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Lidia Thorpe moves amendment for Voice Bill to acknowledge First Nations sovereignty

Jarred Cross -

Independent senator for Victoria Lidia Thorpe has declared she will vote no to the Constitution Alteration Bill, and renewed her call for recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander sovereignty.

The legislation, the vehicle for a referendum to enshrine an Indigenous Voice to Parliament, passed through the House of Representatives on May 31.

It currently sits before the Senate, where it must pass before the public casts their vote.

In the Upper House on Thursday, the same day she raised allegations of sexual assault in Parliament House in the chamber, Senator Thorpe moved an amendment to the Bill to include the recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander sovereignty, "in the name of the Blak Sovereign Movement".

Senator Thorpe said she is guided by Blak Sovereign voices around the country, including Professor of History and Tent Embassy founder Uncle Gary Foley, 2023 NSW Upper House candidate Lynda-June Co, Redfern Embassy founder Aunty Jenny Munro, and author and lawyer Michael Mansell, among others.

She said governments have wrongly viewed First Nations sovereignty as a "spiritual notion".

The amendment reads:

Nothing in this Act shall be taken to cede or disturb the Sovereignty of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

The Sovereignty of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples means an unceded right held in collective possession by the members of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander nations which confers usage, access and custodianship to the lands, waters, minerals and natural resources of what is now known as Australia, and the right of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to exercise an unimpeded and collective self-determinate governance over their political, economic and social affairs.

Senator Thorpe cut ties with the Greens in February to sit as an independent and freely campaign for Treaty before the implementation of a Voice.

The Gunai, Gunditjmara and Djab Wurrung Senator has since campaigned for the Blak Sovereign Movement, and on Thursday stated she cannot support the Referendum and labelled the proposed Voice "a powerless advisory body as window dressing".

"This week the Labor government opposed my motion to take action towards Treaty. They have refused to define Sovereignty, they have refused to acknowledge First Nations Sovereignty and they have continued to ignore my repeated requests to meet with the Blak Sovereign Movement," she said.

"I had publicly stated that I would abstain from voting on this legislation and that I was open to discussing the Bill with the government. They have not listened to a Blak Voice in their parliament who actually has some power."

The Bill's ability to advance self-determination was questioned.

"You quote polls stating most First Peoples support the Voice. Most polls are asking if First Nations people should have a say in policies, they do not ask about Constitutional Recognition," Senator Thorpe said.

"When you are starving, taking a crumb does not mean you support the system that starves you."

Senator Thorpe said her position on the Bill "is now as clear as the air before colonisation".

"This Bill is for a referendum that Labor and the Greens are using to absolve colonial Australia of its responsibility. They have presented it as the great solution to the stain on the nation that is the poverty and incarceration of First Nations people," she said.

The senator said the proposed Referendum has given rise to more racism and divided the public, and that the current government has favoured the Voice ahead of addressing concerns that would improve the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Stair Islander people, namely healthcare and legal reform.

She offered sovereignty as a foundation for treaty negotiations.

"If the government - and any of the previous governments - were serious about listening to us, they had every opportunity along the way and they have failed," she said.

"I was and am prepared to constructively engage with the government around the Voice, and around urgent action we need to see in the meantime which would actually make a difference to our people's lives."

The Bill's exclusion of acknowledgement to First Nations sovereignty was labelled "an intended failure".

"Because if this government actually recognised that we are Sovereign, it would also admit that it is not. That our lands were invaded, our people unlawfully conquered, massacred and oppressed. That this government and all governments preceding it were illegal according to their own Laws."

Senator Thorpe says she will continue her fight for treaty and implementing all aspects of the Uluru Statement.

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