If our first prime minister were alive today he would want the discussion around the placement of his statue to be a unifying decision.
That's the view of his great granddaughter Anne Barton on the eve of a Port Macquarie-Hastings Council meeting to vote on a petition to move the Edmund Barton statue from Town Green.
Ms Barton described her descendent as a man "concerned with honour" which drove him to help create a federated Australia.
"He was committed to making federation a local movement," she said. "He often travelled the country talking about it and to it.
"From my understanding he was appreciative of the need for a wider conversation.
"Many people have told me how he loved to listen to people. There are stories of him missing trains because he was caught up listening to people talk.
"He was really interested in people and where they were coming from.
"And that's what made him successful," she said.
"He would likely step back from the context of the passion and beliefs (of the discussion around his status) and look at this in a dispassionate way and try to reach a good outcome."
Ms Barton said Edmund was concerned with achieving a shared vision.
As part of the push for federation, Edmund Barton argued that people should have a say in the kind of society they wanted to live in and the need to unify "squabbling states", she said.
Ms Barton described Wednesday night's vote as "a moment that we have" while she was "really excited what this petition has started".
"It is a gift to the local community," she said.
One submission opposing the move has been authored by Geoff Workman.
He says a decision to move the statue is "wrong" and he cannot "see any reason why it can't stay where it is".
Mr Workman said he is the first to admit and understand what happened to Australia's indigenous population was "not fair".
He has several issues with the possibility of moving the Edmund Barton statue.
"It is located on the Town Green which has no relevance to when or where European settlement arrived, given that it (the Town Green) was not there," he said.
"Some human bones were recovered from the site in the mid-1990s and those bones were sent for testing to the University of New England.
"Where is the report on the outcome of that study? Have we confirmed whose bones they are?"
Mr Workman said he felt it was "the right thing to do" in making a submission on the topic.
Ms Barton says council should consider the kind of support that has been shown for the petition and its 4000 signatories.
"I think council needs to be really open about this matter and not have any preconceived ideas about it," she said.
"Being on the right side of history is worth considering.
"I've written to council saying that this is a great time for leadership, for constructive discussion.
"Local government has such leadership potential around getting their community to understand the many truths about a place where they live.
"We need to be clear-eyed rather than defensive with regards our history."
Ms Barton suggested a community engagement project focusing on the indigenous population and European settlement would be a good start.
Her preference in the decision-making process would be to ensure everyone has a say, particularly the traditional owners.
Flawed, but brilliant
Ms Barton says one of her family's traits is to embrace privacy and "not blow your own trumpet".
"The family has tended to be on the quiet side about this (statue debate)," she said.
Her background in social policy work gave Ms Barton some insight into how the debate may play out in the community.
"I then became very aware that I could talk about this issue from a particular position rather than from "these white men".
"My great grandfather was a real person, educated in the classic and was full of those ideas (and ideals) about western civilisation.
"To him, people of colour and women were inferior - he was a man of his time.
"We are so flawed (as humans) and also brilliant," she said.
Saying the truth
Ms Barton supports the discussion around how our history is recorded and the need to de-program ourselves.
She says the discussion about change is already happening.
"I think it is fantastic that we are coming at this from a lot of different ways," she said.
"When they first put up the Arthur Ashe statue there was huge opposition from the US community.
"But the community has shifted focus and now they are celebrating having a monument to a black tennis player.
"Nothing is ever cohesive in these ideas. It is a slow, organic process where politicians are almost forced to grapple with an idea when there is a groundswell of support.
"(Federal member for Barton) Linda Burney is fabulous, my local member is Adam Bandt, a progressive, but we do lack the politicians - such as Don Dunstan and Gough Whitlam - who really led us in so many ways.
"We need to have as many voices as possible being raised; we tend to be silent in Australia.
"As for my own family, I hope my speaking up as a Barton will help the others in my family to speak up. Certainly the younger generation are thinking and talking about it."
Ms Barton said respect was key to the discussion but she also accepted that could be difficult to overcome.
"I happily claim to be a racist. This stuff gets into your DNA and you absorb it.
"We have our legacy but we are programmed about who we are and I hope we can de-program ourselves.
"I want to start saying the truth rather than the way we've been taught."
"Learning how to be "white" is such a bad fit for humans," she said.
"It makes us mean, makes us blind, makes us selfish.
"These are not human characteristics but we are like that. And I think that's a torture. No wonder people react like they do."
Ms Barton believes there is still hope for the future.
"I would really like to say that in our hearts we are good and generous people.
"And I would like to see us act on that.
"Be generous, act with grace and dignity and give up this defensive way of our nation.
"This is a different world now from (Edmund) Barton's day.
"Be open-hearted ... and that is really hard and really challenging."
Despite Australia being an "amazing country", Ms Barton says it is "saddening" to see stories such as Rio Tinto's decision to bulldoze several 15,000 year old Indigenous rock caves.
"We are doing what we have done," she said. "This is just the latest example.
"We do this through corporations and we do this personally.
"It is great that there has been such a furious response. But this issue needs to be addressed in a systemic way.
"The atrocious thing about what Rio Tinto is doing is what they are legally entitled to do it.
"Hardly anything changed through native title - the legislation is too restrictive, while Kevin Rudd's apology was more like a confessional thing."
Read more: Aboriginal cave blast ignites reform push
Ms Barton says these traits paint us as mean, ungenerous and constrained.
"This is an amazing country, and a really rare country. It is ours and we have just turned our backs and basically trashed it.
"It is so saddening," she said.
Anne Barton wrote an article for the Indigenous Law Bulletin in 2011 entitled: Going White: Claiming a racialised identity through the White Australia Policy.
In that paper she argues that, if we as a nation are going to see constitutional change and a new future, we must accept our flawed heritage and speak up.
Go here to read the full article.
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