Leading No Campaigner Open to ‘Treaties,’ Changing Australia Day

Warren Mundine says the current focus should be on the referendum
Leading No Campaigner Open to ‘Treaties,’ Changing Australia Day
Warren Mundine speaks during the WA Liberals for No Campaign Launch in Perth, Sunday, August 20, 2023. (AAP Image/Richard Wainwright)
Rebecca Zhu

Leading No campaigner Warren Mundine says treaties should still be considered between the Australian government and Indigenous communities while distancing his idea from more radical proposals around reparations.

“One of the things about this debate, and I’ve always been honest, even though I know people on my side don’t agree with me on these two issues. And that’s treaties and that’s changing the date,” he told ABC Insiders on Sept. 17.

Mr. Mundine said a treaty process was more likely to begin if Australians voted No to The Voice referendum on Oct. 14.

The proposed Indigenous Voice to Parliament is a permanent advisory body, comprised of 24 selected Indigenous individuals, who will be voted in by the community and have the authority to make “representations” to Parliament.

Mr. Mundine said he supported treaties with each Aboriginal nation in order to solve the issue of sovereignty to give protections to Aboriginal culture and heritage and to “move on.”

“We need to move on and we’ve got to face the reality that there are 26 million other people in this country who have come here and help build this country, economic and in other ways,” he said.

He added that a lot of work was already being done in this regard with Aboriginal land rights.

“With the [Aboriginal] Land Rights Act and the Native Title Act, Aboriginal people have a major say in what happens on their land,” he said.

“Through that process, 55 percent of Australia now is in Aboriginal ownership, and will probably get up to 70 or 80 percent, I predict, in the next 10 to 20 years.”

Later on, he clarified that by treaties he was referring to Native Title and land rights which gives Indigenous people management over plots of land and a say in whether projects such as rail and road infrastructure, energy projects, agriculture, and mining can go ahead.

“These things have huge commercial outcomes for Aboriginal people in regard to jobs, in regard to training, in regards to running their own business. It’s done a tremendous job for the Aboriginal communities,” he told Sky News Australia.

“That’s what I’m talking about. I’m talking about those land use agreements. I’m talking about how they have had a massive impact for Aboriginal people.”

He has expressed disagreement with treaty proposals brought up by some Yes campaign advocates and from the full statement of the Uluru Statement from the Heart, which includes reparations to be fixed to GDP.

Change the Date

Mr. Mundine also reaffirmed his support for changing the date of Australia Day (Jan. 26) but conceded there would be issues with any other date chosen, his own suggestion being Jan. 1—Australia’s Federation Day.

“January 26 is always going to be an important day because of the fact that the Europeans came to Australia and set up the colonies here,” he said.

“We can’t get away from that, but we can’t become captive of it.”

Mr. Mundine said Jan. 26 will represent conflict, conquest, and the negative impact of colonisation “only if we let it be.”

“We’ve got to face the facts, then we’ve got to move on from that. Yes, recognise that history. Yes, recognise the invasion, recognise good and the bad that’s in our history, but we’ve still got to move on,” he said.

Despite acknowledging the significance of the date, Mr. Mundine supports changing the date because the constant, annual arguing about the issue was not helping the Indigenous community.

Lasting Impact of Colonisation

Mr. Mundine also said Aboriginal people cannot keep saying that colonisation has kept the Aboriginal community in poverty and barred them from opportunities to improve their lives.

He highlighted that all groups of people have been colonised at some point in history.

“I don’t believe that history traps Aboriginals in disadvantage. I believe Aboriginal people can move forward and economic participation is the key,” he wrote on X, previously known as Twitter.
His comments come after fellow No campaigner, Senator Jacinta Price, told the National Press Club there was no lasting negative impact from British colonisation of Australia.

Indigenous Australians minister, Senator Linda Burney, called Ms. Price’s comments “offensive” and a “betrayal” of many people’s stories.

Meanwhile, Ms. Price called for Australians to move away from the issue of race.

“If you can’t even see yourself as an Australian, at least see yourself as a human being,” Ms. Price said.

Similarly, Mr. Mundine called for people to step away from racist remarks and focus on the issues around the referendum.

“The problem we have is that once you start talking about race, it never ends well. And we’ve seen that on both sides of the aisle and it’s been pretty dreadful,” he said, noting he had been surprised at the intensity of racist abuse he has received in the last 12 months.

“So we’ve got to stop talking about race and actually get back to the referendum and start talking about those issues.”

Mr. Mundine said if the No vote prevailed, then the real work would begin to have accountability for the billions of dollars that are being spent on Indigenous causes every year without any beneficial results.

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