SCION of Rhodesian plantation owners and newly elected ‘independent’ senator David Pocock is manically eager to overturn the Howard government’s prohibition of voluntary assisted homicide in the Northern Territory, Norfolk Island and his home constituency of the ACT. More than one Labor MP intends to do that anyway but the famously unctuous Wallabies hero has his own private bill at the ready if the government doesn’t move fast enough. Oddly, neither he nor the territories minister, Kristy McBain – both allegedly committed to the Voice – has referenced the exhaustively canvassed and documented Indigenous view of euthanasia. Across the nation, it is seen as strictly forbidden. In 2019, Western Australia’s Pat Dodson lamented what he said “radically changes our understanding of life.” In Queensland, VAD laws are looked upon with horror. In the NT, 99.77% of officially surveyed Indigenous people in 1996 were strongly opposed. Surveyor Chips Mackinolty concluded that even “the very existence of the legislation poses an unacceptable risk to the health of Aboriginal Territorians.” It was, in other words, spiritually menacing.
The ‘assisted dying’ intersection is rich with eirenic potential and anthropological significance. As demonstrated by a royal commission and numerous scandals – each one as quickly buried by our self-forgiving utilitarianism as the one before – Anglophone culture has forgotten how to live with, and care for, the elderly. Given the evidence that pre-modern Aborigines could be ruthlessly cruel to the infirm and the expendable as a matter of Darwinian necessity, one exegesis of the opposition to euthanasia in their present milieux is that the taboo is a part vestige of another civilisation: ours. Was not Bishop Harris of Townsville being told how Europeans once treated the old and the dying at the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholic Council in 2020? At least in this one respect, are the Indigenous like the isolates of Éire who conserved the patrimony of antiquity after the fall of Rome? We certainly fit the bill as the Huns.
Instead of heeding these voices and curating from them a mutually healing unity of wisdom, death-obsessed whites and retro-ATSIC gravy-trainers instead lecture the governed (whose sovereignty was just trampled for two years) about ceding to them a Constitutional portion of their supposed monopoly of consent. Bear in mind too that the lecturers and the tramplers overlap, Venn as now. Historiographical folly it may be but I’m drawn to the idea that Aborigines, whose recent forebears were saved from ancient cruelties by the best of the Christian catechists, now preserve a requisite treasure of Western Civilisation – family love and care of the aged until death – within their ethics. What a gormless and hypocritical moment it is in the troubled life of 21st century Australia that the barbarians pretending to listen are the ones shouting Aborigines down.