Independent Senator Lidia Thorpe has slammed the Federal Government for backing away from Truth and Treaty after the failed Indigenous Voice referendum.

  • What is a Makarrata Commission? The Uluru Statement from the Heart called for the establishment of an Indigenous Voice to Parliament and a Makarrata Commission to over-see Treaty-making and Truth-Telling between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and governments.

Speaking at a press conference on Friday, Senator Thorpe accused Labor of breaking its promise to implement the Statement from the Heart in full.

“They’re making every excuse not to have a Truth-Telling commission in this country that will ultimately unite us … to not tell the truth about what’s happened in this country is denying every Australian of a true identity.

Her comments come after Assistant Indigenous Affairs Minister Malarndirri McCarthy confirmed at a Senate Estimates hearing that Labor would have to “go back to First Nations people across the country and continue to discuss with them about Treaty and TruthTelling”, saying “the Australian were firmly committed to No”.

Meanwhile, almost $22-million-dollars is still in a reserve fund for the establishment of a Makarrata commission – which was a 2022 Federal Election promise by the Albanese government.

“There’s no explanation about where that money is going to go now, what it’s going to be used for, or even if they’ve used it”, Senator Thorpe says.

“These Labor Prime Ministers promising Treaty to our people is becoming a joke. First we had Hawke, then we had Keating, and now we’ve got Albanese – another failed promise.

“Providing our people with some kind of hope after a referendum, you’d think would be something that would be a priority for this government, but no they’re walking back Treaty, they’re walking back Truth-Telling.”

Simon Gordon, manager of the NIAA strategy group, says that future activities and expenditure towards establishing a Makarrata commission would “depend on the work of government as they speak to communities and state and territory governments”, and insisted that no money has been spent on a Makarrata commission to date.

He says that the $607,066 confirmed to have been spent has been for “preparatory work to oversee the national process for national telling and agreement making”, but indicated it was unclear about whether this work would amount to a federal Makarrata Commission.

The Gunnai, Gunditjmara, and Djab Wurrung woman also took aim at the Federal Government’s recent commitment to establish a National Commissioner for Indigenous children.

  • What is the National Commissioner for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children and Young People? The new role was established as part of the 2024 Closing the Gap Implementation Plan to help achieve progress under the Closing the Gap agreement.
  • An interim Commissioner will be appointed mid-year and will work with the government and First Nations expert advisers to determine the powers, roles and functions of the National Commissioner, which will be established under legislation.

The National Commissioner has long been called for by those in the Indigenous childcare sector and has been welcomed by SNAICC – The National Voice for our Children, and state and territory First Nations Commissioners, Guardians and Advocates, but Thorpe says Treaty and Truth-Telling is the only way forward, not more over-paid commissioners.

“How many commissioners do we need? How many royal commissions do we need? How many reports do we need?”, she asked on Friday.

“It’s tinkering around the edges, it does not give us justice, Truth and Treaty is what this country needs not another commissioner.

“We’ve had so many commissioners. We have a Social Justice Commissioner that’s meant to be over-seeing the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, nothing’s happened, so I have no faith in another high-paid commissioner… the only way we’re going to get justice in this country is through Truth-Telling and Treaty.

“Makarrata is about this country seeing with open eyes the truth of our history. Without that, we won’t be able to mature as a nation.”

Image above: Uluru statement in 2017 by AusHumanRights.