“It is getting tight but we’ve set a timeline and by the end of this year I hope to be in a position to go forward.
(The) very critical and important issue of constitutional recognition needs its own oxygen and its own space.
It’s extremely important because if there is a division amongst indigenous Australians then an opportunity will be lost. We are going to have some strong opponents (to constitutional recognition).
We do not intend to diminish the Uluru statement but the referendum was about what was reasonable to most Australians “
Australians will vote on constitutional recognition of indigenous Australians by June next year at the latest, according to a timeline developed by Indigenous Australians Minister Ken Wyatt.
Mr Wyatt confirmed on Wednesday the Morrison government intended to hold a referendum by mid-2021 on the question of whether to alter the Constitution to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
Mr Wyatt told The Australian he wanted to present the required bill to the Australian parliament by the end of this year.
Once a bill to alter the Constitution has passed through both houses of parliament, a referendum must be held not less than two and no more than six months later. Asked if the referendum would be held in the first half of next year, Mr Wyatt replied: “At the latest.”
He wants to ensure the issue of constitutional recognition does not become confused with the indigenous voice to government.
Indigenous leaders Marcia Langton and Tom Calma are co-chairs of a senior advisory group that is due to propose models for the voice at a national, regional and local level by June. After consultation, Mr Wyatt intends to legislate the voice. After that, he intends to hold a referendum on constitutional recognition.
Mr Wyatt said it was important to make progress on the voice, and then to hold a referendum on constitutional recognition, well ahead of the next federal election due by September 2022.
Mr Wyatt conceded that key supporters of the Uluru Statement from the Heart reject the constitutional recognition he proposes as merely symbolism.
The landmark 2017 Uluru statement called for an indigenous voice to be constitutionally enshrined, which the Morrison government rejected.
Mr Wyatt said there was a risk Uluru backers might campaign against a “yes” campaign on the grounds the referendum does not include a question about an indigenous voice.
However, he and others see a legislated voice as pragmatic and hope that by the end of this year there will be “a tangible outcome from the voice process” that could win over Australians who are deeply disappointed by the decision not to enshrine an indigenous voice in the Constitution.
“Reconciliation Australia when they were doing their barometers, showed that there was a 10 per cent rusted-on group who will never support recognition in any form. Then you have got those who sit on the verge of that who say as long as it doesn’t advantage a particular group over another, and then we’ve got this significant group of Australians who have got an open mind and the group that I am seeing it strongest in are young Australians under the age of 35.”
Mr Wyatt said he did not intend to diminish the Uluru statement but the referendum was about what was reasonable to most Australians
“Indigenous Australians want their voices heard at all levels of Government and want to help shape the policies and programs that affect their lives.
This group will work on options to have Indigenous voices heard on the national stage and take a model to Indigenous leaders, communities and stakeholders around the country to refine.
They will complement the work of the soon to be announced Local & Regional Co-Design Group to bring about real and lasting change for not just Indigenous Australians, but for our entire nation.”
The journey towards an Indigenous voice has taken another step today with the Minister for Indigenous Australians, the Hon Ken Wyatt AM, MP, announcing the membership of the National Co-design Group.
The Group will be co-chaired by senior Indigenous leader Dr Donna Odegaard AM who will be joined by 15 members to develop models for a national voice to government.
The National Co-design Group will also be co-chaired by a senior official from the National Indigenous Australians Agency to coordinate intersections with existing work and ensure any proposed models will work within established structures.
The group will be assisted by the Senior Advisory Group, co-chaired by Professor Dr Marcia Langton AM and Professor Tom Calma AO, who will continue to advise and guide the process and keep it moving forward.
See Part 2 below for details of the Senior Advisory Group
“Dr Odegaard is a welcome addition to this process and brings extensive experience in both the private and public sectors as well as a valuable network and a lifelong commitment to campaigning for the benefit of Indigenous people to advance this work,” Minister Wyatt said.
Co-Chair Dr Odegaard said, “we have an unprecedented opportunity through the formation of the Morrison Government’s Co-Design process to bring together the many voices of our people to express who we are, what we want, what we need and the direction we choose for the future for the benefit of all our people and the Nation”.
“We cannot expect to succeed in changing our future as Indigenous Australians if we do not bring each other along. Working together towards the same goal, within the same framework that we establish, gives us greater chance of success but we must expect hard work, determination and dedication.”
“We can do it, we just have to be genuinely committed. I have been committed to this for most of my life and I’m certain most of us are”.
The full membership of the National Co-Design Group is:
A Senior Advisory Group will assist, guide and oversee the co-design process for both a national voice and options to enhance local and regional decision making.
Members of the Senior Advisory Group have been appointed by Minister for Indigenous Australians, the Hon Ken Wyatt AM MP, with the advice and input of the Group co-chairs, Professor Dr Marcia Langton AM and Professor Tom Calma AO.
Professor Dr Langton is a previous member of the Expert Panel on Constitutional Recognition of Indigenous Australians (2012) and has been appointed as the first Associate Provost at the University of Melbourne.
Professor Calma is the Chancellor of the University of Canberra and has previously served as the Race Discrimination Commissioner and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner.
The Senior Advisory Group will help establish the two co-design groups who will develop the models to be tested.
“I try to see and understand other points of view,”
There is danger in just always consulting people with the same views … You might not agree with them but their views might represent an entire group of people and if that is the case you have to hear them.
It’s a very complex task that we have. It’s got to be recognised that it’s not simple and there are multiple layers to this. What we have got to do is look at mechanisms that are going to work and are going to have some longevity.
I can say with confidence that the majority of Australians want to know more about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and they have a greater respect for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history and culture. “
Tom Calma was a crucial voice in the volatile days after the Cronulla race riots, through the Northern Territory intervention and during the tumultuous demise of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission.
