Australia

'Chin-up': Indigenous Australians being urged to remain hopeful of voice to parliament

Garma Festival Source: AAP

Indigenous leaders are hopeful that a First Nations voice to parliament will progress under the re-elected Coalition government.

Indigenous Australians remain hopeful of support for a First Nations voice to parliament, with some being urged to “chin-up” after the Coalition’s federal election win.

The Coalition has budgeted $7 million for a model on establishing a voice to parliament, before going to a referendum.

Labor had promised to go further, to hold a referendum on establishing a voice if they had won the election.

Pro Vice- Chancellor Indigenous, UNSW Sydney Professor Megan Davis speaks during a CEDA event in Perth on Thursday, January 31, 2019.(AAP Image/Richard Wainwright) NO ARCHIVING
Pro Vice- Chancellor Indigenous, UNSW Sydney Professor Megan Davis speaks during a CEDA event in Perth on Thursday, January 31, 2019.
AAP

UNSW Professor of Law and Pro Vice-Chancellor Indigenous Megan Davis said a lot of Indigenous Australians felt “deflated” after the election result.

“Our response has always been we fight on,” she told NITV’s the Point.

Professor Davis said there had never been "any guarantee” of a voice to parliament.

“This has been a struggle for our people - this is a very important reform that for the first time is really galvanizing the Australian people,” Professor Davis said.

“My advice is chin up. We just keep fighting on, we just keep moving on.”

She said there was “absolutely” an opportunity to progress discussions of a voice to parliament under the Morrison government, pointing to the Coalition’s $7 million budget commitment.

Indigenous leader Noel Pearson says there’s a better chance at convincing the public on the need for a referendum under a conservative party.

“Australians are very conservative about changing the Constitution,” he told ABC radio.

“Wherever there is change, it’s usually led by conservative governments and if Prime Minister (Scott) Morrison eventually led on this amendment, the prospects bringing the Right of Australia – because we need the right to come on board.”

Mr Pearson said there was “no question” on his mind that the nation would move forward on the voice to parliament.

Rod Little from the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples
Rod Little from the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples
SBS News

Rod Little from the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples said it’s always a possibility a conservative government can better convince the public on the importance of such reform.

“There is certainly a section of society that needs convincing … that the sky is not going to fall in, we’re not going to get special privileges as some think but it’s an opportunity to improve the living standards and the life expectancy of fellow Australians which I think is an obligation of all Australians including conservatives,” he told SBS News.

Mr Little said Indigenous communities always had hope with every election that things would improve.

But there is a concern that nothing will change.

“Hope will always be there. It doesn’t matter who comes into office - you hope that whoever holds office will do the right thing (because) it improves the circumstances of our community.

“That’s the priority for me, not whether it’s that government or that government.

“But we are concerned that we will get pretty much, much of the same which is very little attention and very little priority.”

Prime Minister Scott Morrison last year rejected an Indigenous voice to parliament by claiming that the body would constitute a “third chamber" of power.

But Liberal MP Ken Wyatt, who is expected to be promoted in the new ministry, says he is optimistic about the community support for constitutional recognition of indigenous Australians and pursuing a voice to parliament.

It comes as his Liberal colleague Alan Tudge said a referendum on establishing a voice to parliament in the next term of government was not on the government's agenda.

It's been two years since the Uluru Statement was formed.

Between 23 May and 26, more than 250 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders met to call for the First Nations voice in the Australian Constitution.

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