Constitutional change is the priority for the Coalition, but it has indicated it is open to conversations about treaties.
Politicians from all sides gathered for a breakfast in Parliament House on Tuesday to mark the release of Reconciliation Australia’s State of Reconciliation Report.
Twenty-five years after the creation of the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation in 1991, the latest report found overcoming racism, closing the gap in Indigenous disadvantage, improving governance, and accepting Australia’s past are essential to achieving reconciliation.
“At the moment I think we have a process that I think is part of reconciliation which is the process of constitutional recognition,” Indigenous Affairs Minister, Nigel Scullion told reporters.
“That’s our principal plank at the moment. That will have an end place. When that end place happens, I’m sure people will say ‘What next? How do we acknowledge some of those other matters?’ I’m already a part of that, but I don’t think we need to have a plethora of those things happening simultaneously.”
Reconciliation v Treaties
The Turnbull government has recently announced a Referendum Council, which will oversee the process for a referendum to change the Constitution to recognise Indigenous Australians.
The recognition movement has spawned an equally emotive grassroots movement: the push for treaties.
Indigenous critics of the recognition movement say it is redundant or meaningless, and treaties are the true path to reconciliation.
The Labor Party is taking the same tact as the Federal Government in arguing constitutional change must occur before any talk about treaties.
“I’m a very strong supporter of genuine constitutional recognition … but I’m concerned the debate about constitutional recognition is drifting,” Bill Shorten said following the Reconciliation breakfast.
“But there’s no doubt in my mind that there has to be real thought given, at the same, to what we’re doing post-constitutional recognition in terms of settlement with our First Australians. I’m not going to get hung up on the words about treaty or settlement.”
West Australian Greens senator Rachel Siewert has urged Prime Minister Turnbull to take a stand and talk treaties.
“No treaty was ever made between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and European settlers, or as many people would call them, invaders,” she wrote in an open letter to Mr Turnbull.
“Sovereignty was never ceded.”
The Indigenous Affairs Minister encouraged state and territory governments to maintain an open dialogue on treaties.
“That’s a conversation all governments need to continue to have. This is a really important role for the media to keep annoying and poking people, and keep this debate going.”