12/05/2015 - Properly handled, widespread support for Aborigines could be a game changer

The recent survey showing 75% support for altering the constitution to benefit Aborigines could be a tool to turn around the fortunes of Aboriginal people, if properly handled, Secretary of the APG Michael Mansell said.

Mr Mansell was referring to a poll conducted by Polity Research in March and took responses from 2,700 voters.  Mr Mansell said, “The survey is consistent with reconciliation and land rights surveys taken over the last 20 years. There is a body of goodwill out there that if properly harnessed, could turn around Aboriginal disadvantage."

"The key,” Mr Mansell added, “was political leadership. That leadership must sound convincing. Political and civic leaders must be able to articulate compelling reasons for making substantial change that could benefit Aboriginal people. The public will see through half-hearted measures that are purely symbolic and change nothing. The current suggestion of constitutional recognition unfortunately is likely to be seen that way.

NT land rights came about because of the personal commitment of Prime Ministers Whitlam and Fraser. Tasmania remains the only State to compensate the Stolen Generations because Premier Paul Lennon was able to convincingly explain to the public why it needed to be done. Whether Australia has such leaders at the moment is a matter of judgement.”

Mr Mansell added that a treaty or the 7th State proposal could replace constitutional gestures.

“The public wants to get their teeth into something real, something they can look back on and proudly say they not only supported a particular change but also they knew it would make a difference.

Queensland, NSW, Victoria and South Australia have given recognition in their State constitutions. No noticeable benefit has flowed to Aborigines from those gestures. On the other hand more practical change could result in Aborigines gaining access to power, increase ownership of land and on the basis of self-determination, allow much more freedom.”

Michael Mansell (Pakana)
Aboriginal Provisional Government