• Yolngu dancers perform at an emotional Garma Festival opening ceremony on Friday, August 4, 2017. (AAP)Source: AAP
Disappointment after political leaders fail to give voice to parliament proposal full bipartisan support.
NITV Staff Writer

5 Aug 2017 - 9:16 AM  UPDATED 5 Aug 2017 - 11:13 AM

Prominent Aboriginal Australian Noel Pearson has delivered a scathing assessment of the "miserable" political leadership shown by the prime minister and opposition leader towards constitutional reform.

Many senior Aboriginal figures had hoped Malcolm Turnbull and Bill Shorten would commit to an indigenous voice to parliament when they attended the Garma Festival opening ceremony in northeast Arnhem Land on Friday.

But Mr Pearson echoed the bitter disappointment of Referendum Co-chair Pat Anderson, who slammed the "empty platitudes" offered by both politicians as gutless.

"It is such a miserable scene, the leadership scene in Australia," Mr Pearson said.

"But we have never let that in the past determine our fortitude, and we must keep our eyes on the prize."

Tears flow for Dr G. Yunupingu at moving Garma 2017 opening ceremony
Traditional Owners shared an emotional ceremony in honour of Dr G Yunupingu with leaders of the country as the 19th Garma Festival officially opened.

Mr Pearson urged comrades to continue agitating for a national vote on an Indigenous advisory body, insisting such a "profound proposition" deserves a response "in the lifetime of our current leaders".

"Political cycles come and go, but this agenda will never go away," he said.

Mr Shorten called for a joint parliamentary select committee to finalise a referendum question on the Aboriginal voice proposal, but Mr Turnbull is yet to commit bipartisan support.

“I regard Garma as an opportunity to provide us in Canberra with inspiration. To actually argue for a Makarrata Commission, for truth telling and for treaties,” he said.

“In amongst everything else here at Garma, perhaps all of us: Aboriginal leaders, the Government, the Opposition, can sit down and work out the next steps towards achieving it.”

Yesterday at the Garma opening ceremony Mr Turnbull said the relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australia is based on mutual respect. 

“Our relationship is based on mutual respect and we build that and care for that as we learn from each other and as we learn from you. We learn language, we learn culture, and based on that is respect,” he said.

“As the Prime Minister, one of my most important roles as a leader is to listen. So, we've come to learn, and participate in this festival, respectfully.”

'An Indigenous voice to parliament will address our powerlessness', Social Justice Commissioner
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner June Oscar says a constitutionally-enshrined voice to parliament can address Indigenous powerlessness during an education forum at the 2017 Garma festival.

Ms Anderson said Indigenous Australians needed another expert panel "like a hole in the head".

She said Mr Turnbull, who delivered much of his speech in Yolgnu Matha language, had been disrespectful to land rights champion Dr Galarrwuy Yunupingu, who stressed the urgent need to resolve unfinished business of reconciliation and self-determination.

"We live side by side, but we're not yet united," Dr Yunupingu said.

With AAP