Clare Wright’s letter in response to Bain Attwood (ABR, August 2023) should profoundly disturb and unsettle anyone in this country concerned about the survival of active, rigorous, and engaged historical scholarship.
When historians in the future come to critically assess the public debate over this year’s constitutional referendum on the Voice, they will be confronted by its highs and lows, forced to traverse a terrain of toxicity before locating the genuine substance. On both sides of the argument, the rancour, bigotry, and sloganeering have done little to advance rational discussion on a matter of great import for Australia and its fraught relationship with the Indigenous peoples. Just as wanton scaremongering on the Voice’s freedom to advise on everything from parking tickets to interest rates has pushed the debate into pitiful marginalia, so some leading Yes proponents have indulged in scathing ad hominem attacks. What does Noel Pearson think is gained by labelling Senator Jacinta Price a ‘puppet’ to ‘punch down on blackfellas’?