Natalie Ahmet: Well we cross now to Malarndirri McCarthy who’s with Kirstie Parker, co-chair of the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples. Many believed Congress was sidelined by Tony Abbott’s Indigenous Advisory Council and Kirstie was also a driving force in moves to have Indigenous only conventions on constitutional recognition, Malarndirri.
Malarndirri McCarthy: Thanks Nat, certainly an interesting time in Australian politics. Kirstie Parker, what did Tony Abbott do for Indigenous Australians and did he do a good job?
Kirstie Parker: Well what he did do was elevate Indigenous Affairs. We know that he talked an extraordinarily big game when it came to the matters relating to our people.
In terms of the outcomes though, or the results, I think it’s fair to say that it was a very different story. That 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 an especially good job at bringing things home which is why I think there is some level of optimism that we might be able to negotiate a different relationship with the Australian government under a different Prime Minister.
Malarndirri McCarthy: Do you think Malcolm Turnbull will do that? Do you think he is going to put Indigenous Affairs, fair and square, on his agenda?
"Well what he did do was elevate Indigenous Affairs. We know that he talked an extraordinarily big game when it came to the matters relating to our people."
Kirstie Parker: Well we’ll certainly be doing our best to make sure that he does. We say that the First Australians should be the first cab off the rank in terms of the consequential issues facing our nation and we will be making sure that our organisations are front and centre in his consideration and we need to do that early so that he knows.
Malarndirri McCarthy: So when will you do that?
Kirstie Parker: Well, Congress is hoping to convene a meeting with of peak Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations in Canberra this week so that we can make sure this is high on the new PM’s agenda.
Malarndirri McCarthy: Has this taken the agenda off your push for constitutional recognition in terms of conventions. I mean has this delayed what you were hoping to do there?
Kirstie Parker: Yeah, well that remains to be seen. Not much is known on what Mr Turnbull thinks about the current process and as we know the latest developments have been, former Prime Minister Abbott agreeing to an Indigenous designed and an Indigenous led process of consultation to see how our people feel about reform of the constitution ensuring that it is as meaningful as possible.
We hope that that sort of elevation of the issue will continue but of course that remains to be seen and of course, there are many other issues that are confronting our people’s day to day lives. We see the administration of Indigenous affairs causing a lot of frustration. We need greater certainty and better resourcing of our community controlled organisations, we need better strategies to close health and life expectancy gaps and we also need to deal with issues like over-incarceration, experiences of violence, child removal and so on. So there are many issues facing our people and it’s important that we get in the door very soon.
Malarndirri McCarthy: Kirstie Parker, just one last word. Linda Burney says this might be a change of leadership but it’s not a brand new day. Malcolm Turnbull was in cabinet when all these decisions were made about Aboriginal affairs, your thoughts on that?
Kirstie Parker: Well I do think that politicians think differently depending on the position that they hold and we do hope that there is a new breath of fresh air in the relationship with our people and the Australian government. There needs to be and there needs to be based on respect for our rights, that remains to be seen but we will be doing our best to make sure that remains the case.