Calma, an Aboriginal elder from the Kungarakan and Iwaidja tribal groups in the Northern Territory, knows there is not much time.
He is co-chairman of a 19-member senior advisory group that has until October next year to present Indigenous Australians Minister Ken Wyatt with a new way forward in indigenous affairs. Wyatt’s advisory group met last month for the first time. The second meeting is in February, when work begins with two new co-design groups
He is working side by side with distinguished indigenous academic Marcia Langton. The first associate provost at the University of Melbourne also has been a formidable advocate on almost every major issue affecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people since the 1970s, from land rights and deaths in custody to violence against women and children.
A member of the Gillard government’s Expert Panel on Constitutional Recognition of Indigenous Australians, Langton has clear thoughts about what she considers a broken federal system that fails the most vulnerable indigenous people. “We are consistently excluded, government after government, from our citizenship entitlements,” she says. “Plain and simple citizenship entitlements.”
Langton cites indigenous communities where residents cannot safely drink the water. At Buttah Windee, 760km northeast of Perth, residents sold art and crowd-funded last year to fix water found to contain more than twice the safe level of uranium.
“This is why we have these intransigent gaps,” Langton says. “We have this recurring problem of our federal system being unable to deliver citizenship entitlements to Aboriginal citizens. It is a separate problem from constitutional recognition.”
States refusing to pay
States have to do their part, Langton argues. “It’s not about (the states) doing more,” she adds. “The problem is they have always done less than they should do.
“They have taken the view, contrary to our Constitution, that they don’t have to provide any services to indigenous people and they have flicked it to the commonwealth. Aboriginal people are the victims in this endless political football game.”
Langton, a descendant of the Yiman and Bidjara nations of Queensland, says the “core issue” dates back to 1901.
“The commonwealth has ended up paying for what the states should have been paying for all along,” she says. “You end up with the states refusing to pay for these responsibilities that they are constitutionally required to fund, so they under-invest in indigenous education, indigenous housing.
“It goes right back to the colonial times when the writers of the Constitution were trying to invent the commonwealth and come up with this arrangement that enabled NSW and Victoria — the two states with the biggest white populations — to commandeer most of the taxes.
“And the way that they did that was by making it unconstitutional to count Aboriginal people because the remaining Aboriginal populations were in the states such as Queensland, NT and Western Australia.
“We still have that problem from Federation of the states trying to avoid using taxes collected by the commonwealth being distributed to services intended for Aboriginal people.”
Calma, Langton and the rest of the advisory group in February will meet the members of two new groups appointed to help them figure out how the multiple layers of the voice can work, from remote communities and small towns to Canberra.
A local voice
It will be the job of one of those groups to advise how to give a voice to indigenous people at a local and regional level. The other will focus on national representation.
Already, Langton and Calma agree that the multi-layered structure that becomes the voice should work with, not against, existing indigenous organisations that function well. And they understand that indigenous people favour elected representatives.
The voice is one of three key reforms set out in the 2017 Uluru Statement from the Heart. That document was the culmination of 13 dialogues with indigenous people around Australia and it called for voice, treaty, truth.
It was the end of a process that many consider was started in 2007 when John Howard, the prime minister at the time, promised a referendum seeking to amend the Constitution to “recognise the special status of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders as the first peoples of our nation”.
He lost office soon after but the Expert Panel on Constitutional Recognition of Indigenous Australians led to the popular Recognise campaign. In 2015, prime minister Malcolm Turnbull and opposition leader Bill Shorten established the Referendum Council to ask the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community about constitutional recognition.
After consultations with 1200 indigenous people, the answer came in the form of the Uluru statement.
It was not exactly what the government wanted to hear. There were grumbles — some quiet and some not so quiet — that the Referendum Council had wandered outside its brief. There, in black and white, was a formal call for a constitutionally enshrined voice to parliament.
Turnbull quickly rejected this because, he said, it would become a third chamber of parliament and “neither desirable nor capable of winning acceptance at referendum”.
But there was significant support, including from some inside government. Mining giants BHP and Rio Tinto got on board. Woolworths — Australia’s biggest employer — and two former High Court chief justices backed the Uluru statement.
On Australia Day this year, Wyatt — who was then indigenous health minister — wore a T-shirt printed with the words “We support the Uluru Statement” at a celebration of indigenous music in Perth’s Supreme Court gardens. The mission-born Noongar man posed, smiling, for a photo with Fraser government indigenous affairs minister Fred Chaney and their friend David Collard, a Noongar man.
Wyatt’s show of support for Uluru might have been considered defiant — even provocative — except that he was widely believed to be on his way out of politics. He had told journalists he would like to be the indigenous affairs minister if the Coalition was returned at the May election and if he held his very marginal seat. This declaration was met with polite silence because very few believed either of those things was likely.
But the Coalition won. And Wyatt, who had worked hard in his electorate despite his responsibilities in the portfolios of aged care and indigenous health, did better than cling on to his key seat of Hasluck. He was returned with a 3.3 per cent swing towards him and within weeks he was Australia’s first indigenous minister for indigenous affairs. He changed the job title to Minister for Indigenous Australians.
Wyatt must have felt the weight of expectation immediately. He was cheered when he announced that the Morrison government had committed to hold a referendum on constitutional recognition of indigenous Australians in this term of government. He was jeered when it became clear the Morrison government had no intention of including a second question about whether the voice should be in the Constitution too.
Wyatt has said he is being practical about what is likely to succeed and what is not. Repeatedly, he has stressed that Australians are conservative when it comes to changing the nation’s “birth certificate”. Of the 88 nationwide referendums held since Federation, only eight have succeeded.
“Our challenge now is finding a way forward that will result in the majority of Australians, in the majority of states, overwhelmingly supporting constitutional recognition. We must be pragmatic,” he said in August.
