Australia

Government says one chance for Indigenous reform

Indigenous affairs Minister Ken Wyatt has defended the federal government’s decision to reject a voice to parliament which would enshrine first nations people in the constitution. Speaking on ABC’s Insiders for the close of NAIDOC week, Mr Wyatt said meaningful recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders would never be “resurrected” if a public vote…

Indigenous affairs Minister Ken Wyatt has defended the federal government’s decision to reject a voice to parliament which would enshrine first nations people in the constitution.

Speaking on ABC’s Insiders for the close of NAIDOC week, Mr Wyatt said meaningful recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders would never be “resurrected” if a public vote failed.

“If you fail on a question for constitutional referendum, it is never resurrected,” Mr Wyatt said.

“We only have to look at eight have been successful against 42 attempts. I don’t want this to fail.”

Mr Wyatt said following the Uluru Statement in 2017, communities were yet to agree on a singular voice which could be reflected in the constitution.

“The response from community about having local voices heard to address their issues has been the most predominant element of the work that’s been done,” Mr Wyatt said.

“People say nobody is listening to us. Not even our peak leadership comes out and looks at the issues and challenges we face and then advocate for us.”

My Wyatt is seeking to introduce a legislated body which would be able to hear voices from all indigenous Australian communities.

Shadow indigenous affairs Minister, Linda Burney said Labor accepts in full the recommendations from the Uluru Statement.

Communities following the Uluru Statement have asked for an enshrined voice in the constitution and a commission that would oversee a national process of truth telling.

“The government and the Prime Minister has the opportunity still in front of it to leave one of the most astounding legacies any Prime Minister could and I can’t understand why he is being so stubborn,” Ms Burney said.

Ms Burney also condemned the coalition for voting down a motion in the Senate to display the Aboriginal flag in the chamber.

Both ministers agreed with recent comments made by New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian to change the wording of the national anthem from “young and free” to “one and free”.

“We have to have the debate and we have to get this right because it is our National Anthem. There are some people who may not like it,” Mr Wyatt said.

Mr Burney said: “We [Australia] have in this country a remarkable story of 65,000 years. Everyone should be proud of that and that’s what anthems and that’s what flags help us do”.

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