Elder warns some Tasmanian Aboriginal people feel excluded from referendum talks

Posted November 23, 2016 06:22:00

Some Aboriginal people in Tasmania are reconsidering their support for a referendum to recognise Indigenous Australians in the constitution because they feel excluded from the consultation process.

Key points:

  • Elder Rodney Dillon says Aboriginals in TRACA don't want to meet at Risdon
  • He wants a separate meeting with the Referendum Council
  • The Council says Aboriginals can participate online

The Referendum Council will meet community leaders in Hobart next month to discuss constitutional reform as part of its national consultations.

The meeting will be held at Risdon Cove, a protected area managed by the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre (TAC), one of two peak bodies that represent Aboriginal Tasmanians.

The other organisation, the Tasmanian Regional Aboriginal Community Alliance (TRACA), was formed last year, and represents some groups not allied with TAC.

TRACA co-chair Rodney Dillon said some Aboriginal people would not feel comfortable attending the meeting, and would be forced out of the conversation around constitutional reform.

"There are groups that will not go to Risdon Cove [because] it is not a culturally safe place for all Aboriginal people in the state to go to," he said.

Mr Dillon said the Referendum Council had shown "a complete lack of understanding of Aboriginal politics in [Tasmania]".

He said some of the state's Indigenous people would no longer support the national poll, which could adversely affect constitutional recognition.

"That would be a terrible shame because to be recognised in the constitution is one of the most important things we could do," Mr Dillon said.

His co-chair Patsy Cameron said the meeting should be held in a neutral space that does not belong to one particular organisation.

"It's to do with feeling comfortable in an environment where people can speak freely," she said.

'No reason to feel unwelcome'

Meeting co-convenor Rodney Gibbins said members of TRACA had no reason to feel uncomfortable or unwelcome at the meeting.

"The invite is for Aboriginal community individuals, not organisations," Mr Gibbins said.

"These are people who have a range of views and some are in support of constitutional reform, others are not.

"But we need to get a full understanding of what people are thinking.

"The people that are invited, whether they are members of TRACA or not, is of no consequence."

In a statement, Referendum Council executive officer Geoff Scott said it would be disappointing if some people chose not to attend the meeting.

"At this stage, there is only one dialogue planned for Hobart," he said.

"However, there are a number of ways people can submit their views to the council, including through the online engagement platform.

"This is an important issue, and one that unites Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples."

Mr Dillon said TRACA had spoken to the Referendum Council about the need for two meetings to be held in Tasmania to cater for the two organisations.

"[The Referendum Council] knows the situation full well, but they chose to go down the path of just dealing with one group," he said.

"We think it is important that they speak with the TAC."

The three-day meeting is scheduled to be held in early December.

Topics:aboriginal, indigenous-aboriginal-and-torres-strait-islander, community-and-society, constitution, government-and-politics, tas

Read more http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-11-23/tasmanian-aboriginals-feel-excluded-from-referendum-talks/8048206