The Coalition’s decision to abandon a proposed referendum on establishing an Indigenous voice in the Parliament provides Aboriginal Australians with a “new opportunity”, Tasmanian Aboriginal lawyer Michael Mansell says.
On Thursday, federal Cabinet rejected the notion of an indigenous voice to Parliament, which was the key recommendation to come out of both this year’s Uluru convention and a Referendum Council report.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull will now devise a less “radical” change to Australia’s constitution.
The referendum rejection provoked fierce condemnation from indigenous Labor Senator Patrick Dodson and leading indigenous voice Noel Pearson.
But Mr Mansell said the Prime Minister could still legislate an aboriginal body to advise the Parliament and administer funding.
“It provides us with a new opportunity,” Mr Mansell said.
“Let [Mr Turnbull] legislate without the referendum.
“He doesn’t have to go to the people.”
Mr Mansell noted that the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission, which was established in 1990 and abolished in 2005, had served a similar purpose to the body he was proposing.
He said he was prepared to lead a delegation to Canberra to consult with Mr Turnbull on the matter.
Meanwhile, Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre chief executive Heather Sculthorpe blasted the government’s decision.
“What a slap in the face this is,” she said.
“To even be thinking that … recognition in the constitution would be enough is absurd.
“If the government keeps dismissing the word of aboriginal people, the gap will never be closed.”