In a passionate speech on Q&A, actress Shareena Clanton says non-Indigenous Australians need to “keep their mouths shut and start engaging” the Indigenous community in the political decision-making process.
On an episode with plenty of political point-scoring on energy policy and tax cuts, the biggest cheer of the night went to Ms Clanton as she argued for giving Indigenous Australians more of a say in policy decisions.
Answering a question by Mick Scarcella about Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s efforts in reducing Indigenous disadvantage, Ms Clanton said the government was failing the Indigenous community “dismally”.
Ms Clanton said the community wanted to speak for themselves more often and asked when Indigenous people would get “a social, cultural and economic empowerment and voice in parliament?”
“We want to be the author of our own destinies,” she said.
— ABC Q&A (@QandA) February 19, 2018
“We want to be the voice because we are tired of non-Indigenous Australia thinking they know what is good for us and thinking that they can be the voice for Aboriginal Australia.
“So they should all learn to keep their mouths shut and start engaging Aboriginal Australia into the conversation.”
Ms Clayton said it was not good enough that Mr Turnbull had left a breakfast launching the Close the Gap report last week, and that the federal government had rejected the Uluru Statement of the Heart which looked to create an Indigenous advisory board to parliament.
Government already takes advice: Frydenberg
Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg said the government had rejected the Uluru Statement because every Australian already had equal rights to vote, sit in parliament and to serve and that the government already sought advice for the decisions it makes.
He said the advisory body would have become a “third chamber” outside of the existing House of Representatives and Senate.
“It will be entrenched in the constitution,” he said.
“It will be elected representatives and it will be advising the parliament on issues that relate to Indigenous people.
“That is everything, that is social welfare, that is defence, health, education.”
But Ms Clanton rejected this statement, saying the body would have held “no political sway whatsoever”.
She said she felt the government did not consider the advice of Indigenous Australians.
“You still do not consult Aboriginal people,” Ms Clanton said.
“Constitutional reform is about empowering that voice.
“It’s not about creating a third chamber in the cabinet, it’s not about special privileges for Aboriginal people.
“It’s about allocating and ascending Aboriginal Australia to where your [Mr Frydenberg’s] own party is at.”
Melbourne University Press chief executive Louise Adler said the Uluru Statement appeared an opportunity for the government to receive the advice Mr Frydenberg said it looked for.
Shadow treasurer Chris Bowen said it was “fundamentally dishonest” to call the advisory body a third chamber, and said the government had missed a “unique opportunity” to recognise the Indigenous community in the constitution.