01 Aug 2019

Time to listen to Indigenous voices

Human rights lawyer Father Frank Brennan has urged Australians to put their faith in current Indigenous members of Parliament to find the right words for a referendum on constitutional recognition for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.

Highlighting the significance of having a minister and shadow minister for Indigenous Australians who are both Aboriginal, Fr Brennan said “at least we’ve now reached the stage where Aboriginal aspirations can be expressed in Parliament by Aboriginal people themselves”.

“There are Aboriginal voices in our Parliament regardless of what is absent from our Constitution,” he told the Jesuit Education Conference held at St Ignatius’ College in Adelaide this week.

“If we can get agreement amongst Ken Wyatt, Pat Dodson, Linda Burney, Malandirri McCarthy and Jacqui Lambie about a form of words to put to the people at a referendum on Aboriginal recognition in the Constitution, I would be happy to endorse it sight unseen,” Fr Brennan said.

“They are the ones who are not going to sell out their mob, they know how politics works and they know what’s achievable within the nation state.”

In May 2017 a gathering of 300 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people signed the Uluru Statement from the Heart calling for the Parliament to enshrine a First Nations representative body to advise on policy which affected Indigenous peoples.

Indigenous Australians minister Ken Wyatt addressed the National Press Club on Tuesday and said he wanted to find a consensus way forward on constitutional recognition and hoped to hold a referendum within three years to achieve it.

The first Indigenous person to hold the portfolio, Mr Wyatt said he would work with his Opposition counterpart Linda Burney, parliamentary colleagues from all sides and the community to find “the right set of words” to present to Australia.

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