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Anti-Voice campaigner condemned for "blood will have to be measured" view on Aboriginal identity

Giovanni Torre -

Calls by one prominent anti-Voice campaigner for blood tests to determine people's Aboriginality have been condemned by a leading Indigenous law expert and human rights advocate.

Dr Hannah McGlade, a Kurin Minang academic and member of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, told National Indigenous Times: "It is a great shame that the Constitutional referendum process is being used to air such horribly outdated and racist views."

"We need to have a responsible conversation about Aboriginality and Aboriginal identity," she said.

"The tripartite definition adopted since the 1980s is quite progressive compared to jurisdictions that based Indigenous identity on blood quantum like the US and Canada, stemming from colonial legislatures.

"We know that the Native Welfare era imposed blood quantum categories on Indigenous people. We've seen the native welfare files of our parents and grandparents, who were categorised as half castes and quadroons. It is appalling this claim is being made and aired across Australia in national media."

Dr McGlade noted that: "While our grandparents were classified in this way, they were denied basic rights and forced to live as second class citizens in their own country."

Gary Johns told Sky News that if the country provided people with "race-based benefits" it needed to ask First Nations people to prove their heritage, adding that people were "embarrassed to ask".

"We will lose credibility here if we don't test or otherwise prove that you are or are not an Aboriginal person," he said.

In his book The Burden of Culture, published in October last year, Mr Johns wrote: "If the current three-part test on Aboriginality is to remain then, just as Aborigines insist in native title claims, blood will have to be measured for all benefits and jobs."

In the same book, Mr Johns criticised the Bringing Them Home report on the Stolen Generations and defended the removal of Indigenous children.

"Taking children was a necessary instrument, because saving Aboriginal society was thought at the time to be a forlorn hope," he wrote.

Opponents to an enshrined Indigenous Voice in the constitution, Recognise a Better Way, list Mr Johns as a committee member.

Earlier this month, the former MP said colonialism was a "gift" to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Dr McGlade said it is important to have a robust system in place to prevent fraud and exploitation, and that Mr Johns' position was "entirely misguided".

"Aboriginal people and our communities need to have robust policies and practices in place to address the criteria of self-identification, Aboriginal descent and community recognition," she said.

"There are significant opportunities set aside at universities, in business and employment, for Aboriginal people and it's important that those opportunities are obtained by Aboriginal people and not exploited.

"Mr Johns' urging of DNA tests is entirely misguided. There is no accurate DNA testing for Aboriginal people, and Aboriginal descent, or DNA, is only one aspect of the criteria'. Descent alone is insufficient to claim Aboriginality in Australia. I was surprised to learn from my father's DNA test that I may have remote Icelandic ancestry, that certainly does not make me Icelandic."

Dr McGlade noted that a Voice to Parliament "would actually give us a solid opportunity to speak as Indigenous people on this very important issue".


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