So what becomes of the voice? The Morrison government clearly still wants one, just not in the Constitution. It has committed $7.3m to what Wyatt calls a “co-design” process.
Wyatt’s handpicked senior advisory group includes some of the most recognisable names in indigenous affairs — Cape York leader Noel Pearson, Gumatj clan leader Galarrwuy Yunupingu, Yawuru leader Peter Yu from the Kimberley and current and former social justice commissioners June Oscar and Mick Gooda.
Not all appointments to the group were expected and not everyone is on the friendliest of terms. Chris Kenny, Sky News broadcaster and columnist for The Australian, was surprised and pleased to be invited.
He has written that the description of the voice as a “third chamber” has been particularly damaging and was never a justifiable way to describe an advisory body. In that sense, Kenny is in agreement with many of his fellow advisory group members. Group members whose politics do not align are committed to co-designing the voice, The Australian has been told.
Langton and Calma believe the group can work well together.
Langton has strong ideas, but she also stresses she does not want to be prescriptive or rule anything out because others on the group may have different ideas.
“A great deal of damage can be caused to indigenous people if we don’t get this right,” Langton says.
Calma is not apprehensive about encountering opposing views. He describes it as “an opportunity to bring them onside or modify your own views maybe”.
“You look at what we have built with Reconciliation Australia as an example,” he said.
“The more people become informed, the more they understand the issues, the more likely they are to come on board.”
“I can say with confidence that the majority of Australians want to know more about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and they have a greater respect for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history and culture.”
Wyatt has previously said the voice should not be a resurrection of ATSIC, the representative body killed off by the Howard government in 2005 after a corruption scandal at the top of the organisation.
Langton agrees ATSIC was flawed, but not for the reasons most people might think. “There is a lot of resistance to anything that looks or smells like ATSIC,” she says. “There is a misinformed view. It’s a shame that this still persists 14 years after the demise of ATSIC.
“The problem of the alleged corruption of two commissioners that the then prime minister made so much of was not the problem … The problem was ATSIC did not do the job that it was intended to do from the beginning because there were flaws in its design and its implementation.
“It was an early experiment. Back then there were high hopes ATSIC would be the answer so there was a great deal of enthusiasm, and rightly so, and it deserved a better chance than it got. I really believe that.”
Langton has not given up hope that, once defined, the voice could still be constitutionally enshrined. Asked if she felt other Australians would want that too, she says: “I do. If they understand the problem and it’s put to them in a way that makes sense to them, yes.”
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“Over the past few weeks I’ve travelled to Queensland and the Northern Territory to listen to Indigenous Australians – I am committed to being the minister for all Indigenous Australians, and want to make sure that all of their voices can be heard loud and clear,”
The best outcomes are achieved when Indigenous Australians are at the centre of decision making.
We know that for too long decision making treated the symptoms rather than the cause.”
Mr Wyatt said when launching the consultation process he wanted a group of individuals “to have the rigorous discussions” The Morrison government has committed $7.3 million for the process.
“I would like to get the opportunity to establish the bodies and the process and look at all the models and how they might work, and then at a future time look at – and this is the government’s role – to look at constitutional enshrinement or whatever,”Calma told the Guardian late last month
Both Calma and Langton support constitutionally enshrining the voice to parliament, but have said they are willing to work with the process to see what can be achieved.
” CEO of National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO), Pat Turner AM will be instrumental in the discussions and has previously said the long-term solution of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander self-determination requires a strong commitment to the Uluru Statement from the Heart. “
The Minister for Indigenous Australians has announced a list of twenty names that will become members of the Senior Advisory Group that will charged with tasked with guiding the Co-Design process towards developing options for an Indigenous voice to government.
The list includes Uluru Statement from the Heart Advocate, Noel Pearson, National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) CEO, Pat Turner, and the first international Indigenous netballer, Marcia Ella-Duncan.
Last week, the Minister for Indigenous Australians, Ken Wyatt, announced he would be creating an elite committee that would oversee a co-design process to work towards realising an Indigenous voice to government.
The top committee will be responsible for developing two lower consultation groups at a local and regional, and national level to assist in putting forward models for consideration.
Indigenous Academics Professor Tom Calma and Professor Marcia Langton have been named co-chairs of the Senior Advisory Group and will oversee a committee made up of both Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.
Professor Tom Calma AO
Professor Dr Marcia Langton AM
Professor Fr Frank Brennan SJ AO
Professor Peter Buckskin PSM
Ms Josephine Cashman
Ms Marcia Ella-Duncan OAM
Ms Joanne Farrell
Mr Mick Gooda
Mr Chris Kenny
Cr Vonda Malone
Ms June Oscar AO
Ms Alison Page
Mr Noel Pearson
Mr Benson Saulo
Ms Pat Turner AM
Professor Maggie Walter
Mr Tony Wurramarrba
Mr Peter Yu
Dr Galarrwuy Yunupingu AM
The first meeting of the Senior Advisory Group will be held next Wednesday 13 November at Old Parliament House.
As the group prepares to kick off 12 months of consultations, there are some notable inclusions and absences.
Many prominent Indigenous Rights advocates are wary of the co-design process, saying the only meaningful form of recognition is through a constitutionally enshrined advisory body, truth-telling process and Makarratta commission, as called for in the Uluru Statement from the Heart.
CEO of National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO), Pat Turner AM will be instrumental in the discussions and has previously said the long-term solution of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander self-determination requires a strong commitment to the Uluru Statement from the Heart.
Lawyer and activist, Noel Pearson, has been selected for the group, following on from his role in the Expert Panel on Constitutional Recognition of Indigenous Australians and the Referendum Council.
He is one of numerous former panel members to be part of the next consultation process.
