Federal Member for Leichhardt, Warren Entsch MP, today expressed his support for the decision made in the opposition party room. He stressed the importance of actual change rather than tokenism and adopting new approaches to improve the lives of Indigenous Australians.
“I’ve always argued that recognition is absolutely overdue and should be in the constitution, and I support that wholeheartedly. However, the voice as currently put forward by the Government won’t make a tangible difference without involving local popularly elected leaders to present their case for their own respective communities.”
He emphasised that he would support a legislated voice mechanism, but the focus must be on local voices and addressing a range of issues, including birthing clinics, improved health services, drug and alcohol rehabilitation centres closer to remote communities, and better housing configurations.
“We must engage in local and regional solutions,” Entsch added. “We don’t need more metropolitan, academic self-appointed leaders dictating to local communities—we can see how well that approach has worked so far,” Mr Entsch said.
Mr Entsch expressed concerns that the current proposal, if passed, will likely not address longstanding issues that have plagued many remote Indigenous communities. “Enshrining a voice in the constitution may seem to some like a solution, but I have significant reservations that it won’t actually address the issues in remote communities and could, in fact, make things worse,” Mr Entsch said.
Mr Entsch was able to participate in the party room meeting through teleconference and appreciated being part of the ongoing dialogue. He commended the party’s continued commitment to closing the gap and finding better ways to support Indigenous Australians.