Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander constitutional recognition

Ms HUTCHINS (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs) (09:47:42) — Today I rise to reassure the Victorian Aboriginal community and all Victorians that the Andrews Labor government will continue to work towards treaty and self-determination, no matter what the federal Liberal government does. Last week Malcolm Turnbull rejected the Referendum Council’s recommendation to hold a referendum to change Australia’s constitution to establish an Indigenous voice to Parliament. It was envisaged that it would take the form of a constitutionally recognised body of Indigenous Australians who would have a voice on legislation and policy that affects them. Sadly, this was put in the too-hard basket and rejected without consultation by the Turnbull government — an absolute shame on this country. Despite this, there are still discussions in Parliament today around the need for constitutional change on the dual citizenship situation of federal MPs. Yet it is too hard to go to the question around Aboriginal rights in our constitution.

This week I joined other states and territories in demanding the Turnbull government include Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the refresh of the Closing the Gap framework. These calls follow last week’s Ministerial Council on Indigenous Affairs meeting in Canberra, where federal Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Nigel Scullion, sought the states’ agreement to revise Closing the Gap targets without a sufficient time frame to take into account the views and knowledge of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders across this country. The current approach of Closing the Gap is not working and it needs time to be consulted on with our Aboriginal Australians.