Leaders take steps for Indigenous treaty

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten didn't hold back on the weekend with a powerful speech calling for a treaty at the Barunga Festival opening ceremony.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten didn't hold back on the weekend with a powerful speech calling for a treaty at the Barunga Festival opening ceremony.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten slammed the Federal Government on the weekend for turning its back on a treaty. 

Mr Shorten said he was embarrassed the Barunga Statement hung on the wall in Parliament disregarded by leaders. 

He was speaking at Barunga, near Katherine in the Northern Territory.

“I believe that Australians have the goodwill to reconcile this country,” he said.

“What they don’t have is the leadership in this country to drive proper and meaningful reconciliation.”

Mr Shorten delivered his speech at the opening ceremony of the Barunga Festival on Saturday, which drew about 4000 people, to this remote community.

Over the weekend in an historical step forward, Chief Minister Michael Gunner and all four Northern Territory land councils signed a Memorandum of Understanding, which outlined working towards a treaty. 

Traditional dance performed at Burunga Festival.

Traditional dance performed at Burunga Festival.

“We need to reset the relationship between our first Australians and all other Australians,” Mr Shorten said. 

“I say to the people who fear the concepts of agreement making, of a voice, of treaties - I say to those people who fear this – you have nothing to lose. 

It is not fair in this country.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten

“You still will be able to play football on the MCG.

“The chickens will still lay eggs. 

“But it is not fair in this country. We are not giving a special deal to our first Australians. 

“Because they don’t get a special deal in our country. 

“A famous man once said, it is all very well to say that you lift yourself up by your bootstraps, but if you don’t own a pair of boots you’re not starting from the same position,” he said. 

Northern Land Council deputy chair John Christophersen speaking at the opening ceremony, said a constitution is what matters.

Northern Land Council deputy chair John Christophersen speaking at the opening ceremony, said a constitution is what matters.

Mr Shorten restated his commitment to providing “overdue” compensation to survivors of the Stolen Generation. 

Following a traditional Welcome to Country, festival attendees also heard from Northern Land Council deputy chair John Christophersen who pressed on the importance of a constitution which recognises Indigenous Australians as first peoples.

“We were the owners. The first owners, and occupiers, and caretakers,” Mr Christophersen said. 

“Politicians are holding us back,” he said. 

Federal Minister for Indigenous Affairs Senator Nigel Scullion was also heard at the opening ceremony. 

Barunga Festival celebrates the best of Indigenous Australia, this year especially with an all Indigenous music line up. 

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