Bill's Speeches

SPEECH - REMARKS TO INDIGENOUS REFERENDUM COUNCIL - SYDNEY - MONDAY, 17 JULY 2017

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Thank you, Malcolm and thank you, Linda for welcoming us.

I think that the delegates at Uluru in May said ‘in '67 we were counted and in 2017, we seek to be heard’.

And that informs the approach that the Labor Party is taking in terms of today's meeting.

I want to thank the Referendum Council members, in particular the Chair but all the members, from Mark Liebler and Pat Anderson and all members of the Council. 

It's been hard work and we appreciate your wise counsel.

Hundreds of people, indeed thousands of people have participated in the Referendum Council's dialogue and made submissions about what recognition and reconciliation means to them.

It builds upon previous work which has been done, including the work of the expert panel and the Parliamentary Committee.

We took that work seriously and obviously, we take the work of the Referendum Council very seriously too. 

Labor acknowledges the objectives of this report, including a stronger voice to the Parliament for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and a process for treaty and agreement making.

These are legitimate aspirations - it is the key recommendation of this report and we can't shy away from that fact.

They are big changes, as the Prime Minister has said.

I do not believe they are beyond us.

My party is ready to work with all of the political parties, Indigenous leaders and the broader community in terms of final proposals for constitutional change.

As I said at the start, the delegates at Uluru said ‘in '67 we were counted and now in 2017, we seek to be heard’.

It is a fact that for constitutional change to be successful, there can be no doubt that a bipartisan approach is the best path forward.

Without that, it is a much steeper climb.

Our task is now to hear your message.

Our task is to take the collective wisdom of the Council, turn it into awareness and support for change across the country.

I'll be meeting this week and subsequent weeks with my Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Caucus, and with the broader Caucus, to talk about our next steps.

But I can assure all of you who have worked so hard on this, we are taking this very seriously and we understand the clear, unequivocal message of the Referendum Council that a voice is the option which the Referendum Council has come down with.

There is a lot more work to do.

We want to have a good discussion today.

This is an important milestone; it is not the last stop but it is certainly the next stage towards true reconciliation and recognition.

Thank you very much for the work you have done.  


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