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Malarndirri McCarthy tells AEDF now is the time for Indigenous people to show respect and resilience

Brendan Foster -

Northern Territory Labor senator Malarndirri McCarthy is urging First Nations people to get back to "business", remain resilient and respectful after the disappointment of the Voice to Parliament referendum.

Speaking at the 11th annual Aboriginal Economic Development Forum in Darwin on Friday, Senator McCarthy said the deep hurt and devastation felt by so many who supported the Yes vote was evident, straight after the October 14 referendum.

"We are such a resilient people, as First Nations people," she said.

"The most important thing is, in my view, one of the most important things is respect.

"Respect the fact that we might not think the same, we're seeing the fact that we may have different ways of trying to get to a solution, or conclusion and respect for the fact that we can always learn from one another.

"I talked about resilience because that's really the key to moving forward.

"After the referendum, it's also now about accepting and respecting that decision, which is a really difficult thing for people to do.

"But we must do so because I really urge all Australians in particular the over six million people who voted Yes, that we always have to strive to be the better part of ourselves, in particular hearing loss in defeat in failure."

The proud Yanyuwa Garrawa woman from Borroloola, in the Northern Territory, said whatever the outcome of the referendum, First Nations people continued to be incarcerated at rates way too high and experience poor rates of domestic violence and unemployment.

The Assistant Minister for Indigenous Australians and Indigenous Health said the First Nations economic sector had a critical role to play in making changes to the broader Australian community.

Senator McCarthy said Indigenous businesses in the Top End were in a unique position because of their proximity to their neighbouring Pacific partners.

"When I went to Fiji last year to work with the Pacific women lead, I wanted to see Indigenous women on the Indigenous forum, because they are our brothers and sisters across the seas," she said.

"We work around the blue Pacific Ocean, creating business trying to lift each other out of poverty, the economic streams.

"And not only did we try to appoint and I think that process is ongoing at the moment to have someone at that level, to have that engagement internationally so that we can continue not only realistically around Indigenous economic development, but internationally.

"So with the Pacific women's lead forum to look at our First Nations women interacting with our women across the Pacific, and the other position was the First Nations ambassador.

"So we've got that position now with our first ambassador, (Justin Mohamed) to continue that links that we all know it from our own history and our family histories that we've had for a long time."

In concluding her speech, Senator McCarthy said the most important issue post the referendum was improving the lives of First Nations people in Australia.

"I do look at the example of those who've gone before us and the struggles and I where I come from," she said.

"When in 1976, we were the first to go for land of this area with we didn't succeed. But it was difficult to give evidence in a former courthouse where their families had been jailed.

"I remember watching the Elders sitting there, speaking largely in language, but not really understanding what that Westminster System of law was all about.

"But we never gave up. And there's always hope for a better future for all of us, for First Nations people."


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