on the relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. Despite the violent history, Price emphasizes that her father recognized that not all white people were dangerous or bad and chose to work for them on stations.
However, Price goes on to recount how her father himself was arrested and forced into labor during World War II. She highlights the stark wage disparity between Indigenous and non-Indigenous workers and the lasting impact it had on her father’s life. Despite these challenges, Price acknowledges her father’s pride in helping build the infrastructure of Alice Springs and his commitment to maintaining their cultural identity while also embracing Christianity.
Moving forward, Price discusses the changes she has witnessed in recent times. She criticizes certain Indigenous leaders who she believes romanticize the old ways of their culture without acknowledging the negative aspects, such as violence against women, family feuds, and addiction. Price argues that blaming racism and colonization for these problems is an oversimplification and that the responsibility lies within their own culture. She expresses frustration with the “leaders” who try to silence dissenting voices like hers, claiming that they control the national debate and perpetuate a one-sided narrative.
Price then reflects on her own experiences working within the Northern Territory government. She recounts feeling ignored by the Labor government and her subsequent decision to join the Country Liberal Party in order to advocate for her community. Price highlights the animosity she has faced from the Labor Party and indigenous politicians who she believes feel entitled to dictate the opinions of Aboriginal Australians.
Additionally, Price criticizes certain Aboriginal organizations that she believes prioritize family connections and political loyalties over merit when distributing jobs and benefits. She recounts instances where her own family has been denied opportunities based on their association with her. Price argues that these practices further perpetuate inequality and hinder progress within Indigenous communities.
In conclusion, Price argues against the proposed Voice to Parliament, expressing concern that it will only reinforce the existing problems within Aboriginal communities. Instead, she advocates for a more nuanced approach that takes into account the complexities and diversity of Indigenous experiences. Price’s letter highlights the need for open and honest dialogue regarding the challenges faced by Indigenous Australians and the importance of considering different perspectives in the pursuit of positive change.