Rejection of voice to parliament a missed opportunity

27-Oct-2017 1:56 PM

Reconciliation Australia is deeply disappointed that the Federal Government has passed over the opportunity to take action on long-fought-for constitutional recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, as recommended in the Referendum Council’s final report.

The overwhelming response from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people involved in the Referendum Council’s extensive consultations was that they strongly favoured a voice to parliament as a form of recognition they consider to be genuinely empowering.

Reconciliation Australia CEO Karen Mundine said the Prime Minister’s decision was a frustrating blow to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, who participated in the government-initiated Referendum Council process in good faith.

“The government asked Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples what they wanted, they delivered a consensus and then the government rejected it out of hand, without adequate dialogue or evidence,” she said.

“This response is out of step with the need to build and maintain relationships of trust and respect, which are essential to achieve reconciliation.”

Reconciliation Australia does not agree with the government’s assertion that a voice to parliament would be, in effect, a third chamber of parliament.

“The Referendum Council’s recommendation did not propose to upset the pillars of our democratic system,” Ms Mundine said.

“Rather, it was seeking to address the unmet need to ensure that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have a voice in the policies and laws that affect their lives.

“All the evidence suggests that listening to communities is key to informed decision-making that can close the unacceptable chasm between life outcomes for Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.”

While Reconciliation Australia is disappointed that the government has rejected a reasonable aspiration of First Nations peoples, we support the formation of a Parliamentary Joint Committee to consider the issues raised throughout the constitutional reform process.

“We remain committed to progressing solutions on these issues, and we will do everything we can to help the nation find a way forward,” Ms Mundine said.

“We know from the strong public support for constitutional recognition that Australians are ready for change.”

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