By Greg Spearritt

A sentiment that comes up repeatedly in the Voice debate is resentment at the apparent ‘privileges’ given to First Nations Australians. The proposed Voice is seen as (‘yet another’) example of “special treatment”.

Paul Kelly belled the cat on this concept some thirty years ago:

I never spoke my mother’s tongue

I never knew my name

I never learnt the songs she sung

I was raised in shame


I got special treatment

Special treatment

Very special treatment…

Growing up in the 1960s I was blissfully unaware of the special treatment that had been, as was still being, dished out to First Australians. Our forebears stole their land, their languages, their autonomy, their dignity, their children and their wages.

How is it possible for non-Indigenous Australians to feel aggrieved about a group of people whose gross mistreatment they have directly benefitted from?

Possibly many are still simply ignorant of one of the key reasons we actually are a ‘lucky’ country. Luck has little to do with it. At base, the colonial project is “despotism with theft as its final object”. 1. Yet so many of us resent the people whose land, labour and resources have helped to make us a particularly wealthy nation.

Is it ignorance? Repressed guilt? Or both?


  1. George Orwell, Burmese Days

Disclaimer: views represented in SOFiA blog posts are entirely the view of the respective authors and in no way represent an official SOFiA position. They are intended to stimulate thought, rather than present a final word on any topic.

Photo: Riotgrrll, CC BY-SA 4.0