• Cape York leader Noel Pearson has attracted criticism for comments on national political representation for Indigenous Australians. (AAP Image/David Sproule) (DAVID SPROULE)
Cape York Indigenous leader Noel Pearson has caused controversy with his latest comments on Constitutional recognition for Indigenous Australians.
By
Robert Burton-Bradley

Source:
NITV News
17 Jun 2015 - 2:47 PM  UPDATED 30 Jun 2015 - 9:58 AM

Speaking on the ABC's Q&A program on Monday, Mr Pearson said there was no effective representation of Aboriginal people at a national level and called of the establishment of a new body.

"At the moment our voice is zero, and our voice has been zero since 1901,” Mr Pearson said.

"Ancient Australia needs to have a voice in this parliament, to this parliament."

These comments are inaccurate according to Les Malezer, Co-Chair of The National Congress of Australia's First Peoples which advocates at a national level for Indigenous Australians.

"The fact is that there is a very good national representative body for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, the National Congress of Australia's First Peoples," he told NITV.

"I understand that Noel made a comment during an ABC program as a reaction to some other comments and that may have been why he made what I think is a factual error.”

Pearson made the comments while arguing for an alternative proposal to constitutional recognition, calling for a declaration of recognition with a body specifically set up to advise parliament on matters relating to Indigenous Australians.

"This question of Indigenous advice to the parliament is a specific issue in relation to the fact that Indigenous people are a community with a special relationship to this country, suffering a special disadvantage and its culture language and heritage is pre-existing the Australian nation and this parliament would benefit from their counsel and their advice,” he said.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s Indigenous adviser Warren Mundine rejected the plan, telling The Australian that the plan was “illogical” and said race based representative bodies had failed in other countries like Fiji.           

The National Congress, which said it now has 8500 individual members, questioned whether Pearson's proposal would be any more representative than previous Indigenous bodies.

"I don't think it is fair to say anybody is truly representative," Mr Malezer said.

"The fact is congress has a very open structure anyone who is Torres Strait Islander or Aboriginal over 18 can be a member, we've got three different categories of membership, all the national peak organisations are a member of congress."

Despite the comments from Mr Pearson and major funding cuts by the Federal Government in 2014, the National Congress says it intends to continue fighting for Indigneous Australians.

"Noel has talked to us many times about the issues he's advancing on which we have as well and also the The National Congress of Australia's First People is lobbying and advocating, not only with the Australian government but also with all governments of the world and the United Nations,” he said.