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Anti-Voice campaigner says Indigenous people have “learned to complain” and have a “victim mindset"

Dechlan Brennan -

The No campaign has been hit with further accusations of racism, after unearthed comments revealed leading anti-Voice campaigner Gary Johns describing Indigenous people as a lobby group "crawling all over Canberra".

Dr Johns used his appearance on a podcast the Ex-Candidates - run by former One Nations candidates - in June, to criticise leading Yes campaigners as not have the best interest of Indigenous people at heart, and advocated for a "very, very heavy cultural intervention" for Aboriginal children.

He said Aboriginal people had "learned to complain" which encouraged a "victim mindset."

"They say 'ah now every time I complain, the white man gives me something. So therefore, I complain more, and he gives me more.'" Dr Johns said.

"Aboriginal people are saying we don't have to play your game, you're just going to give us stuff anyway, we don't have to put in the effort. I call it an entitlement, because 'we are Aboriginal.'"

The former Labor minister claimed that Aboriginal people "have turned equality against us."

"They're now obsessed with being more worthy than the rest of us and that's what the Voice is actually saying."

Dr Johns is listed as a director of Australians for Unity, an entity of the no campaign. The entity shares directors with the conservative lobby group behind the Fair Australia no campaign. The bottom of the Australians for Unity Website states: "All contributions to Australians for Unity are tax deductible and will fuel Fair Australia's campaign."

He also attacked Indigenous leaders in Canberra, including Tom Calma and Noel Pearson, saying: "You couldn't shut them up if you tried right now."

"I mean, Noel Pearson has been, you know, Top of the Pops, and Marcia Langton and Tommy Calma and all the rest of them – they haven't shut up for 30 years," he said.

Dr Johns is also the secretary of another no campaign, Recognise A Better Way, which was set up by the leading no campaign spokesperson and Bundjalung man, Nyunggai Warren Mundine.

Previously he has praised the work of church and other officials in "bringing (Indigenous) people in", referring to child removals and missions, and described colonisation as a "gift" to Aboriginal people.

Mr Mundine told ABC Insiders on the weekend he had discussed the issues with Gary Johns over a "cup of tea."

"You notice some people aren't talking anymore," he said.

"[Johns] had an opinion and I don't agree with all of his opinions."

Indigenous Australians minister, Linda Burney, told Guardian Australia that Dr Johns should be removed from his position in the no campaign.

"He regularly makes offensive and false statements about Indigenous Australians," she said.

In his book, Aboriginal Self-Determination: The Whiteman's Dream, Dr Johns stated: "What if the culture is no more than people behaving badly, a result of blighted environments, poor incentives, awful history, and an historic culture best relegated to museums and occasional ceremonies?

Author and academic Dominic Kelly, who has extensively covered right-wing groups and figures, told the National Indigenous Times that the comments of Dr Johns on the podcast were consistent with what he has seen from him previously.

"Johns has long held the view that, far from being disadvantaged, First Peoples are in fact the beneficiaries of special treatment from the state, through what he calls the 'Aboriginal preferment industry'," Dr Kelly said.

The resurfaced comments from Dr Johns have put more pressure on the no campaign to distance themselves from figures who openly denigrate Aboriginal culture and promote historical revisionism.

In August, it was revealed that Australian Jewish Association head David Adler, who sits on the advisory board of no outfit Advance Australia - closely linked with opposition spokesperson for Indigenous Australians, Jacinta Nampijinpa Price - had used racial comments towards independent senator Lidia Thorpe and former ABC host Stan Grant.

Days after Wiradjuri man Mr Grant stood down as the host of ABC's Q+A, citing racist abuse, Mr Adler posted pictures of him with the caption: "IS STAN GRANT DOING 'BLACK FACE'? If so, why?"

On a photo of Senator Thorpe, he posted: "What % Aboriginal are you? You appear quite white."

He was condemned by leading Jewish groups, who said his views did not represent them.

The Nine newspapers reported this week that another board member of Recognise a Better Way, Kerry White, had previously denied the Stolen Generations existed and said if the Indigenous Voice to parliament was successful, non-Indigenous people would have to pay to live in Australia.

Speaking at an event headlined by One Nation leader Pauline Hanson in Adelaide in June, White - herself a former One Nation candidate said: "The Stolen Generation is a mistruth."

When she herself appeared on the Ex-Candidates podcast in December, she argued that if the referendum were to pass, "Aboriginal people will be running this country, and all the white people here will be paying to live here."

"I know the way that these people work and that's what will end up happening," she claimed.

Dr Johns himself suggested children should be taken out of their homes and sent away, saying a "very, very heavy cultural intervention" was needed and that school-aged children should be sent to boarding schools.

Under assimilation laws in Australia up until 1970, Aboriginal children were systematically removed from their families, culture and communities. Many never returned.

The Children, known as the Stolen Generation, were placed in institutions and missions, as well as with non-Indigenous families. Many suffered trauma and abuse.

The Royal Commission into institutional responses to child abuse and the 1997 Bringing Them Home report have found that over many decades Indigenous people suffered terrible abuse and conditions in church-run and other institutions after being separated from their families.

In 2008, Australia officially apologised for the Stolen Generation.

Dr Johns has faced consistent calls for his resignation since July, when his proposal - first touted in his 2022 book The Burden of Culture - to have Aboriginal people undergo blood tests to prove their eligibility for welfare payments was highlighted in the media.

His comments were described as "offensive" and "outdated."

He previously told the Daily Telegraph that criticisms of his book were an "outrageous misrepresentation."


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