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A delegation of Victorian Indigenous leaders will bring their collective voice to Canberra on Tuesday for a series of meetings with Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and senior ministers following the Voice to parliament’s defeat.
The group’s visit has been organised by Victorian Labor Senator Jana Stewart, a Mutthi Mutthi and Wamba Wamba woman, and will focus on how to close the gap of Indigenous disadvantage.
The group’s visit has been organised by Victorian Labor Senator Jana Stewart.Credit: Rhett Wyman
Albanese, Indigenous Australians Minister Linda Burney and her assistant minister Malarndirri McCarthy will meet the delegation of 15 different organisations, which includes representatives from the Victorian First Peoples’ Assembly, Aboriginal Legal Service, Aboriginal Housing Victoria, and health and family violence prevention organisations. Two traditional owners’ organisations, the Taungurung and Gunaikurnai Land & Waters Councils, will also be in Canberra.
The private meetings are one of the first signs that behind the scenes, the federal government is working on a plan B to address Indigenous disadvantage and close the gap.
Stewart told this masthead she wanted to ensure Victoria was at the forefront of Aboriginal affairs conversations, and to send “a clear signal to Aboriginal people that the needs of our community are still at the heart of the Albanese Labor government’s agenda”.
“A month on from the referendum, as people have had time to reflect on the result, it seems like as good a time as ever to think about our next steps,” she said.
“I’m pleased to say that some of the most senior members of our government, including the prime minister, are prioritising these conversations.”
“I am not expecting everyone to have all the answers straight away; this is simply the continuation of a conversation about Closing the Gap and a sense of Victoria’s priorities going forward.”
Indigenous health, education, access to Medicare in prison, childcare, aged care and regional employment will be key areas for discussion with ministers including Government Services Minister Bill Shorten, Health Minister Mark Butler and Aged Care Minister Anika Wells.
Following the defeat of the Voice last month, Indigenous leaders released an unsigned statement that lamented the result and criticised the No campaign.
The Albanese government has said little publicly since the October 14 vote, but ministers have been asked to begin work on new policy proposals that could help close the gap.
Some Indigenous leaders, such as Yes23 campaign co-chair Rachel Perkins, have called on the government to continue to pursue the implementation of a truth-telling and treaty process, the other two parts of the Uluru Statement from the Heart that had proposed the Voice.
But the government has shown little appetite to pursue this path.
Stewart’s fellow Victorian Labor senators, Raff Ciccone, Jess Walsh and Linda White, will also attend Tuesday’s meetings.
The Productivity Commission draft report on whether state and territory governments were meeting their Closing the Gap targets found that they were still making decisions that made disadvantage worse, not better.
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