No ahead way for Makarrata commission despite unsuccessful voice referendum

Following the unsuccessful voice referendum, the department responsible for Indigenous Australians states that it continues to offer advice to the federal government regarding treaty and truth processes. However, the fate of the Makarrata commission remains uncertain. The 2022 budget allocated $5.8 million to initiate the commission, tasked with overseeing agreement-making and truth-telling processes. Documents obtained through freedom of information reveal that, as of August 3, 2023, the National Indigenous Australians Agency had spent $466,652 and assigned three full-time employees to the commission.

During the referendum campaign, Indigenous Australians Minister Linda Burney asserted that commission work would only commence post-vote, but both the minister and department have refrained from clarifying its current status. The agency has not disclosed whether efforts to establish the commission have halted or are ongoing following the October 14 vote.

Independent Senator Lidia Thorpe has urged the government to proceed with establishing the commission to aid in “healing” after the negative referendum outcome. In contrast, Shadow Indigenous Australians Minister Jacinta Nampijinpa Price contends that the referendum failure signifies a rejection of the entire Uluru statement.

The federal government has committed to Indigenous people guiding its future Indigenous affairs policy through additional consultations. Burney acknowledged discussions on truth-telling but emphasized the need for thorough national consultation within the party structures to determine the direction with the Uluru statement.

Amid pressure from Indigenous voices, some of whom were key advisers during the referendum process, discussions on the future of Indigenous affairs policy may resume leading up to Australia Day on January 26. While an NIAA spokesperson maintains that the Makarrata commission does not officially exist, questions about whether efforts to establish it continue remain unanswered.

Despite the lack of clarity on the commission, the spokesperson asserts that the agency continues to advise the government on truth-telling and agreement-making matters. Burney’s office emphasizes the government’s priorities, as identified by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, including health, education, jobs, housing, and justice.

Progressive Senator Lidia Thorpe, who opposed the referendum in favor of treaty processes, contends that the voice’s failure underscores the urgency of establishing the Makarrata commission as the next step. She criticizes the government for lack of transparency and advocates for a truth-telling commission to promote healing.

On the other hand, Senator Jacinta Nampijinpa Price, leader of the “no” campaign, urges the government to focus on practical solutions for the nation’s marginalized rather than pursuing the Makarrata commission, which she sees as an attempt to implement the Uluru statement covertly.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese emphasizes the government’s commitment to closing gaps between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians, stating that it remains a core priority and reiterating his intention to listen to Indigenous Australians.

As the government faces calls for transparency and action, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese reiterated on Wednesday that addressing disparities between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians remains a core priority. He emphasized his commitment to listening to the voices of Indigenous Australians in shaping policy decisions.

The ongoing debate surrounding the Makarrata commission reflects the broader discourse on the Uluru statement and the need for meaningful reconciliation. Independent Senator Lidia Thorpe continues to advocate for the establishment of the commission as a crucial step toward healing and national maturity. Thorpe expressed frustration over the lack of meetings and updates on the commission, emphasizing the importance of truth-telling for the nation.

On the other side, Senator Jacinta Nampijinpa Price, a prominent figure in the “no” campaign, sees the referendum failure as a rejection of the Uluru statement and perceives the Makarrata commission as a stealthy implementation of its agenda. She urges the government to focus on practical solutions for marginalized communities rather than pursuing what she considers a divisive approach.

The National Indigenous Australians Agency (NIAA) maintains that the Makarrata commission does not officially exist, yet questions persist about the status of efforts to establish it. The spokesperson for the NIAA insists that the agency continues to provide advice to the government on truth-telling and agreement-making matters, underscoring the broader priorities identified by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians in areas such as health, education, jobs, housing, and justice.

The post-referendum landscape has created a complex dynamic, with pressure from various quarters for the government to navigate a path forward. Indigenous voices, both within and outside the political spectrum, continue to play a pivotal role in shaping the discourse on Indigenous affairs policy. As the government conducts further consultations and considers its next steps, the issue remains a focal point of national dialogue, with expectations for increased transparency, dialogue, and concrete actions to address the historical and ongoing challenges faced by Indigenous communities in Australia.

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