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All That Is Wrong with Nova Peris

Indigenous leader Warren Mundine says Julia Gillard should be congratulated for ''correcting a wrong within the Labor Party'' by endorsing Ms Peris to become Labor’s first indigenous representative in federal parliament.

''I have always argued they have got to correct this wrong, otherwise it was an embarrassment for the party,'' said Mr Mundine, a former Labor national president who quit the party last November partly because he was disillusioned by Labor’s treatment of indigenous Australians.

''‘We couldn’t continue going on saying that we were the party for aboriginals without having people sitting in the parliament.

''Today is an historic day, the Prime Minister needs to be congratulated for her stance, and Nova needs to be congratulated for putting her hand up and running.


No, sadly Warren Mundine, no.

Yesterday was not a proud day for Indigenous Australians, nor a proud day for any Australians, or advocate for equality. In truth, yesterday was a painful, frustrating day.

I am actually somewhat furious, but lets get the details out first. Yesterday the Prime Minister announced the Nova Peris, one time Olympian and Indigenous Australian, would be installed as the number one Labor candidate for a seat in the Northern Territory (NT). To do this, she bypassed the party election cycle and dumped a senator of fifteen years standing, Trish Crossin. In part, the decision to ditch Crossin is reported to be motivated by her backing of Rudd, and is further sweetened by the Labor Party losing their election due to what many feel as not being able to motivate the black vote in NT. This latter point will, of course, be completely and utterly fixed by putting in a token Indigenous woman.

I'm sorry, did my anger and sarcasm get ahead of me already? Well, fan-fucking-tastic, lets have it: What you see before you is the fear of every bogan red neck racist shit who thinks that racial equality means that someone is going to take away their job and give it to someone who is entirely untested, but save for their background and colour of their skin. "They took mah job!" is the catchphrase that can and will be used in this situation.

Look, equality is an important part of our world, but it is a hugely difficult thing to achieve and requires constant vigilance. It also requires that you don't cherry pick it--I see a lot of that in many different areas and it frustrates me to no end, and in this case, just deciding you want an Indigenous politician and inserting one is such a bad idea on a number of levels. For starters, it doesn't even begin to address the issues of selection, party promotion, and the culture within the Northern Territory Labor Party that has forced Gillard to play her hand so strongly. It won't now, either. What will happen is a strengthening of the divides based on race, the further ostracisms of Indigenous politicians by Non-Indigenous ones and resentment from legit Indigenous politicians who have worked to reach their positions.

Yes, you can argue that this is part of affirmative action step, and yes, affirmative action programs are a part of bringing equality forth, but they are not a mechanism that is free from criticism. Affirmative action does, unfortunately, include the result of reinforcing the racial and cultural difference that it seeks to put aside by showing that everyone is equal. For most programs, you have to cop it sweet as a necessary evil and just live with that detraction, understanding that the people who fill the rolls are totally valid for the position.

However, Nova Peris is not that.

Nova Peris is nothing more than a celebrity pick, a token black women in a room of white people.

Nova Peris does not promote Indigenous people in this roll. Instead, she creates a narrative that the only way an Indigenous person--much less a woman--is going to be given a position of power is to have friends in high places. Her selection in this fashion is nothing more than 'mates rates' and 'who you know', rather than built on any strong political background. Her position in this fashion totally invalidates her and makes her not a 'bold' choice, nor 'great' candidate, but rather a cold piece of political cunning from a party that is desperate to pull itself into a winning position for the year's election, and willing to use whatever show stopper it can.

It is a disgrace.