HOST MICHAEL ROWLAND: There was an important step towards a referendum to create an indigenous voice in parliament over the weekend. For more, let’s bring in the Minister for Indigenous Australians, Linda Burney. Hello to you.
LINDA BURNEY, MINISTER FOR INDIGENOUS AUSTRALIANS: Hello, Michael.
HOST MICHAEL ROWLAND: Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has suggested the likely wording of the referendum. He also says that details like the composition of the vote will come after the referendum, if it is successful. I guess the question I want to ask you, shouldn’t Australians be equipped with so much detail before they vote, rather than after?
LINDA BURNEY, MINISTER FOR INDIGENOUS AUSTRALIANS: What we saw in Garma this weekend was one of the most important and significant speeches by a Prime Minister on Indigenous Affairs since the 2008 apology by the Prime Minister of at the time, Kevin Rudd. I can’t tell you how proud I felt, and the public felt, when the Prime Minister stood up and committed to the full implementation of Uluru and exposed everything the world there, and at home, the issue and possible changes to the Constitution, making it very clear that we are now entering a phase of consultation and explaining to the Australian people why a referendum is so important.
MICHAEL ROWLAND HOST: Okay, so why can’t Australians, when asked this question, be equipped with information on how the vote will be cast at the same time as they vote on this proposal?
LINDA BURNEY, MINISTER FOR INDIGENOUS AUSTRALIANS: I understand there is a debate about the details, but when you look at the fact that there have been 10 years of expert advisory groups, parliamentary groups, discussions with constitutionalists, discussions with First People of Nations, there’s a lot of information in the public arena and I think Megan Davis has made that point and of course there’s been the Marcia Langton and Tom Calma exercise in the last government that talked about what a voice might look like. The Prime Minister has been very clear, and I agree with him entirely, that it is important that we consult each other now about the voice. This referendum, Michael, is not a referendum of politicians, it is a referendum and a decision of the Australian public, and it will be up to the Australian people. And that’s very, very important.
MICHAEL ROWLAND HOST: You said, what’s a pre-recorded edition of Q&A airing tonight on ABC TV tonight, that the voice will be voted. How would that work?
LINDA BURNEY, MINISTER FOR INDIGENOUS AUSTRALIANS: What the Leeser-Dodson report says is that the voice will be representative. What I was trying to make is actually that there is obviously – as the Prime Minister pointed out – consultation, particularly with First Nations people, that needs to take place on the how a vote would be constituted. I don’t want to get ahead of us. I want to make sure there is engagement and discussion not just with Indigenous leaders, not just across parliament, but especially with the Australian public, about what we should be doing going forward. It’s not yet about the “what”, Michael, it’s about the “why”.
MICHAEL ROWLAND HOST: Do you think whenever the referendum comes around – maybe next year – that there’s a will in the Australian community, in the Australian public, for a big ‘yes’?
LINDA BURNEY, MINISTER FOR ABORIGINAL AUSTRALIANS: I go back to 1967. You were probably too young and I was 10 when the referendum to count Aboriginal people into Australia’s population took place. There was a 90% yes vote. The most successful referendum in this country and you know as well as I how high the bar is, as the Prime Minister said on Saturday, how high the bar is in terms of referendum success in Australia. The feedback I got, the number of people who approached me at Garma and actually at the supermarket in Marrickville where I live, saying what we can do to get a yes. And of course the other thing is that we’ve had support from all walks of life, from religious leaders, from Australia’s BCA, from labor organizations, but we’re not so naive to think that there won’t be no campaign of fear, that there will be no detractors to this and the Prime Minister has spoken to Garma about it again. But the important thing to focus on now, Michael, is that this voice will be about two things, it’s about enshrining in the Constitution a permanent Indigenous body, thereby recognizing Indigenous peoples in the Constitution, but it will also be about practical things. that will affect the lives of First Nations people on the ground. Things like incarceration, things like removing a child. Things like housing, things like academic performance. This voice aims to ensure that what happens in the Federal Parliament will be a positive step forward both for us as a nation, but also for the outcomes and life choices of First Nations people in Australia.
MICHAEL ROWLAND HOST: Linda Burney, the Garma Festival was, and always has been, an extremely emotional few days for First Nations people, but, of course, while you were all up there, the news of the death of Archie Roach has arrived. Truth-teller, musician, healer. I know you knew Archie pretty well. What do you think of him and his contribution to Australia?
LINDA BURNEY, MINISTER FOR INDIGENOUS AUSTRALIANS: Listen, thank you very much for that. This news is devastating. Not just for First Nations people, but I think for Australia. As you said, Archie Roach and his late wife Ruby Hunter were remarkable people with remarkable stories. And Archie Roach was a singer, a truth-teller and someone who really brought back to Australia – through his beautiful voice – the reality of the Stolen Generations. And today is also the 90th birthday of Lowitja O’Donoghue, another amazing First Nations woman who spoke truth to power. So it’s a very emotional day for everyone.
MICHAEL ROWLAND HOST: I appreciate your time Linda Burney, thank you so much for joining us.
LINDA BURNEY, MINISTER FOR INDIGENOUS AUSTRALIANS: Thank you, Michael.