Key Issues

Here are some of the key Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander issues set to make an appearance in the lead up to election day:

Uluru Statement from the Heart: Released on 26 May 2017 by delegates to an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Referendum Convention, held near Uluru in Central Australia. The convention discussed and agreed upon an approach to constitutional reform to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

The Uluru Statement was made by a majority of delegates to the convention, and states two broad objectives for reform: the establishment of a ‘First Nations Voice’ and a ‘Makarrata Commission’.

It’s important to note that not all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples feel they were included in the process of consultation leading up to and including the National Constitutional Convention and they do not all support the Statement from the Heart that resulted from it. For more details read the ‘Walkout Statement: Opposing Constitutional Recognition and Manufactured Consent‘.

‘Voice to Parliament’: The Uluru Statement from the Heart recommended the creation of a constitutionally enshrined representative body called the “Indigenous voice to parliament”, which would advice parliament on matters that specifically affect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, established via referendum. It is considered the key recommendation from the Referendum Convention.

‘Makarrata Commission’: The Uluru Statement recommended a commission to supervise a process of agreement-making between governments and First Nations and ‘truth-telling about our history’. ‘Makarrata’ is a word from the Yolngy people in Arnhem Land, capturing the idea of two parties coming together after a struggle, healing the divisions of the past. ‘Makarrata’ has often been used as a word instead of ‘treaty’.

Closing the Gap: Since 2008, Australian governments have worked together to deliver better health, education and employment outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and to eliminate the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. They work towards targets, which are set to be refreshed in 2019 and include priorities including health, education, economic development, housing, familes/children/youth, justice and land/water. Read the 2019 Closing the Gap report, released in February here.

When to celebrate Australia Day: The date of Australia Day has become a national debate topic, balancing the desire to celebrate together as a national community and symbolism associated with celebrating on a day that First Nations mourn the invasion of their country.

Other issues:

Party Platforms

  • Voices To Parliament: Scott Morrison has signaled no change to LNP’s policy since Malcolm Turnbull rejected the VTP, saying it would create a “third chamber” of parliament.
  • Australia Day: To remain on Jan 26 as “the top national holiday of the year”.
  • Closing the gap: Committed to refreshing Australia’s closing the gap targets with an emphasis on education. Announced funding boost to Indigenous education initiatives including more teachers for remote areas, preschool initiatives, programmes to promote school attendance in remote areas, youth education package to give support and mentoring through secondary studies.
  • The coalition has also announced new commitment to supporting Indigenous businesses through a new procurement policy that has a target of 3 per cent of the value of Commonwealth contracts awarded to Indigenous businesses within a decade and $40 million fund to encourage the development of new and expanding Indigenous owned and operated tourism enterprises; an Indigenous Business and Jobs Hub in Perth; and support to help Indigenous jobseekers to find employment opportunities across Western Sydney and Stirling.
  • On April 13, the LNP Government announced $12.5 million in funding support to three projects which “aim to provide the knowledge and understanding to make health programs for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people more effective” as part of a wider initiative addressing Indigenous youth suicide which totals $19.6 million.

  • Voice to Parliament: Bill Shorten has promised a ‘Voice Referendum’ would be “Labor’s first priority for constitutional change’, committing to that referendum before a plebiscite on Australia becoming a republic. Both are promised within the first term of a Labor Government. The Labor Party has also established a ‘Reconciliation Action Plan’ which includes increasing involvement of First Nations peoples in the Labor Party, establishing a program for emerging Indigenous leaders, creating more opportunities for consultation, cultural sensitivity training for Labor staff and boosting Indigenous outcomes in employment and contracting within the party.
  • Australia Day: Bill Shorten has ruled out changing the date of Australia Day.
  • Closing the Gap: Labor has promised a $115 million plan to tackle the Indigenous health crisis, which includes $29.6 million to improve mental health and prevent youth suicide. Labor has stressed that the programs will be “co-designed with and led by First Nations peoples – driven by the Aboriginal health workforce”. The party plans to administer the mental health funds through Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services, which employ teams of paediatricians, child psychologists, social workers, mental health nurses and Aboriginal health practitioners in vulnerable communities.
  • Labor has pledged an extra $107m to combat Indigenous Australians’ disadvantage in the justice system in a bid to reduce stubbornly high incarceration rates. The package includes $44m for legal aid and $21.75m for justice reinvestment programs.
  • Labor has also announced a plan to help establish a new Indigenous theatre company.

  • Australia Day: The Greens say they will change the date of Australia Day.
  • Support the Uluru Statement from the Heart in full.
  • Say they will take steps to implement constitutionally enshrined Voice to Parliament and plan a path to treaties.

The Australian Conservative’s say on their policy platform they prioritise “Pride in our country, flag and history”.

“We are proud of who we are and commit to restoring pride in our country, flag, institutions and the Australian way of life.  We will oppose moves to change ‘Australia Day’, war remembrance observances, our flag, Constitution and other civic celebrations.”

Cory Bernardi has indicated he is against constitutional recognition of First Nations people.

Christian Commentary


National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholic Council

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