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Pat Dodson dismisses claims Voice will boost Aboriginal funding

David Prestipino -

Senator Patrick Dodson has cautioned voters against misinformation in the lead-up to this weekend's Voice To Parliament referendum, particularly that Indigenous people would unfairly receive more funding.

Appearing at a National Press Club address via satellite after recovering from months of treatment for cancer, Senator Dodson's address marked his return to the front line of the Yes campaign and warned a 'No' vote would leave the future of Indigenous people in the hands of politicians.

Senator Dodson rejected false claims spread during the campaigns that claimed constitutional change would give Indigenous Australians the ability to make "unfair" changes in the legislation, including more financial benefits for First Nations people.

"It doesn't bind the Parliament, it doesn't control the funds. It doesn't set up the programs. It simply gives advice to the executive and to the Parliament on the better ways to do things with the public funds that are put towards programs," he said.

"If you want to walk away from that, then you're left with the hands of the politicians making the decisions. You're left with the bureaucrats determining and deciding how the lives of Aboriginal people will be controlled.

"If you want the government to deliver more of the same or to become more draconian, then vote No."

A yes vote would recognise Indigenous people in Australia's constitution and establish a First Nations body to advise the federal government on issues that impact Aboriginal people.

"It simply gives advice to the executive and to the Parliament on the better ways to do things," Senator Dodson said.

"If you walk away from that... you are left with the bureaucrats determining and deciding how the lives of Aboriginal people are going to be controlled."

Senator Dodson said he understood why a significant amount of voters were bogged in confusion between race and indigeneity and the struggles of the Yes campaign to convince voters.

"The nature of the communication in this referendum process is more about the quality of how we're going to have future discourses on political matters that are going to affect our nation," he said.

"We're going to have to take stock of it. Because it hasn't been a very nice basis upon which to consider a complex and complicated matter.

"I can understand being confused if you're bombarded by all sorts of messages coming your way and you don't have a good foundation in terms of Australian history, the history of colonisation. If you don't understand the frontier wars, the dispossession that has taken place.

"If we don't understand some of those basic things, then of course people find it difficult to see forward. But the answer to that is not to vote No. No is not neutral. No is a denial of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples."

Social media had meant less proper analysis of public discourse, Senator Dodson noted.

"It does worry me that there's no baseline here. This is run through social media: you can say anything, it's deemed to be truth, it's seen to be of value, there's no weighting of the arguments, no real analysis of the arguments, no historical dimension, there's no acceptance of history, there's no acknowledgment of the legacy that history has created," he said.

Senator Dodson, a Yawuru elder from Broome, said he was encouraged that several jurisdictions, including the ACT and South Australia, planned to introduce state-based Indigenous Voices, regardless of Saturday's outcome.

"I would encourage our state in Western Australia to look seriously at embarking on the process and looking at a Voice to its parliament, and looking at a truth-telling process, and looking at an agreement-making process," he said.

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