Indigenous Voice Needed Before Election, Says Australian Minister
CANBERRA, Australia — The minister responsible for Indigenous Australians has promised to deliver a voice to parliament before the next election.
But Ken Wyatt remains committed to legislating the voice rather than embedding it in the constitution.
An expert panel established to help design the voice received more than 2500 submissions.
An overwhelming majority of submissions (86 percent) demanded it to be constitutionally enshrined, as envisaged in the Uluru Statement from the Heart. The Uluru Statement from the Heart was released on 26 May 2017 by delegates to the First Nations National Constitutional Convention, held over four days near Uluru in Central Australia.
The Uluru Statement calls for the ‘establishment of a First Nations Voice enshrined in the Constitution. This has been interpreted in light of past suggestions put forward for the establishment of some form of representative body for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
Wyatt is keen to draw a distinction between recognizing Indigenous people in the constitution and including a voice in the legal document. He plans to legislate the Indigenous voice before the next election, which is due in less than 12 months.
“There will be time,” Wyatt said on a reputed radio show on July 5.
“We’ve been doing a lot of work on this, and I’m buoyed by what our people on the ground are saying.
“We just want to be listened to. We want our matters addressed. We want local issues around health, education, housing, land, and other matters addressed. They’re our priorities.”
Kenneth George Wyatt AM is an Australian politician who has been a member of the House of Representatives since 2010, representing the Division of Hasluck for the Liberal Party.
However, Indigenous people will be kept waiting for recognition in the constitution, with the minister focused on getting the voice right first. Wyatt said while surveys consistently showed strong support for constitutional recognition, it was important to get the wording right before holding a referendum.
“We’ve not walked away from constitutional recognition,” he said, “We’ve not progressed to where we want to be in that constitutional recognition set of words the Australian public will support.”
As per s51 (25) of the High Court of Australia (1983): ‘An Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person is a person of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent who identifies as an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander (person) and is accepted as such by the community in which he or she lives.
(Edited by Vaibhav Pawar and Ritaban Misra)