Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull reportedly dismissed his own referendum council’s advice to enshrine a national Indigenous representative body in the constitution.
In a report, the Referendum Council said that a new indigenous body would be afforded with “the right to be consulted on legislation and policies that concern the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders people.”
It was further reported that the Prime Minister seeks for a less ambitious proposal by merely recognizing the indigenous Australians in the Constitution.
According to the Co-chair of Referendum Council, Pat Anderson, the acknowledgment in the constitution was entirely rejected by the indigenous people during their meetings over a six month period.
“We seek constitutional reforms to empower our people and take a rightful place in our own country. When we have power over our destiny, our children will flourish. They will walk in two worlds, and their culture will be a gift to their country, the Uluru Statement from the Heart stated, emphasizing how Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders seek to be heard through the establishment of the First Nations Voice in the Constitution.
Earlier, in the second quarter of the year, Indigenous groups already expressed fear that the referendum proposal for their voice in the parliament could be possibly watered down.
ABC previously reported about how Australia’s indigenous people are concerned that politicians may decide to establish a representative for their group without constitutional enshrinement.
Critics cry of dismay
Following the Prime Minister’s shocking rejection, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten and Indigenous Senator Pat Dodson expressed that such rejection abandons years of hard work and ignores the reasonable aspirations of the Aboriginal community.
“After months of silence, rather than be honest with indigenous Australians, his government appears to have secretly rejected the Referendum Council report, without having the decency to be straight with the nation,” Shorten, and Dodson said in a statement as reported by News Corporation Australia Network.
Meanwhile, The Greens Senator, Rachel Siewert said she was “deeply distressed” by the government’s decision.
“I urge Malcolm Turnbull to show leadership and work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to implement the Referendum Council’s recommendation,” Senator Siewert said as reported by Sydney Morning Herald.
The Referendum Council was commissioned by Prime Minister Turnbull and Bill Shorten in December 2015 to help Parliament seek ways to advance the recognition of indigenous groups in the constitution.
However, the report echoing the indigenous groups’ desire for a voice in the parliament was considered too radical by the Turnbull government.