Other prominent names in the recognition conversation however have been left out, including Professor Megan Davis, a former member of the Referendum Council, and Thomas Mayor, a vocal advocate of the Uluru Statement from the Heart.
Minister Wyatt has previously described outspoken advocates of the Uluru Statement as ‘influencers’, and claimed he preferred to listen to “grassroots” Indigenous voices.
His list includes representatives from across the country.
Former Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, Mick Gooda and current Social Justice Commissioner, June Oscar are also part of the group.
Representing the next generation will be Benson Saulo, the first Indigenous person to be appointed to the Australian Youth Representative to the United Nations and 2014 NAIDOC Youth of the Year.
Sky News political commentator, Chris Kenny was also appointed to the committee.
Members from remote communities include Eastern Arnhem Land leader, Dr Galarrwuy Yunupingu AM and Yawuru man from Broome, Peter Yu.
Mr Wyatt said the group will ensure that all Indigenous people are heard.
“It will be a historic occasion that will mark a shift in the way government and Indigenous Australians work in partnership to shift the pendulum and advance positive outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples,” he said.
The Morrison government will today kick off a co-design process with Indigenous people on the voice to parliament, with the new phase to be led by the prominent Indigenous leaders Tom Calma and Marcia Langton.
The minister for Indigenous Australians, Ken Wyatt, says the government intends to convene a senior advisory group, co-chaired by Calma and Langton, to “ensure that Indigenous Australians are heard at all levels of government – local, state and federal”.
Ahead of Wednesday’s announcement of next steps by Wyatt, the Central Land Council also flatly rejected the government’s proposal to legislate the voice. Delegates met near Uluru on Tuesday and passed a resolution opposing symbolic recognition. “We want to be part of designing the voice to parliament,” the CLC resolution said. “We demand that it be protected in the constitution.”
The chair of the CLC, Sammy Wilson, said the Morrison government would struggle to “win over Aboriginal people in the heart of the nation for its plans” because “the abolition of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission is still fresh in the minds of our members”.
Wyatt said it was time that all levels of government took steps to empower both individuals and communities “and work in partnership to develop practical and long lasting programmes and policies that both address the needs of Indigenous Australians and ensure that Indigenous voices are heard as equally as any other Australian voice”.
The government envisages a two-step co-design process. Phase one will see two groups, a local and regional co-design group and a national co-design group, develop models “to improve local and regional decision-making and a national voice”. Phase two will involve consultation and engagement to refine models with Indigenous leaders, communities and other stakeholders.
With Wyatt’s announcement of the co-design process imminent, the shadow minister for Indigenous Australians, Linda Burney, told Guardian Australia last week Labor would persist with trying to land a bipartisan position on the voice to parliament and constitutional recognition even if the Coalition refuses in the first instance to enshrine the voice in Australia’s founding document.
Labor supports the position outlined in the Uluru statement, not the version the government has flagged. But Burney speculated that Scott Morrison might eventually offer a two-stage process where “perhaps he would look at enshrinement down the track”.
However, government conservatives have already made it very clear they will not cop constitutional enshrinement of a First Nations voice.
The Liberal MP Craig Kelly told Guardian Australia when Wyatt put the voice on the agenda during Naidoc week that setting up separate structures, even if the representative model was legislated rather than constitutionally enshrined, risked creating “a reverse form of what South Africa was a few years ago”.
Rightwing thinktanks like the Institute of Public Affairs are also opposed on the same rationale as conservatives like Kelly.
From Ministers press Release
“It’s time that all governments took better steps to empower individuals and communities, and work in partnership to develop practical and long lasting programmes and policies that both address the needs of Indigenous Australians and ensure that Indigenous voices are heard as equally as any other Australian voice.”
The Senior Advisory Group will be made up of up to 20 leaders and experts from across the country, drawing on a range of skills and experience. Separate regional and national co-design groups will also be established to develop models to enhance local/regional decision-making and a national voice to governments to test across the country.
Professor Calma AO is the Chancellor of the University of Canberra and has previously served as the Race Discrimination Commissioner and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner.
Professor Langton AM is a previous member of the Expert Panel on Constitutional Recognition of Indigenous Australians (2012) and has been appointed as the first Associate Provost at the University of Melbourne.
The Morrison Government has committed $7.3 million for the co-design process.
” Ruth Henning, Diana Travis, and Alfred Neal were awarded the medal of the order of Australia (OAM) on Saturday for their service to their communities and work on the 1967 referendum.
Aunty Dulcie Flower, who was granted the OAM in 1992, was made a member of the order of Australia (AM) for her work on the referendum, her role in the establishment of the Aboriginal Medical Service in Redfern, and her work as a nurse.
Campaigners mark the 50th anniversary of the 1967 referendum on 24 May 2017, including Alfred Neal, left, and Dulcie Flower, second right, who have both been recognised in the 2019 Australia Day honours. Photograph: Mike Bowers for the Guardian
On the day of the 1967 referendum, Ruth Hennings was handing out “vote yes” flyers at a local school in Cairns.
It was the first sign she had that the campaign to ensure Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were included in the census, and to give the federal government power to make laws specifically for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, had won the support of a majority of Australian citizens.
“Nearly everyone who was there, they all said good luck and hoped everything would turn out good,” Hennings said. “So they gave me a good feeling of ‘it will change’.”
When the votes were counted, that feeling was confirmed: 91% of Australians voted yes.
The next step, Hennings said, was a plan to ensure that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples were recognised in the constitution as the First Peoples of Australia.
Hennings is 85 now, a celebrated elder. On Saturday she was one of four Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people honoured for their role in the 1967 referendum, and for a lifetime of other community work.
She was a founding member of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advancement League in Cairns, which began in 1958, and attended meetings while working as a cleaner around the town for 15 shillings a day.
She told Guardian Australia constitutional recognition was still badly needed.
