• Candidates for the Wentworth by-election at Monday's forum. (AAP)Source: AAP
Where do the five candidates stand on an Indigenous voice to parliament?
By
Brooke Fryer

Source:
NITV News
18 Oct 2018 - 4:10 PM  UPDATED 1 Nov 2018 - 12:50 PM

Greens candidate Dominic Wy Kanak doesn't appear to be bothered by the constant downpour of rain as he campaigns on the streets of Bondi, ahead of the Wentworth by-election. 

The self-described 'mainland Torres Strait Islander' born on Yuwibara land in Queensland, and proud grandfather of a Murray Yorta Yorta family is one of five candidates vying for former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull's seat, located in the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney. 

The stakes in this by-election are high — the government's one-seat majority in the lower house hangs on the line following Mr Turnbull's decision to quit parliament after losing the Liberal leadership.

Local Elder Aunty Rhonda Dixon-Grovenor has been campaigning alongside Mr Wy Kanak and other Greens volunteers.

Aunty Rhonda has known Mr Wy Kanak for over 30 years. She describes him as "a real advocate for our people".

“Dominic is very passionate about what he does for all people and equal rights for social justice,” she tells NITV News.

Mr Wy Kanak says he's hoping to make a difference as an Indigenous MP, and he thinks the best way to do that is with the Greens.

"The Greens for me are the closest in policy to traditional values that we see as First Nations and Indigenous people," Mr Wy Kanak says. 

"They talk about sovereignty, they talk about social justice, they've been active on campaigns about stopping black deaths in custody.

Mr Wy Kanak says he is listening to Elders in the community about changes needed.

“People are saying they don’t need Tony Abbott as the envoy to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander First Nations people and I agree with them,” he says. 

“We want our own identified voice.”

Battle for Wentworth

At a public forum on Monday, Mr Wy Kanak joined the other four candidates - Liberal party's Dave Sharma, Independent Kerry Phelps, Labor's Tim Murray and Independent Licia Heath - answering policy questions.

The forum focused on issues such as ABC funding cuts, climate change and the prospect of moving the Australian embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. 

As Indigenous issues weren't mentioned during the forum, NITV News took on the task to ask the candidates their views on constitutional reform after the debate.

Independent candidate Kerryn Phelps and Labor candidate Tim Murray told NITV News they both support the values of the Uluru Statement from the Heart. Liberal candidate Dave Sharma's answer wasn't so clear cut. 

While Mr Sharma said he is in favour of constitutional recognition of Indigenous Australians, he didn't seem prepared to say how it could progress.

“I support greater Indigenous recognition, but what form that takes and how we do that, I’d leave that for another time,” Mr Sharma said. 

Dr Phelps backs the proposal of an Indigenous voice to parliament, and believes in the need to consult with Indigenous communities about how they'd like to manage their own futures.

"The Indigenous people of Australia need to have a voice to the Australian parliament, but what we need to do is have the voice that Indigenous people of Australia want to have,” Dr Phelps said.

Mr Murray reiterated the Labor party's commitment to work towards implementing the Referendum Council's recommendations to attain substantive, not just symbolic, constitutional recognition.

“I definitely think we need to have more Indigenous voices in all levels of government,” Mr Murray said.

“Bill Shorten and the Labor party have said that we will accept the Uluru statement, which would mean constitutional recognition and a voice to parliament.”

Pre-election jitters 

With the election predicted to be a race between Dr Phelps and Mr Sharma, the two candidates seem reluctant to express any presumptions.

Dr Phelps said nobody can be "overly confident" about Saturday's results.

"It will be up to the people of Wentworth how they want to be represented going forward," she said. 

The Liberal party candidate is also feeling unsure on the lead-up to the election.

"I'm not confident at all, I'm not taking anything for granted. I think this will be a very close by-election and voters should think very carefully before they cast their vote," Mr Sharma said.

Meanwhile, Mr Wy Kanak didn't shy away from saying he felt "confident", as he believes the values of many Bondi residents align neatly with the principles of the Greens.

"I think this electorate, this community, has a strong sense of social justice and a strong environmental conscience," he said.

"With climate change and Elders telling us this is the major issue we need to confront, I think the Greens will do well," Mr Wy Kanak concluded.