• Turnbull wipes tear speaking of loss of Indigenous languages
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has been moved to tears in an interview with National Indigenous Television covering a wide range of Indigenous issues. Mr Turnbull offered his views on such areas as the high incarceration rates among Indigenous people and a potential referendum on constitutional recognition.
1 Mar 2016 - 1:44 PM  UPDATED 1 Mar 2016 - 2:00 PM

Last month, Malcolm Turnbull spoke in the Ngunnawal language at the beginning of his Closing the Gap speech in parliament.

 

It is the language of the Indigenous people on whose land Parliament House now stands in Canberra.

 

Now, in an interview with Wiradjuri man Stan Grant on NITV, Mr Turnbull has been moved to tears while recounting the story of a mother singing her child a Ngunnawal lullaby.

 

"And the thing that's so sad is to imagine that mother singing that story to her at a time when you are losing culture."

 

In his parliamentary address, Mr Turnbull announced 20 million dollars of funding for the preservation of Indigenous languages and culture.

 

Former prime minister Tony Abbott used to say he wanted to be known as the Prime Minister for Indigenous Affairs.

 

Malcolm Turnbull says he intends to carry on that ambition.

 

"Every prime minister is a prime minister for Indigenous affairs, a prime minister for all Australians. And the First Australians, who have been treated so unjustly, have suffered so much over so long, reconciling the nation with that history, and righting those wrongs, and settling that injustice is an objective and obligation on every Australian, but especially on every prime minister."

 

Mr Turnbull says a referendum on the constitutional recognition of Indigenous people could be held next year.

 

He says a vote in May 2017, on the 50th anniversary of the 1967 referendum, is certainly possible but the Government must be sure the referendum has the support to carry.

 

On a separate matter, the Prime Minister says the current rate of Indigenous incarceration is unacceptable.

 

One in four inmates in Australian jails are Indigenous, even though Indigenous people only make up 3 per cent of the total population.

 

Mr Turnbull says solving the problems facing Indigenous people will take time.

 

"There's no silver bullet,* you know that. And I think often the, you know ... one of the reasons there's been so much disappointment in terms of the outcomes of policy here is because everyone's been searching for the one big, sweeping answer."

 

The interview was Mr Turnbull's first from The Lodge in Canberra.

 

But National Congress of Australia's First Peoples chairman Rod Little says the rhetoric is nothing new.

He has told the ABC he is disappointed Malcolm Turnbull has not met with his organisation after an invitation was sent in September last year.

 

"We saw the opportunity in his words when he was saying he wants to have this renewed relationship, but that kind of commentary has been around again and again from many, many governments that I know. If you want to have a relationship with the First People, then the first start point, a logical start point, would be with the elected representative body."