Bipartisanship Needed To Close The Gap: Minister

Cabinet minister Murray Watt has called for bipartisan unity to make progress on efforts to close the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.

Date: 23-10-2023 02:00

Bipartisanship Needed To Close The Gap: Minister

A cabinet minister is calling for a bipartisan approach to closing the Indigenous wellbeing gap, as fallout continues over the failed Voice referendum.

In an unsigned letter, a group of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders described the outcome of the voice referendum as a “shameful victory” for a ‘no’ campaign driven by racism.

The statement on Sunday, which did not name its specific authors, said there was nothing positive to be taken from the nation’s refusal to enshrine an Indigenous advisory body into the constitution.

Emergency Management Minister Murray Watt says the disappointment is understandable.

“For First Nations leaders who have been fighting for this for well over a decade, there’s a lot of hurt and disappointment about the result of the referendum,” he told Sky News on Monday.

“We do want to actually understand what the aspirations of Indigenous people are in the wake of that referendum result, but we also need to have some more bipartisanship on display.

“The fundamental reason … the people voted ‘no’ was that we didn’t have bipartisanship.”

Though some members of the coalition were in favour of the voice, the opposition broadly opposed Labor’s constitutional change proposal.

Of Australia’s 45 attempts at amending the constitution, only eight have succeeded – all of which received bipartisan support.

To move forward in the face of such a devastating result, co-chair of Reconciliation Australia Melinda Cilento said the nation needed to address racism.

“(With) the level of racism experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people that was clearly on display through the campaign in the days after the referendum, we really need to start talking about tackling racism,” she told ABC radio.

Closing the gap between Indigenous and non-indigenous communities required listening to the people affected by decisions, she said.

“The way we’ve tried to do this in the past is not working,” Cilento said.

“The future does need to focus more on how we empower First Nations voices and support self-determination as a way of sustainably closing those gaps.”


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