“We really need to get a body together where we can talk in one voice,” she said. “All of these things have been happening, money is being thrown around, and there’s no result … the main thing is getting that constitution right and making sure that we are all one people, we are all one Australia.”
Travis was just 19 when her grandfather Sir Douglas Nicholls, one of the most revered figures in Victoria, drove her to Canberra to take part in the referendum alongside her heroes: Charlie Perkins, Chicka Dixon, Oodgeroo Noonuccal, and Faith Bandler.
“They were all wonderful leaders, wonderful workers, focused and aware, so I was just in my joy being there, mingling and being amongst them all in Canberra,” she said.
Travis is now involved in native title work as a Dja Dja Wurrung claimant and a member of the Dhuudora native title group, and is an active participant in the Victorian treaty process.
“It may be a different time now but I still believe that there’s good people out there,” Travis said. “Some of them may not understand, but I just say: listen please, listen to us, talk to us. We’re not targeting you, it’s all about the government.”
She said she was in “two or three minds” about accepting the Australia Day honour, both because she does not support the celebration of Australia Day on 26 January – she will spend the morning in protest in Melbourne, as she does every year – and because she was not sure she had done enough to earn it.
Both Hennings and Travis said the singular focus and united purpose behind the 1967 referendum campaign was absent from modern reform debates.
“At that time we all had that one goal,” Henning said. “We all knew what we wanted, we were focused and willing and happy and we had FCAATSI (Federal Council for the Advancement of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders) … But today there’s nothing.”
‘ NACCHO’s [National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation] conference was a great opportunity to engage directly with members and workforce in the Aboriginal community controlled health sector, and to share the important work the RACGP is doing to support the growth of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander general practice workforce,’
Associate Professor Peter O’Mara see Part 1 Below
‘ The RACGP strongly supports the recommendations in the Uluru statement as a way to make real progress to close the gap in health inequality,
‘The Uluru Statement encourages a stronger voice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, who are the best placed to make decisions about what is important to them and how to make the changes needed to make a difference.’
The RACGP is committed to improving the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. It is one of our greatest priorities,’
President Dr Harry Nespolon see Part 2 Below
‘Racism is a major barrier for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in accessing quality and appropriate healthcare.
The reality for many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is that they are sometimes treated differently in healthcare settings, and as a result, their health outcomes are poorer than for other Australians.’
That is why our revised position statement considers the effects of racism on both patients and workforce, as well as the effects of systemic racism through our institutions.’
Chair of the RACGP Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Associate Professor Peter O’Mara said that racism was a major contributor to poor social and emotional wellbeing . See part 3 below
Part 1 RACGP at #NACCHOagm2018
The 2018 NACCHO member’s conference ran from 31 October – 2 November. Its theme for this year is ‘Investing in what works – Aboriginal community controlled health’. Keynote speakers included Minister for Indigenous Health, Ken Wyatt, NACCHO Chairman John Singer and Co-Director of the University of British Columbia’s Northern Medical Program, Professor Nadine Caron.
Associate Professor O’Mara discussed how the RACGP is helping to meet a key goal – to increase the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander workforce in the health sector – that is enshrined in the partnership agreement between the Federal Government, the Council of Medical Colleges of Australia (CPMC), the Aboriginal Indigenous Doctor’s Association (AIDA) and NACCHO, to improve the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
‘The RACGP has focused both on strengthening opportunities for GPs to work sustainably in the sector, and to provide support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to successfully navigate education and training pathways to becoming a GP,’ Associate Professor O’Mara said.
Key RACGP initiatives include annual awards for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, early career doctors and organisations working in the community sector, and advocacy work for improvements in key programs such as the Australian General Practice Training Salary Support Programme, which provides ACCHOs with financial support for general practice registrars.
Associate Professor O’Mara’s participation in the conference also underlines the strong relationship between NACCHO and the RACGP, formalised in a 2014 Memorandum of Understanding. This relationship has resulted in much fruitful work and the development of key resources in the field of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health.
‘The RACGP has enjoyed a productive partnership with NACCHO over many years, which has resulted in important collaborations, such as the National Guide [to a preventive health assessment for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people], and our current joint project to improve the quality of healthcare delivered to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples,’ Associate Professor O’Mara said.
NACCHO CEO, Pat Turner, Former NACCHO Chair, John Singer, and Chair of RACGP Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Associate Professor Peter O’Mara at the launch of the National Guide earlier this year
Part 2 The RACGP supports developing the Uluru model so that it can be put to the broader community for agreement.
The ‘Uluru statement from the heart’ calls for an independent voice enshrined in the Australian Constitution, and a Makarrata Commission to supervise agreement-making and truth-telling with governments.
The statement is supported by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities across Australia, and has been endorsed by the RACGP.
The Committee is due to present its final report by the end of this month.
‘The RACGP strongly supports the recommendations in the Uluru statement as a way to make real progress to close the gap in health inequality,’ Dr Nespolon said.
‘The Uluru Statement encourages a stronger voice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, who are the best placed to make decisions about what is important to them and how to make the changes needed to make a difference.’
The RACGP endorsed the ‘Uluru statement from the heart’ during NAIDOC week.
According to Dr Anita Watts, an Aboriginal GP, academic and member of the RACGP Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health board, the Uluru statement and constitutional recognition are vital to the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
‘Without recognition, there cannot be self-determination for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples,’ Dr Watts told newsGP earlier this year.
‘Health outcomes are inextricably linked to self-determination. There is overwhelming evidence to support improvement in health outcomes when Indigenous peoples take greater control over their health.’
RACGP President Dr Harry Nespolon said the revised position statement sent a clear message.
‘The RACGP wants to send the message that racism is unacceptable and harmful, not only for our patients, but also to the doctors, doctors in-training and staff members in our practices and health services,’ he said.
