August 07, 2018


The Prime Minister will touch down in Alice Springs tonight and the most obvious questions Territorians are asking - will he continue to ignore calls for a First Nations Voice to Parliament?  

First Nations leaders from across the country gathered at the Garma festival last weekend to further push for a constitutionally enshrined Voice to Parliament. A call that the Prime Minister has continued to ignore for more than 12 months.

The frustration of First Nations people were heard loud and clear at the Garma festival as many recalled with disappointment the rejection of a Voice from the Prime Minister at the 2017 festival. In 2017 the Prime Minister flatly rejected the idea of a First Nations Voice to Parliament and a Makarrata (truth telling) Commission.

The fact that the PM has failed to listen to First Nations people for a national Voice raises questions about the intentions of this trip. It must be more than a photo opportunity. He must speak with First Nations organisations who have the local solutions to local issues.

Earlier this year more than 20 women from the Tangentyere Women’s Family Safety Group visited Canberra in the hopes of meeting with the Prime Minister. The meeting didn’t happen. He must make time to visit the women to hear about their work in town camps and the wider community.

The Prime Minister identified housing as the “biggest single issue that has been described in every encounter” after his Tennant Creek visit last month. If he genuinely wants to work with First Nations people then he will take the opportunity during National Homelessness Week to learn about the work organisations such as Central Australian Affordable Housing are doing to make housing more accessible to low income earners.

On this visit, it would be timely for the Prime Minister to commit to working with the Northern Territory Government to deliver the recommendations of the Royal Commission that he jointly established.

The Prime Minister is also encouraged to take a short drive up the road so that he too can experience some radio silence. Like all Territorians, if he travels just 60kms up the road out of Alice Springs he will be met with radio silence because the ABC shortwave service no longer exists. Due to the crushing cuts to the ABC budget the service was cut in February 2017 leaving Territorians living in remote areas disconnected from the rest of the nation. 

The Prime Minister has a unique opportunity to hear firsthand from people in the Territory. It is our hope and the hope of many Territorians that he isn’t just here for photos.