The Minister for Indigenous Australians, Mr Ken Wyatt, and the acting shadow minister, Mr Bill Shorten, on Monday condemned the idea of a national Aboriginal register as proposed in the email made by Indigenous businesswoman, Josephine Cashman and delivered to Home Affairs minster Peter Dutton
Sections of the emails, published in The Weekend Australian on Friday night, reveal Ms Cashman asking Mr Dutton for his support to progress a national database of Indigenous heritage. The register would operate in collaboration with the Prime Minister and the Attorney-General as well as Indigenous groups.
The proposal accompanied an allegation made by Ms Cashman against author and academic, Bruce Pascoe, suggesting he had lied in regards to his Indigenous heritage and in doing so had benefitted financially.
Ms Cashman, who is a government appointed member of the Senior Advisory Group working towards a co-designed 'Voice' to government as part of the latest pathway to constitutional recognition, has been a vocal critic of Mr Pascoe since November.
Mr Dutton received the email in early December and referred it to the Australian Federal Police (AFP) on December 24. On Friday, the AFP commenced a preliminary assessment of the allegations.
On Sunday, Minister Wyatt described Ms Cashman's letter as "inappropriate" and has subsequently rejected the idea of a registry of Aboriginal people.
“The Minister does not support the concept of a register and this is not under consideration by the Senior Advisory Group," a spokesperson said.
"It’s important to reiterate that Ms Cashman has acted independently and not in her capacity as a member of the Senior Advisory Group, however the Minister doesn’t think her actions have been appropriate,"
"While there are many views on self identification, the Minister does not support government playing a role,” the spokesperson for Minister Wyatt said.
Acting Shadow Minister for Indigenous Australian's, Bill Shorten, echoed the sentiments, labelling the suggestion "completely unnecessary and extremely concerning".
“Surely we’ve learnt from history that the idea of registers of race is just playing with fire," Mr Shorten said.
NITV News contacted Ms Cashman for a response to a range of questions related her email and public criticisms of Mr Pascoe, but she declined to comment.
Author and historian, Bruce Pascoe, appeared on ABC local radio in Hobart on Monday to respond to the claims made in Ms Cashman's email and Mr Dutton's referral of the allegations to the AFP.
Mr Pascoe was previously unavailable for comment due to fighting fires in Mallacoota, but has since travelled to Tasmania to headline the annual Ballawine Festival, which describes itself as 'giving a voice to the values of Aboriginal culture & philosophy'.
Mr Pascoe, who has previously identified as a Boon Wurrung and Yuin man, said the events of the past few months have been 'hurtful'.
"I am dealing with it and it’s hurtful, but a lot of hurtful things go on in life and you just gotta try and survive it," he told ABC News on Monday.
When asked why he thought the allegations were referred to the Australian Federal Police, Mr Pascoe explained how community has helped him find his family for 40 years.
"We still get leads from people saying, ‘I think you should go and see this old lady, that old lady knows what we do.’
"We continue to do it, our work within the community, and that’s all that matters to me.
"Some people think that my association, family association, is too slim to worry about – I’ve said that all along, that these are distant relationships... But they're important to me," Mr Pascoe said.
The Australian Federal Police is yet to announce its decision about pursuing a formal investigation into Bruce Pascoe's Indigenous identity, but the matter was referred by the Minister for Foreign Affairs in what has been described as "in keeping with protocol".