The RACGP’s updated position statement focuses on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, but the statement has wider applicability across Australia’s diverse patients and healthcare professionals.
‘Challenging institutional racism requires a systemic response … Action on institutional racism requires adapting approaches, attitudes and behaviours through up-skilling staff, reviewing policies, procedures and systems,’ the statement reads.
Racism also hurts Australia’s diverse health professional workforce.
‘Acts of racism and discrimination negatively impact the development of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander medical workforce. Results from [the Australian Indigenous Doctors’ Association] 2016 member survey found that more than 60% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander medical student, doctor and specialist members had experienced racism and/or bullying every day, or at least once a week,’ the statement reads.
• a zero tolerance approach to racism
• that every practice provide respectful and culturally appropriate care to all patients
• GPs, registrars, health professionals, practice staff and medical students are supported to address any experience of racism
• that members are aware of, and advocate for patients who are affected by institutional racism
Chair of the RACGP Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Associate Professor Peter O’Mara said that racism was a major contributor to poor social and emotional wellbeing.
‘Racism is a major barrier for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in accessing quality and appropriate healthcare,’ Associate Professor O’Mara said.
‘The reality for many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is that they are sometimes treated differently in healthcare settings, and as a result, their health outcomes are poorer than for other Australians.’
‘That is why our revised position statement considers the effects of racism on both patients and workforce, as well as the effects of systemic racism through our institutions.’
Associate Professor O’Mara said GPs were well placed to show leadership in addressing racism, discrimination and bias.
‘In challenging racism, practice teams will be able to provide more culturally responsive healthcare for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and improve care for all patients,’ he said.
The RACGP is a supporter of the Australian Government’s Racism. It Stops With Me campaign, which encourages people to respond to prejudice and discrimination in their neighbourhoods, schools, universities, clubs, and workplaces.
The RACGP will next year roll out its Practice Experience Program, designed to boost support to often-isolated non-vocationally registered doctors, many of whom are international medical graduates, as they work towards Fellowship.
Treaty Score board Image above from Kyam Maher MLC
Polling commissioned by the Australia Institute, of 1417 people, found there was 51 per cent support for a treaty and 55 per cent backed a truth telling commission.
There was 46 per cent support for enshrining an indigenous voice in the constitution and 29 per cent of those surveyed opposed the move, the rest were unsure
” The Northern Territory’s four Land Councils and the Northern Territory Government have today signed an historic Memorandum of Understanding (the “Barunga Agreement”), paving the way for consultations to begin with Aboriginal people about a Treaty.
A joint meeting of the four Land Councils at Barunga this week voted to empower their Chairmen to sign the MOU “
Combined Land Councils and the Northern Territory Government Prees Release see Part 1 Below
” And we also need to make clear that if we can establish a Voice for our first Australians – the decisions made about them are made with them and by them.
This is not a radical concept. It is nothing less than we should expect in any other circumstances.
We should not be afraid either, of the using our voice and the voice of first Australians to talk about treaties and agreement-making between our first Australians and levels of government within Australia.
I believe that Australians have the goodwill to reconcile this country. What they don’t have is the leadership in this country to drive proper and meaningful reconciliation.”
Leader of the Opposition Bill Shortensee full speech Part 2 below
Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion said it was “irresponsible” for supporters of the indigenous voice concept to leave it open and undefined.
He said it was his personal opinion that it would be more effective to have indigenous people having direct influence and power through the office of minister for indigenous affairs.
“Whether or not you can run my job by a committee, well it hasn’t been done before,” Senator Scullion said.
“Don’t just get on the voice like it’s a life ring, it’s the only thing we’ve got, stick our head in it, start paddling, hope there’s no sharks.”
From the Australian June 11Indigenous deride Scullion for his offer: ‘Take my job’
“The proposal to replace a minister of the crown with a group of unelected indigenous leaders is far more radical than what the Uluru reform calls for, a voice to the parliament .It suggests a lack of understanding of how cabinet government works.”
Aboriginal activist and constitutional law professor Megan Davis was highly critical of Senator Scullion’s idea see part 3 below
“What does the Victorian bill say?
If passed in the upper house, it will legislate a process for establishing a state Aboriginal representative body and a treaty, or treaties.
The bill will also require the Victorian government to provide annual updates on progress.
“It is about the recognition of us as the first people of this country,” said Victorian Treaty Advancement Commissioner Jill Gallagher.
Aboriginal history Prof Richard Broome, from La Trobe University, told the BBC: “It is very significant because it is the first move from any government in the country.”
Premier Steven Marshall said his government was instead in the process of developing a “state-wide plan with a series defined outcomes for Aboriginal people across areas including education, child protection, health and jobs”.
“Treaty commissioner Roger Thomas pictured above has provided advice to the incoming government regarding the positives and negatives of the treaty consultation,” Mr Marshall, who is also Aboriginal Affairs Minister, said.
The Northern Territory’s four Land Councils and the Northern Territory Government have today signed an historic Memorandum of Understanding (the “Barunga Agreement”), paving the way for consultations to begin with Aboriginal people about a Treaty.
A joint meeting of the four Land Councils at Barunga this week voted to empower their Chairmen to sign the MOU.
“This is a momentous day in the history of the Territory, a chance to reset the relationship between the Territory’s First Nations and the Government,” Northern Land Council Chairman Samuel Bush-Blanansi said. “We’ve got big journey ahead of us. The MOU gives us high hopes about the future and I hope the Government stays true to spirit of the MOU.”
Central Land Council Chairman Francis Jupurrurla Kelly said: “I hope a treaty will settle us down together and bring us self-determination. Today we bounced the ball but we don’t want to stay the only players in this game. The next steps must be led by Aboriginal people across the Territory so that everyone can run with the ball and have their say.”
