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Treaties, changing Australia Day on the cards if the No vote wins: Mundine

Dechlan Brennan -

Leading No campaigner Nyunggai Warren Mundine has put himself at odds with many in the No campaign, by saying a defeat in the upcoming referendum would make treaties between First Nations people and governments more likely.

Mr Mundine, a Bundjalung man, was appearing on ABC Insiders on Sunday, where he also called for Australia Day to be changed from January 26th.

These positions would seemingly distance himself from statements made by the No campaign, who in an official pamphlet distributed to the voters, warned that a change from January 26th could be one of the "radical" consequences of a successful Voice to Parliament referendum.

Mr Mundine, who has been tipped to vie for the Liberal Senate seat recently vacated by Marise Payne, said he acknowledged that these two positions put him at odds with many of his fellow conservatives.

"One of the things about this debate I've always been honest even though I know people on my side don't agree with me on these two issues and that's treaties and the changing of the date," he said.

"January 26 will always be an important day because of the fact that European countries came to Australia and set up the colonies here. We can't get away from that, but we can't become captive of it. We have to face the facts and move on.

"Yes, recognise history. Yes, recognise the invasion, recognise the good and bad that is in our history, but we still have to move on."

The official No pamphlet states:

"Already, many activists are campaigning to abolish Australia Day, change our flag and other institutions and symbols important to Australians…If there is a constitutionally enshrined Voice, these calls would grow louder."

Asked whether treaties were more likely if people voted no on October 14th, Mundine agreed.

"Yeah. Because then, on 15 October, if it is a 'no' vote, that's when the real work starts," he said.

"We've got to recognise Aboriginal culture; Aboriginal culture is our First Nations and the first thing we learn about life is one nation cannot talk about another nation's country.

"Only those traditional owners can talk about those countries so therefore when you talk about a state treaty or a national type treaty it doesn't make sense in our culture."

Mr Mundine said this would be more likely without the Voice.

"We don't need another body of bureaucracy, we need to recognise those traditional owners," he said.

His statements are drastically different to those of federal opposition spokesperson for Indigenous Australians, Jacinta Nampijinpa Price, who said on Thursday: "you can't have treaty with your own citizens".

"We know that that is the agenda of many who support the voice and we're not going to take any other suggestion otherwise. There are treaties in negotiation around the country right now," she said on Thursday at an event hosted by The Australian.

"It's one law for all as far as I'm concerned. And this is the problem that treaty poses for the Australian people.

"There was, as far as I know, not a declaration of war for there to be a treaty."

Treaty negotiations and discussions are already underway in several Australian jurisdictions.

In Victoria, the First Peoples' Assembly - the independent and democratically elected body to represent Traditional Owners of Country and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples - is in the early stages of Treaty negotiations with the state government, as well as setting up a framework for negotiations between the government and traditional owners' groups throughout the state.

Indigenous leaders want the negotiations to begin in 2024.

Mr Mundine said treaties were important to resolve issues related to sovereignty and would help give protections to Indigenous heritage and culture.

"We're moving very strongly in that position with the land rights acts and the native title acts where Aboriginal people have a major say in what happens on their lands," he said.

Many 'progressive' No campaigners – including independent senator Lidia Thorpe – have openly backed treaties and justice reforms and more pressing issues than the voice.

Some members of the First Peoples 'Assembly even had queried whether the Voice would negate sovereignty. However, in March, Senator Pat Dodson, who is also the Chair of Joint Standing Committee on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs, confirmed to the Assembly that the Voice would not impact sovereignty.

Mr Mundine also addressed the controversial statements from both camps - especially those of No campaigner and former Labor MP, Gary Johns.

"In the last 12 months, I've never seen so much racism and comments and attacks than I have seen since I was a kid," Mr Mundine said.

This is – it's dreadful and the reason I raised about the prime minister is that if the prime minister was going to bring this referendum forward and he is talking about uniting the people, he shouldn't have used derogatory terms against people who didn't agree with them."

He did, however, concede that he had to remove people from the No campaign.

"You notice some people aren't talking anymore," he said. "We [Gary Johns] had a cup of tea and we talked about it."

"The problem we have is once you start talking about race, it never ends well. And we've seen that on both sides of the aisle, and it has been pretty dreadful. We have to stop talking about race and actually get back to the referendum and start talking about those issues," he said.

On the referendum campaign - which has been fraught with controversy - he added the process had been "hijacked," but good things had still come out of it.

"One is the Australian public want Aboriginal people to be recognised; and two that they want practical outcomes," he said.

"They're sick and tired of getting the annual closing the Gap report and the productivity commission report and things are not working in a lot of areas."

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