Yesterday I published an article in the Australian and on my website about how constitutional recognition is about nationhood, not race. To illustrate my point about the difference between race and nationhood I referred to some comments made by Andrew Bolt in his previous articles and blogs.
Well to help him out – and the readers – I have set out below the extracts from my Op-Ed and the extracts from Bolt’s writings on which I based them.
In the end, Bolt’s blog from yesterday simply demonstrates my point. He says we should move past race yet writes about Aboriginality through a lens of race. Constitutional recognition is not about race, but about nationhood. They are not the same thing. My nation – the Bundjalung nation - is not a race. It’s a nation. One of the oldest nations in the world, in fact. I was born on Bundjalung land and my Bundjalung ancestry goes back to time immemorial. That’s just a fact. Bolt seems to think that my Irish Grandfather somehow qualifies that. It doesn’t.
I'm also a proud Australian - which is also a great nation.
“We’ve just had another divisive debate on the proposed repeal of section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act, triggered by the sanction of Andrew Bolt for articles he wrote about Aboriginal identity. Bolt also opposes constitutional recognition. He says we should move past race yet writes about Aboriginal identity through a lens of race, talking about skin colour and physical features; whether race is detectable from someone’s appearance; and questioning whether people who “look” Swiss, German or Scottish can identify as Aboriginal. But what exactly does a German, Swiss or Scot look like?”
This was based on the following writings by Andrew Bolt (with identifying details removed):
“[She] has also worked as a professional Aborigine ever since leaving Harvard Law School, despite looking almost as German as her father, and having been raised by her white mother. She chose to be Aboriginal, as well, a member of the ‘Eualayai and Kammillaroi nations’…”
In a corrected version this reads: “… despite looking almost as German as her name…”
“… a ‘white Koori’. Her father was Swiss, and her mother only part-Aboriginal. Racially, if these things mattered, she is more Caucasian than anything else. Culturally, she’s more European. In looks, she’s Swiss.”
“… the first Aborigine to stand for [that parliament]… even though she looked as white as her Scottish mother, or some of her father’s British relatives.”
“… ‘first Aboriginal candidate’ in a winnable seat, despite looking as Aboriginal, or not, as Premier Anna Bligh.”
Then I wrote:
“Bolt has spoken about his own identity struggle as the Australian-born child of Dutch immigrants; of feeling like an outsider and of once considering himself Dutch. Now he regards himself as Australian but prefers to identify as an individual. He wishes there was no ethnicity, nationality or race. He believes we can “renounce our ethnic identity, because I have done that myself”. That’s his choice. But Bolt’s circumstances aren’t the same as those of Indigenous Australians. My ancestors didn’t immigrate to Australia a generation ago. They’ve lived here since time immemorial. Why should I renounce my Bundjalung identity?”
Bolt also claimed yesterday that he’s never argued there should be no nationality.
“I am the son of Dutch parents who came to Australia the year before I was born.
For a long time, I have felt like an outsider here, not least because my family moved around so very often.
You know how it is when you feel you don’t fit in. You look for other identities, other groups, to give you a sense of belonging, and perhaps some status.
So for a while I considered myself Dutch, and even took out a Dutch passport.
Later I realised how affected that was, and how I was borrowing a group identity rather than asserting my own. Andrew Bolt’s.
So I chose to refer to myself as Australian again, as one of the many who join in making this shared land our common home.
Yet even now I fret about how even nationality can divide us.
To be frank, I consider myself first of all an individual, and wish we could all deal with each other like that. No ethnicity. No nationality. No race. Certainly no divide that’s a mere accident of birth.
So that’s the background to the calamity that hit me yesterday.
That’s why I believe we can choose and even renounce our ethnic identity, because I have done that myself.”
After summarising Bolt’s reflections on his Dutch heritage I went on to say this:
“But more importantly, The Netherlands will continue as a nation whether Bolt identifies as Australian, Dutch, Dutch-Australian or simply as Andrew Bolt. Dutch history will be studied; Dutch culture and language will continue; Dutch arts will be celebrated. Indeed, all this will happen even if one day the majority of Dutch people have dark skin.
Constitutional recognition isn't about race. Nationhood isn’t about race. It’s about the continuation and evolution of culture through a group of people. There's no other country where Australia's traditional nations will continue and evolve.
Australia has a rich, ancient history. This continent hosts one of the youngest nations of the world and also the oldest nations of the world. All Australians can be proud of this. And I believe most Australians will embrace recognising this in our constitution. It’s that simple.”
Andrew Bolt is very free to point out if I have been unfair and very wrong. Except that I haven’t been.