• Federal Greens leader Richard Di Natale at a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra, (AAP)Source: AAP
The Federal Government has not yet invited members of the Australian Greens to next week’s crucial constitutional recognition summit in Sydney, the party says.
By
Myles Morgan

Source:
NITV News
1 Jul 2015 - 4:11 PM  UPDATED 1 Jul 2015 - 5:30 PM

Greens Indigenous Affairs spokeswoman Rachel Siewert said Greens leader Richard Di Natale, a doctor who has worked in an Aboriginal community, sought an invite from the Prime Minister.

“Senator Di Natale wrote to the Prime Minister to seek to attend the summit, given that this is such an important issue and we’ve always taken a multi-party approach to it, we thought it was appropriate we also attended,” Ms Siewert told NITV News.

"To my mind, there wasn’t a clear reason [for declining our request to attend] other than stating the purpose of the meeting was for the Prime Minister and the Opposition Leader to meet with Aboriginal leaders and there would be other opportunities for people to participate in the discussion at some stage."

The Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten will meet with a number of Indigenous leaders on Monday to discuss the way forward on recognising Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in Australia’s Constitution. 

The focus of the meeting will be on what Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples believe should happen to achieve constitutional change.

"To my mind, there wasn’t a clear reason [for declining our request to attend] other than stating the purpose of the meeting was for the Prime Minister and the Opposition Leader to meet with Aboriginal leaders"

In a May statement the Prime Minister said the summit would "help to inform the process for deciding on a referendum proposal that will have the best chance of success".

“The Prime Minister and Opposition Leader reaffirm our bipartisan commitment to constitutional recognition,” Mr Abbott said.

A number of Liberal and Labor politicians are expected to attend the meeting. Labor's Indigenous Affairs spokesperson Shayne Neumann and Northern Territory Aboriginal Senator Nova Peris will join Aboriginal Liberal MP Ken Wyatt.

The success of the recognition movement is not entirely dependent on the Greens, but the party has 10 votes in the Senate and one in the House of Representatives. These votes may be vital in passing a bill, which would allow a referendum to change Australia's Constitution to positively recognise Indigenous people.

West Australian Greens Senator Rachel Siewert has campaigned tirelessly for years on Aboriginal issues. She sits on Parliament's Joint Select Committee on constitutional recognition and was part of the Gillard Government's 2010 expert panel on the issue.

According to Senator Siewert, there needs to be serious policy discussion at Monday's meeting but it will not be the silver bullet of the debate.

“We don’t want to put too much expectation on this meeting. We’ve got some very serious decisions to make but I’m not expecting the answer will come out of this meeting,” she said.

The joint parliamentary committee on recognition recently tabled its final report on the issue and made a number of recommendations.

“I’m hoping the joint parliamentary report will form part of or the basis of the discussion because there’s a number of options put on the table there," Senator Siewert said. "I think it is time we started firming up around a question, we’ve been looking at that for a significant period of time. 

“People want substantive change, and that means addressing issues like racial discrimination but also making sure the Commonwealth Government does have powers to make beneficial laws for Aboriginal people.”

NITV News asked the Prime Minister's Office why the Greens had not been invited to the summit.  

"To consider the next steps towards constitutional recognition, the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition have convened Monday’s gathering with key Indigenous leaders who have contributed to the national discussion, " a spokesperson from the Prime Ministers Office said.

"The meeting is primarily an opportunity for Indigenous leaders to discuss the key principles for constitutional change and the best process for taking this forward."

The Prime Minister has assured the Leader of the Greens that he will be briefed on the meeting outcomes, the spokesperson added.

Attendees

While an official list of attendees has not yet been released, NITV News understands the following influential Indigenous people have been invited:

  • Warren Mundine, Prime Minister’s Indigenous Advisory Council Chairman;
  • Mick Gooda, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner;
  • Professor Tom Calma, Canberra University Chancellor and co-chair of Reconciliation Australia;
  • Noel Pearson, Cape York Institute Director;
  • Professor Marcia Langton, Melbourne University;
  • Gail Mabo, artist and daughter of land rights leader Eddie Koiki Mabo;
  • Djawa Yunupingu, Yolngu elder and Yothu Yindi Foundation Deputy Chairman;
  • Rachel Perkins, filmmaker and daughter of Aboriginal activist Charlie Perkins;
  • Richie Ah Mat, Cape York Land Council Chairman;
  • Justin Mohamed, Reconciliation Australia CEO;
  • Aden Ridgeway, former Aboriginal politician