Anindilyakwa Land Council Chairman Tony Wurramarrba said: “We celebrate the highly significant step that has been achieved today and will work with the Northern Territory Government and other Land Councils to continue the important work required to achieve the goal of a Northern Territory Treaty.”
Tiwi Land Council Gibson Farmer Illortaminni said: “We’ve got to be careful and understand each other about what we want, because we don’t want to have the same problems we’ve had in the past. The MoU is a good start, but we’ve got a long way to go. The Government needs to be honest and transparent.”
Chief Minister Michael Gunner, who signed on behalf of the Government, said: “This is the first day of a new course for the Northern Territory. The MoU we have signed today commits us to a new path of lasting reconciliation that will heal the past and allow for a cooperative, unified future for all.
“A Territory where everyone understands our history, our role in a modern society and our united and joint future will be an important achievement for all Territorians.”
The Territory Labor Government promised soon after the election in 2016 to advance a Treaty, and the MoU is the result of intensive discussions and negotiations between the Land Councils and the Government.
Significantly, the MoU was signed on the first day of the Barunga Sport and Cultural Festival – the 30th anniversary of the presentation of the Barunga Statement to Prime Minister Bob Hawke, who went on to promise a Treaty between the Commonwealth and Australia’s Indigenous peoples, but has remained undelivered.
AMSANT CEO John Paterson was at the signing of the agreement with Senator Dodson
Under the terms of the MOU NT Government will appoint an independent Treaty Commissioner who will lead the consultations with Aboriginal people and organisations across the Territory, and develop a framework for Treaty negotiations. The Commissioner will be an Aboriginal person with strong connections to the Territory, and expressions of interest will be called for the position.
The Land Councils and the Northern Territory Government will make their extensive regional staffing networks available to the Treaty Commission to organise consultations in communities.
The MoU prescribes that all Territorians should ultimately benefit from any Treaty, which must provide for substantive outcomes. It’s founded on the agreement that there has been “deep injustice done to Aboriginal people, including violent dispossession, the regression of their languages and cultures and the forcible removal of children from their families, which have left a legacy of trauma and loss that needs to be addressed and healed”.
“The process will begin with an open slate. We will start with nothing on or off the table,” Mr Gunner said.
The MoU acknowledges that there is a range of Aboriginal interests in the Territory, and that all Aboriginal people must have the opportunity to be fully engaged. It further acknowledges that non-Aboriginal people “need to be brought along in this process.”
The document leaves open the possibility of multiple treaties, and lays out a timetable for the work of the Treaty Commissioner.
Part 2 Bill Shorten Speech at Barunga
I acknowledge the traditional custodians of this land, I pay my respects to elders past, present and emerging.
It’s true everywhere on this mighty continent but no more so than here and now: this is, was and always will be Aboriginal land.
I also want to acknowledge, amongst all of the distinguished guests, including Nigel Scullion, I want to acknowledge all the leaders and the Land Council members.
Not just now but those who were here 30 years ago making such significant decisions. And we should remember those who have passed between then and now.
I thank the Bagala mob for having us on their land.
I also want to acknowledge members of the Stolen Generations who are here with us.
And to you, I wish to reiterate the commitment of my party that if we are elected we will provide overdue compensation to the remaining survivors of the Stolen Generations here in the Northern Territory and everywhere else in Australia.
Thirty years ago, the Barunga Statement was made. It was only 327 words but they were powerful.
But let me acknowledge that in the intervening 30 years not enough of the words, or the spirit, have been kept.
I’m embarrassed the Barunga Statement hangs on a wall in Parliament House and too many members of parliament wouldn’t even know it was there. And too many walk past it, their eyes looking the other way.
But I’m not here today to talk about failure, I want to add words of hope.
When I see and meet the elders and the leaders of the Land Councils, I see hope.
When I see Senator Pat Dodson, Senator Malarndirri McCarthy, Linda Burney – first Australians in the Parliament – I see hope.
When I see so many of you here, here for the music and the sport, here to listen and to learn, I see hope.
Yesterday at Katherine High School, remarkable young teenage girls from the Stars Foundation, I saw hope. Remarkable young Aboriginal boys, teenagers at the Clontarf Foundation, I see hope.
I see hope but I also acknowledge there is unfinished business.
Not unfinished business here but unfinished business across our nation. We have not come far enough.
We need to reset the relationship between our first Australians and all other Australians, we need to change the way we do business.
Not until we are a reconciled nation can any of us help fulfil the destiny this nation has.
We need to change the way we talk to each other and act to each other.
I see that we need to use honour, equality, respect and recognition.
For me coming here is a privilege but it is also a reminder. We need to take the Barunga Statement and use it as a map on our journey to deliver a voice for our first Australians in the parliament and in the constitution.
We need to work towards a Makarrata Commission, a truth-telling commission.
Because until our communities can reconcile a joint narrative about the history of this country, we cannot truly be reconciled.
And we also need to make clear that if we can establish a Voice for our first Australians – the decisions made about them are made with them and by them.
This is not a radical concept. It is nothing less than we should expect in any other circumstances.
We should not be afraid either, of the using our voice and the voice of first Australians to talk about treaties and agreement-making between our first Australians and levels of government within Australia.
I believe that Australians have the goodwill to reconcile this country. What they don’t have is the leadership in this country to drive proper and meaningful reconciliation.
I say to the people who fear the concepts of agreement-making, of a Voice, of treaties.
I say to these people who fear this: you have nothing to lose.
You still will be able to play football on the MCG, your backyard hills-hoists will not be part of any claim, the chickens will still lay eggs.
We are not giving a special deal to our first Australians – because they don’t get a special deal in our country.
A famous man once said, it’s all very well that to say that you lift yourself up by your bootstraps but if you don’t own a pair of boots, you’re not starting from the same position.
