• Ken Wyatt will attend a number of events with CLC chair Sammy WIlson on his latest NT visit. (AAP)Source: AAP
The federal Coalition government's minister for Indigenous affairs says his proposal for constitutional amendment will not include enshrining a First Nations 'Voice' to parliament.
Shahni Wellington

22 Oct 2019 - 1:24 AM  UPDATED 22 Oct 2019 - 1:24 AM

The Minister for Indigenous Australians has confirmed that any proposal on Indigenous recognition that he takes to his Prime Minister will not include enshrining an Indigenous advisory body in the constitution.

Appearing on the Kenny Report on Monday, the minister kept the twin issues of a Voice to Parliament and constitutional change separate.

“The Prime Minister made it very clear some time ago that it would not be enshrined in the constitution, [but] he would consider pragmatic models that would deliver [a Voice] and what it would look like,” said Mr Wyatt.

“I want to take that notion of 'Voice' [and] work with a co-design model so we get something with our people across the nation – not just the leadership, but with our people.”

The minister's latest comments follow those made during an appearance on ABC’s Afternoon Briefing program on Friday last week, where he conceded that he will “break hearts” with the decision.

One key element of the Uluru Statement from the Heart included an Indigenous advisory body to be enshrined in the constitution, as endorsed by hundreds of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people at a national gathering in 2017.

For many, the Statement for the Heart's three-tiered proposal is widely known as the only Indigenous consensus option for constitutional recognition.

While it is generally accepted that a referendum on constitutional amendment will be held sometime in the next three years, the question regarding recognition to be put to the public remains unclear.

While the Minister 's comments on Monday clearly favoured a legislated, co-designed advisory model over an enshrined Voice, three figures closely involved in the Statement from the Heart penned an open letter to Mr Wyatt urging him to keep the option open.

Indigenous rights advocates, Pat Anderson, Megan Davis and Noel Pearson authored an op-ed published in the Sydney Morning Herald on Sunday championing the Uluru Statement and reminding readers of the long road it took to come up with the proposal.

“The history is black and white,” the article read. 

“The decision to set up the Referendum Council which led to the Uluru Statement From the Heart followed a meeting held at Kirribilli in 2015 where representatives of First Nations across Australia stated a baseline threshold that would not be acceptable: minimalist changes to the race power and a symbolic statement.

“The minister cannot walk back the past nine years. The Referendum Council’s work cannot be ignored. The Uluru Statement From the Heart cannot be ignored.”

Another high profile supporter of the Uluru Statement in Roy Ah See, the co-chair of the Prime Minister’s Indigenous Advisory Council, aired his concerns on the ABC's Radio National on Monday morning.

Mr Ah See was a leading signatory on another open letter endorsing the Uluru Statement from the Heart to Mr Wyatt in August, to which the group received no response.

Now, with a $160 million dollar referendum looming, Mr Ah See said he is concerned for the outcome.

“We don’t want minimalism, we don’t want tokenism: we want real reform,” he said.

“And for the Minister to turn around and just take a unilateral approach to this very important unfinished business is disrespectful to the leaders in this country and some that are no longer with us."

While it’s unknown when Minister Wyatt will deliver a plan for recognition to the Prime Minister, he maintains that the federal Coalition is committed to recognising Indigenous Australians in the constitution.

“What will prevail is the collective view of our people and that is important,” he said.

“I don’t have an issue with people being opposed to the propositions and creating debate – I think it’s extremely healthy. But we have to land in the right place with the right model.”

The Minister finished his appearance on the Kenny Report by reiterating his focus on "grassroots", rather than Indigenous representatives.

“That has been a common message from a lot of individuals from across the nation,” he said.

“They made the comment that I listen too much to national leadership and want me to engage with them.”

Minister for Indigenous Australians criticised on Q&A after ruling out Indigenous Voice
Monday night's special episode of ABC's Q&A generated some interest on social media but three big names that were billed to appear in the dialogue on an Indigenous Voice and constitutional recognition did not show.