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My friend fears for the Uluru Statement under Morrison - but I don't

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26.05.2019

On election night I was swapping messages with a good friend, a passionate, smart, generous advocate for Indigenous people who was now despondent. She said she feared for the future of the First Peoples under three more years of a conservative government that had already said no to the hopes and aspirations in the Uluru Statement from the Heart.

It isn’t a view I share. The Australian people had rejected Bill Shorten, a leader they had never warmed to and did not trust; they rejected Labor’s ambitious agenda for change; they rejected more taxes and class warfare; in parts of the country they rejected a climate change policy they thought threatened their jobs. But they did not reject the Uluru Statement.

Indigenous leaders will have to reframe their arguments for a Prime Minister more interested in fairness not difference.Credit:AAP

Whenever Australians have been asked, they have overwhelmingly supported the idea of Indigenous constitutional recognition. Polling numbers consistently show more than 80 per cent in favour. Many of those people would have voted for the Coalition.

There is a challenge for Indigenous leadership, to work with the Morrison government and reframe the argument for recognition, rights, justice. This is not government interested in symbolism, it is going to prioritise real outcomes: jobs, education, health. It is a government that’s going to be big on personal responsibility. Forget about changing the date of Australia Day or treaties; this government’s mantra will be fairness not difference.

So what is the pathway for constitutional change? It is highly unlikely this government will take the question to a referendum in this term. There are those inside the government who will outright oppose the idea. The Nationals Barnaby Joyce said the Uluru Statement’s call for an Indigenous representative body enshrined in the constitution – a "voice" – would constitute a........

© The Sydney Morning Herald