Sydney, Aug 3 : Indigenous advocate Noel Pearson has taken Australian politicians and conservative media commentators to task over what he deems as unfounded opposition to constitutional reform.
Speaking at the Garma Festival in Arnhem Land, Mr Pearson said the Australian constitution is a divisive document, which "already treats [Indigenous people] different on the basis of race".
His overarching message was that First Nations people should have their "rightful place" amongst the Commonwealth of Australia, said an ABC News report."We seek what our ancestors have always sought, a just recognition to this land. We are Indigenous to this land," he said.
Mr Pearson also warned against symbolic gestures, urging against any sort of reform without extensive consultation with Indigenous communities.
"Reconciliation for the sake of feeling good deserves the movement … I champion radical hope and I believe I share this disposition with the great and many Indigenous leaders and activists."
Space to play or pause, M to mute, left and right arrows to seek, up and down arrows for volume. Mr Pearson did not hold back on his feelings towards government when it comes to co-designing constitutional recognition in Parliament."Only lies will defeat us," he said.
He called for the Government to work alongside Indigenous people, referencing successful treaty negotiations in the United States, as well as comments from former chief justice to the High Court, Murray Gleeson.
A showcase of more than 50,000 years of Yolngu culture, the Garma Festival also aims to address contentious political and social issues affecting Indigenous Australians.
"On July 18 in a landmark dissertation, [Mr Gleeson] laid out the truth of the recognition of a First Nations voice under the Australian constitution," Mr Pearson said.
"Our modest yet profound proposal he prosaically described as a worthwhile idea."Mr Pearson said Mr Gleeson's speech was "the last word on the legal integrity on the voice and its seamless compatibility with the constitutional history of the Australian Commonwealth".
He called Mr Gleeson's comments the perfect answer to rejectionists."Those who would scandalise and rouse fear … could never take on Mr Gleeson's words."In a measured but assertive address, Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt reassured his audience of the Government's commitment to achieving constitutional reform.
"The Government is committed to deepening partnerships with Indigenous Australians … I believe we will do it within three years, but how we do it is both important and critical."
He also called spoke of his desire to hear from as many people as possible before deciding on the exact make-up of any proposal.
"I've come to Garma not just to talk … but to listen," he said.Perhaps the most controversial aspect of Mr Wyatt's reform agenda is the proposal for a constitutionally enshrined Indigenous Advisory Body.
It has been labelled "a third chamber" by sections of parliament, perhaps most notably by former deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce. Mr Joyce later apologised for his comments, with Mr Wyatt referencing this as an opportunity to put an end to similar criticisms.
Space to play or pause, M to mute, left and right arrows to seek, up and down arrows for volume."A colleague of mine quickly called the voice a 'third chamber' to his credit he came out recently and apologised for doing that, which clears the way for those who use that as an excuse to leave it alone."
Mr Wyatt concluded his speech by urging for a considered approach."I want us to make sure we have a referendum that succeeds, I think it is critical to have the right words."
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner June Oscar shared a similar view to that of both Mr Pearson and Mr Wyatt.
Ms Oscar echoed a vision for collaborative co-design of a First Nations voice."It is in spaces like this, here at Garma, where I can see co-designing really take effect.""Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should always be at the table as equal partners — not invited guests."
Ms Oscar proceeded to emphasise the importance of hearing the struggles and aspirations of Indigenous women and girls, referencing her successful Wiyi Yani U Thangani (Women's Voices) project. "I am committed to listening, understanding and responding effectively to the voices of women and girls," she said. (UNI)