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Oz aims to give voice to indigenous people, but it won’t be ...


Oz aims to give voice to indigenous people, but it won’t be plain sailing

Labor makes bold changes, but enshrining a permanent voice will mean constitutional changes requiring a referendum

Sybilla Gross

As Anthony Albanese took to the podium for his first press conference as Australia’s 31st prime minister last week, the new addition of indigenous flags next to the long-standing national one was telling.

The Labor leader immediately gave his commitment to the Uluru Statement from the Heart, a petition with roots that go back 85 years seeking constitutional change to enable Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to have a voice in parliament. The new government has also made a raft of other commitments to Aboriginal people, including a promise to invest in the First Nations management of land and waters, strengthening economic and job opportunities for indigenous people and a pledge to improve housing in remote communities.

“Labor have been one of the boldest political parties for change in centring Aboriginal people as part of their policies — quite different from in the past, when it’s been more of a gesture to fix wrongs,” said Emma Lee, associate professor of indigenous leadership at Swinburne University of Technology. “But the practice of the policy has been very difficult for them to get right.”..

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