Indigenous leaders intend to meet with new Prime Minister Scott Morrison in his first 100 days in office as influential Aboriginal businessman Warren Mundine says he hopes Mr Morrison can start bringing about change to benefit Aboriginal people.
Mr Mundine said he hoped Mr Morrison would act on some of the recommendations of the Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory, which handed down its findings in November.
“I’m hoping there is a bit of a difference, in that we had the royal commission that cost $52- $53 million, it’s made recommendations, but what’s happened to those? They have inquiries and make recommendations and it gathers dust on the book shelf,” Mr Mundine said.
“We need a focus back on that because we, and I mean Indigenous people, are tired.”
Mr Mundine said he also hoped Mr Morrison would turn his attention to the Community Development Programme and the welfare sector generally and make it better for Indigenous peoples.
“I’ve had many conversations with Scott Morrison over the years. He’s a bloke who can talk to a boilermaker, or a person on the dole, or to a banker,” Mr Mundine said.
“He has that conversation and he’s also a very good listener. I’m hoping that now he’s got the position of Prime Minister that he can start driving some of those things.”
The National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples, the peak representative body for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, intends to meet Mr Morrison in the first few months of his prime ministership.
Congress co-chair Rod Little said they met twice with Mr Turnbull during his time as Prime Minister and wanted to introduce themselves to Mr Morrison and offer him a working relationship aimed at improving outcomes for Indigenous peoples.
But Mr Little said the short time frame before the next election, due next year, may work against Mr Morrison in effecting any change.
“If we’re able to meet with him in the first 100 days that would be good,” Mr Little said.
Federal Labor MP Linda Burney said Mr Morrison and Mr Abbott were both part of a government that had said no to changes to the Constitution to recognise First Nation’s peoples and give them a voice to parliament.
“Morrison as the new Prime Minister has an amazing opportunity to change that position, listen to what Aboriginal people are saying, and move this government to recognise that there should be an Indigenous voice to the parliament,” Ms Burney said.
“That is his challenge and we await with interest what the response will be to that.”
Ms Burney said even with an election looming the federal government, under Mr Morrison, could do further damage to Aboriginal people.
“The select committee will deliver its findings on Constitutional reform and a voice to parliament at the end of November and then it’s up to the parliament to make a decision on how that will be dealt with, so there is that time frame,” she said.
“If the election is May, and we don’t know when it will be, you would imagine there would be a budget at some point. I find it difficult to think there wouldn’t be a budget.”
“But knows what will be in that budget. From Scott Morrison’s record as treasurer and the enormous cuts he had wanted to make and has made in many of the social policy areas, I’m not holding my breath.”
By Wendy Caccetta