• Malcolm Turnbull won't be making a trip to the WA seat of Canning before the weekend poll. (AAP)Source: AAP
COMMENT | Where will Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull stand in terms of the issues facing black West Australians?
By
Malarndirri McCarthy

Source:
NITV News
16 Sep 2015 - 6:14 PM  UPDATED 17 Sep 2015 - 11:56 AM

Follow @malarndirri on Twitter.

It wasn’t a swan dive, not even a belly flop … it’s a 'never was' for Tony Abbott.

Australia’s 28th Prime Minister, the Prime Minister for Indigenous Affairs, is gone. And he never achieved all that he desperately hoped he would on the road to Indigenous recognition.

But, "he did elevate Indigenous Affairs" says Kirstie Parker, co-chair of the Congress for Australia's First Peoples. "He talked an extraordinarily big game when it came to matters relating to our people."

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Many believe the National Congress of Australia's First Peoples was sidelined by Tony Abbott's Indigenous Advisory Council. Co-chair of the council, Kirstie Parker was a driving force in moves to have Indigenous only conventions on constitutional recognition. NITV News' Malarndirri McCarthy spoke to Ms Parker about progress made for Indigenous constitutional recognition.

"In terms of the outcome though, or the results, it's fair to say that it was a very different story. There has been a very high level of frustration, anger and in some cases insult with some of the commentary we've seen from the Prime Minister.

"So while he's spoken about our issues he hasn’t done a good job of bringing things home."

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Australian actor Hugh Jackman knows how important this relationship is.

"I think we do need Aboriginal leaders and our leaders to sit down in an air of, not condescension, but in an air of understanding and a long term view," he told Marc Fennell on SBS2's The Feed.

While Mr Jackman joined thousands of people across Australia and around the world to protest against the WA Governments' plans to close more than 150 communities, he acknowledges that this is not an easy fix: "It's clear that when you look at something like education, it’s only something that can be resolved over generations, and it has to be done both ways.

"You can't just have one side of political leaders saying this is how you've gotta do it, at the same time you've got to give support."

Malcolm Turnbull has used the Canning by-election as the catalyst to take the prime ministership. But it could be Abbotts' shadow companion in the 'Spirit of Canning', which may haunt the Liberal landscape well beyond the City of Black Swans (Perth) September 19 by-election.

Western Australia holds heavy political artillery in the Federal Liberal party. It is also the state where black issues hold a crucial clue as to how Turnbull can manage a far better relationship between black and white Australia.

Western Australia holds heavy political artillery in the Federal Liberal party. It is also the state where black issues hold a crucial clue as to how Turnbull can manage a far better relationship between black and white Australia.

Turnbull may want to know how to captain his ship if he wants to have a more positive and effective impact with Indigenous Australians:

1. WA's plans for forced closures

First, he must insist on a bold correction to WA's plans for forced closures of essential services to more than 150 WA communities if he doesn’t want to see the wave of national and international protests continue.

2. Justice

The tragic death in custody of Julieka Dhu, jailed for an unpaid parking fine, symbolises the nation-wide calls for justice for thousands of Indigenous Australians jailed and too often, die while in custody.

Indigenous Australians are jailed at 14 times the rate of non-Indigenous Australians.

3. Constitutional recognition

As for Constitutional recognition, well WA Liberals are deeply divided on recognition, but so too are First Nations people, and that’s another conversation.

A Liberal Party motion against recognising Indigenous people in the Australian Constitution is still waiting for approval from the WA Liberal Party State Council when it meets this month.

A Liberal Party motion against recognising Indigenous people in the Australian Constitution is still waiting for approval from the WA Liberal Party State Council when it meets this month.

Bill Hassell, a Lifetime Member of the WA Liberal Party and former WA Liberal Leader (1984-1986) has told NITV News: "I think it's divisive to put a racially based provision in the Constitution. It is of course a fact of history that Aboriginals lived in Australia before Europeans did, but there are now many races that live here".

Yet current WA Premier Colin Barnett tweeted recently about the importance of recognising Indigenous people in the WA Constitution.

The power of the WA conservative base is breathtaking in its fierce expectation to always preserve the hard right of Liberal values, such as removing a PM that doesn’t 'fit' their mould.

In 1906, surveyor Alfred Canning, after whom the seat of Canning is named, was asked to find a way to link the Kimberley region to the Kalgoorlie Goldfield in order to find water on what is now known as the Canning Stock Route.

Alfred Canning is immortalised for his incredible feats of endurance across harsh spinifex country. A Royal Commission cleared him of allegations of torture against Aboriginal members of his expedition. 

Turnbull only has to look at his deputy, Julie Bishop, who epitomises the word 'survivor'.

His deputy from the West has retained her position while Liberal leaders have come, and gone, and come and gone over eight years.

Bishops' empathy, displayed so compassionately after the executions of Bali nine pair, Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, must surely move her to fight for the families in the remote regions of WA?

Where does [Julie Bishop] stand in terms of the issues facing black West Australians? Where does Malcolm Turnbull?

Where does she stand in terms of the issues facing black West Australians? Where does Malcolm Turnbull?

Will Turnbull take his Cabinet to remote regions of Australia to include First Nations’ people in decision-making on a much more effective level?

If he doesn't, then there are thousands of Australians who will stand with First Nations people. As Hugh Jackman said:

I think that was a life changing moment for me when I was in Areyonga, Haasts Bluff in Central Australia when I was 19. Yeah I’d never been happier in my life than when I was out there, and I was out there just last month and took my son out there and just to see through his 15 year old eyes, not only the beauty of the place but in the people and what it represents, I think it is something we really really need to, not only hang onto but celebrate and encourage and do everything we can to support. So that’s why I spoke out for that cause and I always will.”

It remains to be seen how the 'Spirit of Canning' moves in Australia’s 29th Prime Minister.

Follow @malarndirri on Twitter.

Watch The Feed interview
Hugh Jackman and Levi Miller with Marc Fennell (The Feed)
On Pan and Hugh's support of indigenous communities.