Shared failure, shared solution: PM urges people to get behind Indigenous voice

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has called on all Australians to support an Indigenous voice to parliament as an opportunity for unity, healing, truth and better outcomes.

Feb 13, 2023, updated Feb 13, 2023
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd at the National Apology Anniversary breakfast at Parliament House in Canberra. (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas)

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd at the National Apology Anniversary breakfast at Parliament House in Canberra. (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas)

On the 15th anniversary of the national apology to the stolen generations, Albanese said Australians must recognise past failures when it comes to policies affecting Indigenous people.

“When we’re brave enough to acknowledge failure, we can find the strength to take the next step forward together,” he said.

“We have a chance to add a bright new season to the calendar and a future that embraces all of us.”

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton apologised for not attending parliament when then prime minister Kevin Rudd gave the national apology in 2008, saying he did not grasp its “symbolic significance” at the time.

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Indigenous Australians Minister Linda Burney thanked the opposition leader for his apology and said it was a good thing for people to grow and learn.

She said Australians had the chance to do something practical to improve the lives of Indigenous people, by supporting measures to close the gap and enshrine a voice in the constitution.

“To do otherwise risks repeating the mistakes of the past. So I say: do not hold us back, let’s move forward for everyone,” she said.

“Let us seize this moment.”

Albanese also unveiled the government’s latest measures to improve the wellbeing of Indigenous Australians, which included greater access to clean drinking water and support for domestic violence survivors.

The second Closing the Gap implementation plan will be allocated $424 million and focus on practical ways to improve quality of life for Indigenous people.

The funding boost is on top of the $1.2 billion set aside in the October budget.

It comes after the 2022 Closing the Gap report presented to parliament in November showed the divide in key areas of development had become worse.

It was the first report since the national agreement on Closing the Gap took effect and showed many of the targets were not on track.

Shadow attorney-general Julian Leeser said it was a shared Australian failure that measures to close the gap had not worked.

He called on the government to establish a royal commission into the abuse of Indigenous children.

“If we’re to break the cycle, we can’t afford to ignore these voices any longer,” he said.

Dutton said action, not sentiment, was needed to improve the lives of Indigenous Australians.

He called on the government to trust Australians with the detail of the proposed voice to parliament.

“As a country we are determined to make sure we can address those issues of domestic violence and reduce those gaps that have widened … so we can improve the lives and the futures of Indigenous Australians,” he said.

Dutton is expected to attend a second meeting with the government’s referendum working group this week.

Albanese said the voice would help governments make better decisions, leading to better outcomes for Indigenous Australians.

“This isn’t about politicians. This is about people,” he said.

“It is not a radical change, but it is a change for the better for all of us.”

Labor senator Pat Dodson said the voice was “bigger” than Australian politics and he believed it could pass even without opposition support.

“I put my trust in the Australian people,” he said.

“The Australian people have been hearing for so long now that call by First Nations people with a very simple proposition that they want to be recognised in the constitution.”


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