Where the major parties stand on Indigenous affairs


SBS News looks at the Indigenous affairs policies of the Coalition, Labor and the Greens.

One of the biggest political flashpoints around Indigenous affairs is how to respond to 2017's landmark Uluru Statement from the Heart.

The statement called for an Indigenous voice to parliament and a Makarrata Commission, which would supervise a process of "agreement-making" and "truth-telling".

SBS News
SBS News

To the ire of many Indigenous groups, the Coalition has dragged its feet on these. With first Malcom Turnbull and then Scott Morrison saying the process could create a "third chamber" of parliament.

But in the April budget, the Coalition committed $7.3 million to work with Indigenous Australians and "detail options" for the Indigenous voice. 

Labor on the other hand has embraced the ideas of the statement and made it a major point of difference.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison at Clontarf Aboriginal College in Perth.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison at Clontarf Aboriginal College in Perth.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said that, if elected, he would fast track a referendum to constitutionally enshrine the voice to parliament and work with Indigenous Australians to establish a Makarrata Commission.

"We have nothing to fear from working with First Nations people to address the many complex issues that affect the first Australians," he said.

An Invasion Day march in Brisbane.
An Invasion Day march in Brisbane.

Instead, the Coalition has preferred to emphasise Indigenous education and health.

Mr Morrison told parliament in February he had adopted Indigenous education as a "specific focus".

"I want to get kids into school and I want them to stay in school for longer. That is what I wish to achieve. Education is the key to skills. It is the key to jobs," Mr Morrison said.

In April's federal budget, the Coalition said it will invest $160 million for Indigenous health, with $10 million going to the Lowitja Institute, the national institute for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health research.

And Mr Morrison has made one of the Coalition's few Indigenous affairs announcements on the campaign trail.

He pledged $12.5 million to make mental health services for Indigenous people more effective and $19.6 million to help prevent indigenous youth suicide, particularly in WA's Kimberley region.

Bill Shorten at a smoking ceremony.
Bill Shorten at a smoking ceremony.

Labor ended its first week on the campaign trail in Darwin and the Tiwi islands, announcing a $115 million Indigenous health package. 

The package includes nearly $30 million for youth mental health and suicide prevention. 

In February last year, Mr Shorten promised to compensate survivors of the Stolen Generation in Commonwealth jurisdictions within his first 100 days of government. State governments have already established a number of different compensation schemes.

The scheme will provide payments of $75,000 to survivors who were forcibly removed from their families.

The Labor party is also funding several new Indigenous education measures. In December, Tanya Plibersek announced Labor would contribute $20 million towards establishing Australia's first Indigenous residential college at the University of Technology Sydney.

The Greens have proposed some major changes in the Indigenous affairs space.

The party believes Australia "must negotiate a treaty or treaties with the sovereign First Nations peoples of the lands".

Additionally, it wants the Constitution to "acknowledge the prior and ongoing occupation and sovereignty of First Nations peoples and their right to land, water, sky and resources".

And it is one of the only parties supporting the "Change the Date" campaign.

"Celebrating [Australia Day] on a day that causes so much hurt and suffering to Aboriginal people does not unite us or bring us together. It is time to change the date," Greens material says.

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