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Time for ‘backbone’ on Voice mission

Tom Zaunmayr -

It has been more than three years since the iconic Uluru Statement From the Heart and Australia is yet to see any version of the elusive Voice to Parliament.

And it's been seven years since the Expert Panel on the Recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples in the Constitution was commissioned.

To put that into context, over that period the country has had five prime ministers: Julia Gillard, Kevin Rudd, Tony Abbott, Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison.

When Ken Wyatt became the first Aboriginal person to be the nation's minister for Indigenous Australians, he made a point of not outright endorsing the Uluru Statement.

Carefully toeing the party line in his first months in the role, Mr Wyatt tuned out the haters on both sides to set about establishing advisory groups. But who else has he tuned out since?

And is he listening at all?

Illustration by Rhys Paddick.

Worries about adding a cumbersome "third chamber" to our political system appear to have been embraced by some in Canberra and the Voice to Parliament looks more likely to become a Voice to Government.

This has caused Indigenous leaders to speak out. Coalition of Peaks head Pat Turner AM recently turned her focus to Mr Morrison when addressing the National Press Club.

"We'll need to see a bit of backbone here and a bit of real commitment," she said. "That's what you need. Ken (Wyatt) can't do it by himself."

Yet isn't that why he set up the Senior Advisory Group, the National Co-Design Group and the Local & Regional Advisory Group?

Mr Wyatt and Mr Morrison have a wealth of diverse Indigenous knowledge at their disposal. The time is now to step up and deliver a Voice to Parliament that the First Nations peoples of Australia deserve.

As Aunty Pat Anderson is quoted as saying in today's National Indigenous Times, right now is the chance to do something that's been talked about as far back as the 1920s.

"The fight now, for constitutional enshrinement of a Voice, is a continuation of everything else that we've done," she said.

Responsibility for the editorial comment is taken by NIT Editor Hannah Cross

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