Key Aboriginal leaders will turn to private funding after the Prime Minister shunned their push for Indigenous-led consultations on the best model for recognition in the Constitution.
The Prime Minister has committed to a bipartisan process to work towards a referendum. There were further discussions between Indigenous leaders at the Garma Festival in Arnhem Land over the weekend.
Several Aboriginal representatives who are advocating for constitutional change want an Indigenous consensus on reform, before wider community consultations take place.
Patrick Dodson, Noel Pearson, Kirstie Parker and Megan Davis put forward a proposal for a series of government-funded conventions to allow Indigenous people to have their say first.
The meetings were proposed at key locations across the country, culminating with a final consultation process at Uluru in Central Australia.
But Tony Abbott rejected the request, arguing there was a “risk” an Indigenous-only process might produce something close to a “log of claims”.
“My anxiety about a separate Indigenous process is that it jars with a notion of finally substituting ‘we’ for ‘them and us’,” Mr Abbott wrote to the group.
“I am in favour of building consensus, but strongly believe this should be a national consensus in favour of a particular form of recognition rather than simply an Indigenous one.
“The risk with an Indigenous-only — or even an Indigenous-first — process is that it might produce something akin to a log of claims that is unlikely to receive general support.”
Professor Davis, who is also an expert member of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Peoples, said the Prime Minister’s suggestion that the result would be a log of claims was “erroneous”.
“I know what he’s getting at, but I don’t think it’s an accurate reflection of what we’re trying to do,” she told Radio National.
“If you look at the state of affairs between Aboriginal Australia and non-Indigenous Australia, it is imbued with ‘them and us’.”
She said despite the Prime Minister’s position there would be other efforts to draw together funding for the Indigenous-led consultations.
“We will now have to fundraise so we might need to see some of our allies, corporate allies, step up to the plate,” Professor Davis said.
“It will probably be the first liberal democracy, if not country in the world, that has corporate-funded constitutional consultation.”