peteg's blog - noise - books - 2021 09 17 MarkMcKenna QuarterlyEssay69 MomentOfTruth

Quarterly Essay #69, Mark McKenna: Moment of Truth: History and Australia’s Future. (March 2018)

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Kindle. I've been enjoying some of Midnight Oil's The Makarrata Project from late 2020; it's an unabashed return to a sense of Oz-ness that has been missing from these strange and grim days. The best bits are when Peter Garrett isn't singing, as Bernard Zuel implicitly observes. The best bit is the second half of Change The Date when Dan Sultan takes over ("drinking down your chardonnay / how long can you just look away?"), leading to a duet (?) with Gurrumul Yunupingu in what sounds to me like a friendly and playful conversation. Unfortunately the album wears off (out) quickly.

This is Mark McKenna's response to Turnbull's flat (offhand, stonkering, rude, obnoxious) rejection of the Uluru Statement from the Heart. (I add those adjectives as it was the result of a very long consultative process that supposedly had bipartisan buy-in.) It is deeply felt but not great at explaining why any particular thing happened or is going to happen. For instance, how did the Kurnell joint projects come to be? Is that a process that can be replicated elsewhere? He seeks (as always) to link reconciliation to his pet republican project in a flimsy manner. Wishful thinking I fear. Overall it is more polemic than argument.

The best parts were some quotes he pulled, like this one from Galarrwuy Yunupingu in 2016:

The Australian people know that their success is built on the taking of the land, in making the country their own, which they did at the expense of so many languages and ceremonies and songlines — and people — now destroyed. They worry about what has been done for them and on their behalf, and they know that reconciliation requires much more than just words.

There's a lot more there than here.

Recent events suggest another path forward: Australia could simply join the USA, either as seven distinct states (minting the N.T. as a state while abandoning Canberra to the sheep) or as one. We could use the opportunity to rejuvenate our dysfunctional political structures. The Aboriginal causes would instantly benefit from the robust native title and human right protections of the US Constitution.

Followup correspondence is linked from the Text Publishing page. Megan Davis responded with another essay which mostly recapitulates McKenna's. The delta is an emotional account of the before, during and after of drafting the statement. Michael Cooney apparently leads the Australian Republican Movement now (who knew it still existed?) and shares my concerns that the politics of the republic and indigenous recognition can and should be separated lest one irreparably damage the other. Russell Marks makes some good observations about South Australia and concludes with a paragraph that succinctly and powerfully summarises the anxieties of the beneficiaries of dispossession. McKenna's response is not linked there.