Ken Wyatt has been appointed Minister for Indigenous Affairs in Scott Morrison’s new cabinet – becoming the first Indigenous person to ever hold the portfolio as well as the first Indigenous cabinet minister in Australia.
Minister Wyatt reported on social media that he is “incredibly honoured” to be the first Indigenous Minister to hold the position and that he is committed to working with First Nations communities to “ensure the greatness of our many nations.”
Moving his portfolio responsibilities from Indigenous Health and Senior Australians & Aged Care to Indigenous Affairs, the congratulations have flooded in.
“[This] is a pivotal decision by the Prime Minister and one that will undoubtedly benefit all First Nations Australians,” said Law Council President Arthur Moses SC, adding Minister Wyatt’s appointment is a defining moment in Australian politics.
Greens Senator Rachel Siewert said Minister Wyatt’s appointment is a “positive step towards self-determination” and that she looks forward to working with her fellow WA colleague.
With the news of his appointment coinciding with the two-year anniversary of the Uluru Statement from the Heart, it remains to be seen whether Minister Wyatt will push to enshrine an Indigenous Voice to Parliament.
First Nations representatives from across Australia gathered in Cairns at the Tree of Knowledge in Yarrabah to mark the anniversary.
“The will of the people in ’67 was to be united as one, and we now seek a similar endorsement, inclusive of all Australians, with the aspirations of the Uluru Statement to carry us forward,” said North Queensland Land Council Chair Kaylene Malthouse.
Kimberley Land Council CEO Nolan Hunter echoed Ms Malthouse’s sentiments, saying this chapter in Indigenous Australia’s journey is one of the most powerful.
“Implementing the Uluru Statement from the Heart and the Voice to Parliament has to be a multi-partisanproject and a priorityof the new Parliament. First Nations peoples have waited too long,” Senator Siewert said.
Mr Moses agreed, saying Voice to Parliament is a priority for the Law Council as well.
“Improved justice outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples is vital. We offer our expertise in this area to help formulate legislation to support Indigenous-led policy solutions,” Mr Moses said.
As the panel on ABC’s Insiders speculated yesterday morning on the likelihood of Minister Wyatt becoming Indigenous Affairs Minister, political commentator Gerard Henderson said Ken Wyatt was a “good performer” as he did well in his previous roles.
This comment comes despite a $350,000 pledge to upgrade the Kalamunda Men’s Shed becoming null and void after the organisation announced it had sourced the funding elsewhere, and the Minister’s awarding of nearly $1.7 million of Indigenous health funding to a non-Indigenous organisation earlier this year.
By Hannah Cross