ABC RN BREAKFAST
MONDAY, 11 JUNE 2018
SUBJECTS: Barunga Festival; Indigenous Voice to Parliament, Uluru Statement from the Heart; child protection.
HAMISH MACDONALD, RADIO NATIONAL BREAKFAST PRESENTER:Momentum for a landmark treaty with Indigenous Australians, essentially gathering pace with legislation for such a process passing the Victorias Lower House last week. Meanwhile, in Barunga, Aboriginal Land Councils have signed an historic memorandum of understanding with the Northern Territory Government to start work towards their own treaty negotiations. The agreement comes thirty years after the original Barunga Statement on Indigenous rights and self-determination was presented to the then Prime Minister Bob Hawke.
Federal Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion says he is yet to be convinced of a treaty or the need for it but he is open-minded he says about the notion. Well Malarndirri McCarthy is a Labor Senator and a member of a Parliamentary Committee investigating options for recognising Australias First Peoples in the Constitution. She joins me now from Kununurra in Western Australia. A very good morning to you.
SENATOR MALARNDIRRI MCCARTHY, LABOR SENATOR FOR THE NORTHERN TERRITORY:Good morning Hamish and good morning to your listeners.
MACDONALD:We now have two jurisdictions working on treaties with Indigenous groups, what would a treaty mean for you as an individual?
MCCARTHY:I am a Yanyuwa Garrawa woman from Borroloola in the Gulf of Carpentaria and our families spent nearly four decades Hamish to just prove that we were Yanyuwa and Garrawa We went through the Westminster system of law through the Aboriginal Land Rights Act to prove that. And we won. We were also able to prove that we had trading relationships with the Maccassans and the Indonesians for hundreds of years and that international trading relationship was recognised under the Westminster system in a court of law. In terms of a treaty, it is a very obvious step, certainly for my people in the Gulf Country and there needs to be thorough conversations that sit down with a genuine intent to understand that history, but also look at a positive future.
MACDONALD:I am interested to hear your reaction to some of the things being said about treaties at the moment, I know that the South Australian Premier Stephen Marshall has said that State and Territory treaties are little more than expensive gestures?
MCCARTHY:Well that is really a deep disappointment simply because in South Australia Kyam Maher led the movement there for the Treaty Commissioner. The conversations that took place, very difficult conversations Hamish, but our country needs to have those difficult conversations because there is unfinished business here.
MACDONALD:What about the idea that ultimately if there is to be a treaty, it needs to be a national treaty because tribal borders if you like, dont necessarily match up with state and territory boundaries and if we are to do something that is meaningful it needs to be the entire Australians community together as one?
MCCARTHY:I would want to see the whole Australian community involved in a very respectful way but you have first to get First Nations People together, and that is really the critical starting point here. We know, and I can talk for the Northern Territory, we know that we have over 100 Aboriginal languages Hamish, and we understand that those conversations have to happen firstly with the clan groups and the nations across each of those areas. Now that is something that can be replicated right across the country, but I would respectfully be guided by the Aboriginal leaders in those respective states.
MACDONALD:What do you see ultimately as being the benefit of having a treaty? I was interested in New Zealand recently I interviewed the Prime Minister there Jacinda Ardern who talked about there being a fundamental difference between Australia and New Zealand in terms of relations with the Indigenous population because she said there is a document which underpins the relationship and defines the history. I am interested to know how you think that might create tangible benefits going forward?
MCCARTHY:It is important Hamish to look at treaties elsewhere with the Commonwealth and obviously, New Zealand is one that is very close to us and we can certainly observe and learn from what happened there. We are also mindful that they do have the one language and that the ability to have a language and that ability to have a treaty was perhaps certainly far greater because of that. Whereas here in Australia we are enriched by the fact that we have hundreds and hundreds of languages, clan groups and nations and there in itself lies a challenge for our country. Do we have the courage to be brave and respectful to really sit down and have that dialogue?
MACDONALD:In terms of bipartisan backing for something like this, how would Labor go about securing bi-partisanship do you think?
MCCARTHY:Labor went about went about pushing for a bi-partisan Joint Committee once the Uluru Statement was so vehemently crashed if you like by the Prime Minister. We continued to work with other members of Parliament to encourage other members of Parliament to not to give up on the work that has been done by hundreds and hundreds of First Nations People across this country. Now we are here in Kununurra with the Joint the Committee, a bipartisan Committee, continuing that work. It is enormously unhelpful when there are particular comments out there by the Aboriginal Affairs Minister in particular who says that the Voice is not the way to go when here we are, a Joint Parliamentary Committee doing exactly that, looking at the Voice.
MACDONALD:I note in the newspaper this morning there is a fair bit about comments made by that Minister, Nigel Scullion who suggested that perhaps a more appropriate Voice to the Federal Parliament rather than something in the Constitution or a specific body that you might replace his job as Minister with a committee. It seems on further reading that that may have been a throwaway comment, but I am interested to know your reaction to it?
MCCARTHY:It sounded more like a thought bubble. Because if the Minister reflects on his own leadership in terms of the Prime Minister and himself, they already have the Indigenous Advisory Council who is there it advise and clearly their advice is not listened to. I would be very concerned if this is the direction that this Minister wants to go when he is not even supporting his own colleagues in this joint bipartisan parliamentary committee that we are having in Kununurra that we are having today.
MACDONALD:Bill Shorten has been in Barunga, he declared there that too many Indigenous Children are being removed from their families, is he right about that?
MCCARTHY:Absolutely, we have 18,000 children who are being removed across the country. There is seriously something wrong here. And no, Bill Shorten was not reflecting that people shouldnt have children removed if they are in an unsafe environment. We all know that any child, regardless of their colour, their race, if they are in an unsafe situation, yes of course care must be given immediately. There is a deeper issue again here Hamish, you only have to talk to the Grand Mothers Against Removal and other families who are deeply concerned that they dont have the support to continue looking after their children and we must address those issues.
MACDONALD:Is there a clear solution in your mind to this problem, there is obviously significant problems of family violence and sexual abuse facing young Indigenous people in some circumstances
MCCARTHY:Yes, yes there is.
MACDONALD:Is there a straightforward fix here?
MCCARTHY:We certainly have to deal with it on a couple of levels Hamish. And lets remember that domestic violence does not just impact the Indigenous community, we know that even sexual violence does not just impact the indigenous community. We only have to look at the Royal Commission into institutional child sex abuse to see what has happened with the churches. So lets remember and lets keep this in context, what is lacking here is the ability of the Prime Minister and his Minister to fund adequately resourcing in those areas of legal services, in those areas of health and education, removing that kind of funding impacts dramatically on our remote regions but also in our urban areas.
MACDONALD:We will leave it there, we appreciate your time and I think it is pretty early where you are, so thanks for getting up to talk to us.
MCCARTHY:It is very early. Not a problem. Thank you.
Click here to listen
Authorised by Noah Carroll, ALP, Canberra