• Labor leader Bill Shorten with Malarndirri McCarthy, Milton Dick, Pat Dodson and Linda Burney (AAP/Dan Peled)Source: AAP/Dan Peled
The Federal Opposition will set up a national caucus in a push for more Indigenous representation across all political parties.
20 Feb 2017 - 5:32 PM  UPDATED 20 Feb 2017 - 5:32 PM

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten hosted a meeting of Indigenous Labor MPs from the Commonwealth, State and Territory parliaments to establish a national Labor Indigenous Caucus in Brisbane today. 

The new caucus aims to increase Indigenous voter enrolment, expand the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander members of the Labor Party, and initiate a young leaders program where Indigenous youth are identified and paired directly with MPs.

Mr Shorten said for over a century there has been an under-representation of Indigenous Australians in the parliaments and decision-making forums of Australia. 

"There can be no way that we can make good decisions, the best decisions for our first Australians unless first Australians are involved in the decision-making," he said. 

"The rules should be that our first Australians get asked first about anything affecting them and what Labor is doing today is we're actually practising what we preach and we are saying to Aboriginal Australians that the politics and the process can work for you and we want you to become involved. And I've got great mentors here helping me show the way." 

Mr Shorten was joined by fellow Labor members Yawuru Senator Pat Dodson, Yanyuwa Senator Malarndirri McCarthy and Wiradjuri MP Linda Burney. 

Mr Dodson said there is some new thinking going on within Labor. 

"There are things that we may have got wrong in the past but I think there is an openness now that is attractive to Indigenous people about many of the substantive issues that we've found difficult in the past. But we've got to get out there, we've got to get people on the rolls and we've got to be able to sell our message in a plausible way," he said. 

Ms Burney said there are some real practical ways Labor can do to attract more Indigenous people to the party. 

"Look at the way in which membership operates. Look at the way in which paying for memberships operate and does that suit remote communities? Having a look at what's going on at local government, for example, there are a lot of very good Aboriginal people at local government. But also, most importantly, creating a permanent forum within the party for Aboriginal people and Aboriginal issues." 

She said Labor is the party for Aboriginal people. 

"Having Malarndirri, Patrick and myself in the caucus, I'm sure Bill would agree, is making a difference and having Aboriginal voices at the table will attract Aboriginal people to the party."

The meeting will consider an Indigenous enrolment drive, in preparation for a referendum on constitutional recognition and look at ways to dismantle barriers to ALP membership. 

Mr Shorten said greater representation of First Australians in all parliaments will help shape a better future all. 

"Help us make the change that we need."

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