So I regard the spirit of Barunga as a reminder to trust the better angels of the nature of the Australian people, to recognise that we can’t honour our country unless we honour our first Australians.
Unless we recognise and respect and have equality this nation will not be the country it should be when – because of the colour of your skin – your life expectancy, your access to healthcare, your educational opportunity, your access to housing and to justice are discriminated against.
So I understand very keenly not just the obligation here but the obligation elsewhere for leadership and I thank you very much for inviting me to be part of this great festival today.
Part 3 Indigenous deride Scullion for his offer: ‘Take my job’
Aboriginal leaders and constitutional lawyers have slammed a proposal from Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion to replace his job with an indigenous committee, arguing it is “far more radical” than their proposal for a constitutionally enshrined indigenous voice to parliament.
Senator Scullion made the call during an interview at the Barunga Festival near Katherine in the Northern Territory yesterday, declaring the voice to parliament was “nothing” next to the decision-making and policymaking powers that come with his office.
The voice to parliament has been championed by the Referendum Council and would involve an indigenous representative voice being enshrined in the constitution, as called for by indigenous leaders from across Australia in last year’s Uluru Statement.
Aboriginal activist and constitutional law professor Megan Davis was highly critical of Senator Scullion’s idea.
“The proposal to replace a minister of the crown with a group of unelected indigenous leaders is far more radical than what the Uluru reform calls for, a voice to the parliament,” Professor Davis said. “It suggests a lack of understanding of how cabinet government works.”
Indigenous academic Marcia Langton said she believed Aboriginal people were “perfectly well aware” of the power held by the Indigenous Affairs Minister.
“The Uluru Statement from the Heart calls for a voice to parliament, and I’m pretty sure this was not what was meant by the Uluru indigenous Convention delegates,” Professor Langton said.
Former Kimberley Land Council CEO Nolan Hunter said the idea was unworkable.
“If you applied the same thinking to all the other portfolio areas, how would that work?” he said.
Mr Hunter said Senator Scullion’s idea was a distraction from constructive work the indigenous community had been doing towards the voice to parliament.
Constitutional law professor Cheryl Saunders, who is not indigenous, was also sceptical, tweeting: “So much for the Parliament. And, for that matter, the cabinet.”
Senator Scullion accused the Referendum Council of being “irresponsible” in proposing the voice to parliament without also proposing a question to put to a referendum.
A parliamentary committee co-chaired by Labor senator Pat Dodson and Liberal MP Julian Leeser is examining recognition for indigenous Australians in the constitution, with submissions due today.
Senator Scullion said a voice to parliament was “all fluff” compared with the power his job holds.
“It’s my job, mate. It’s my job,” he told Sky News. “I have the money and I have the capacity, not me, but the job has the capacity to allocate funds, to create policy, to create change and to do stuff … Now if you don’t have that you’re just fluffing around the edges. You don’t want a voice to parliament, you don’t want a third chamber … it is nothing next to the decision-making, the policymaking, that comes with my office”.
Asked whether he was proposing putting the powers of his job in the hands of indigenous Australians, Senator Scullion said: “Absolutely. Because they would run their own thing.”
He knew from his interactions with Aboriginal people “that part of what they want is more control. So this should be a part of the conversation, a wider conversation.”
He had not “specifically” discussed his idea with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. “My utterances are not necessarily the views of government,” he said.
“As a health professional it beggars belief that COAG can meet on this yet the Referendum Council work and Uluru outcome ‘Voice Treaty Truth’ is not raised,
It highlights that politicians and policy makers do not understand Closing the Gap is inextricably linked to Voice Treaty Truth.
Structural reform is the missing ingredient in addressing disadvantage and the fact that no one at COAG acknowledged that shows they have no idea what they are doing.”
Ms Anderson will use the annual Charles Perkins oration tonight (October 25 ) to say the almost complete silence from government — five months after the Uluru constitutional convention recommended the advisory body — proves its urgent need.
Establishing a proposed Indigenous parliamentary advisory body would mean Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders were “at last in the main building, not in the demountable out the back”, a frustrated Lowitja Institute chair Pat Anderson will say.
Her address will come on the heels of Cape York lawyer Noel Pearson furiously lashing out at white Australia’s failure “to take responsibility for your country” on the issue. “I’m angry about the intransigence and the lack of responsibility taken, angry that our people are constantly seeking the sentiment of Australia and not getting a response,” Mr Pearson told a packed Sydney Institute gathering on Monday.
Ms Anderson will question why a COAG meeting this week specifically addressing indigenous issues, including recalibrating the Closing the Gap targets, failed to address constitutional reform.
See our NACCHO post for COAG Communique earlier this week
She co-chaired the council appointed by Malcolm Turnbull and Bill Shorten to make concrete proposals. The ‘Voice Treaty Truth’ slogan refers to the three key issues identified in the Uluru Statement from the Heart, formalised at the end of the three-day convention in May.
They were the constitutionally enshrined body to provide an indigenous “voice” to parliament, as well as formal treaty-making and truth-telling processes.
The Law Council of Australia yesterday threw its “full and unqualified support” behind the call for a parliamentary body, which would have no veto powers and would not constitute an extra chamber of parliament, but whose role would be merely to advise governments.
“We are calling for genuine commitment from all parliamentarians to implement the Referendum Council’s recommendations swiftly,” Law Council president Fiona McLeod SC said. “The Law Council considers (them) to be a necessary and important step towards Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ self-determination.”
Referendum Council member and East Arnhem Land leader Galarrwuy Yunupingu warned Mr Turnbull at the Garma cultural festival in August that he would press him to act on the Referendum Council recommendations. Mr Turnbull has questioned whether the plan was delivered with enough detail, but Ms Anderson will say tonight that “the details of how to establish such a body would need to be carefully negotiated with the parliament once its establishment was agreed through referendum”.