From Uluru to reform: the journey continues

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Opposition leader Bill Shorten will meet with the Referendum Council to discuss its final report before the historic document is made public.

A spokesman for federal Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion said this week he was not in a position to say when the meeting would be held.

He said once it had taken place it was expected the report, presented to the two leaders on June 30, would be made public.

Thomas Mayor, who heads a working group appointed by Indigenous leaders to ensure Australia stays on track for a referendum, said the report shouldn’t be held for too long by the leaders.

He said he expected the meeting between the leaders and the Referendum Council to take place this month.

The Referendum Council was tasked with consulting with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people on Constitutional recognition and reform.

The final report followed meetings around Australia and delivery of the ‘Uluru Statement ‘From the Heart’, which was delivered by Indigenous leaders in May.

It’s understood the report supports the Uluru call for a Constitutionally backed Indigenous advisory body in Parliament and a Makarrata commission to oversee treaties and truth-telling.

Makarrata is a Yolgnu word for “treaty”.

“We are confident the report reflects the views of those who contributed to this process, particularly the many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples who took part in dialogues around the country,” Referendum Council co-chair Mark Leibler said.

“I think I speak on behalf of all Referendum Council members when I say we believe this report provides guidance on how we can continue to grow as a nation and ensure better outcomes for all.

“We are honoured to have been able to contribute to what will be an important milestone in Australia’s history.”

Co-chair Pat Anderson said the council looked forward to the report being made public as soon as practicable.

“While the Council will not discuss the specific recommendations made in the report before that time, we have been clear over the life of our work that key themes have arisen,” she said.

“Our consultation with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples culminated in the Uluru Statement from the Heart, which has informed our advice along with all the other input received over the past six months.”

Speaking on ABC radio, Labor Senator Pat Dodson said unity in the Indigenous communities would be important to the success of any changes.

“We know that in politics, division is death,” he said.

“If there are clear divisions among the Indigenous leadership and population, that’s going to make it easier for the job of the Parliament not to do anything.

“It’s important that there is unity. There are many strong leaders who have differing views about how things ought to be done. They’ve got to find common ground on the best way to go forward here and to advocate that to the Parliament.

“So that then we’re clear when we consider these matters that these things are going to be of benefit not only to Indigenous people but to the nation as a whole.”

Wendy Caccetta

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