Independent Senator Lidia Thorpe Calls for Treaty with Indigenous Communities

Independent Senator Lidia Thorpe delivered a passionate speech at the National Press Club, in which she demanded that the Australian government abandon the Voice to Parliament referendum and instead pursue a treaty with Indigenous communities. Senator Thorpe criticized the government’s claims that the Voice proposal was a request from Indigenous communities, calling it a continuation of the Commonwealth’s “lies”. She accused the government of tricking Indigenous people into believing that a powerless advisory body could protect sacred sites, save lives, and preserve cultural heritage.

Senator Thorpe argued that the Voice to Parliament referendum was an attempt by the colonial government to exert power and force its rules on Indigenous communities. She expressed her refusal to be complicit in her own colonization, stating that the Voice was a superficial attempt at progress that ultimately absolved the government of its crimes against Indigenous people.

The referendum, scheduled for October, has faced dwindling support in recent polls. The Labor Party, Greens, and a large portion of the crossbench support the Voice proposal, while the Coalition, One Nation, and Senator Thorpe oppose it from varying perspectives. Senator Thorpe rejected the concept of constitutional recognition, arguing that it would undermine Indigenous sovereignty and prevent First Nations communities from negotiating treaties.

Instead, Senator Thorpe proposed five measures to address the issues faced by Indigenous Australians. These measures include truth-telling, implementing recommendations from the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, enacting the Bringing Them Home Report to reunite First Nations families, establishing the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and pursuing a treaty process. Treaty was one of the elements outlined in the Uluru Statement from the Heart, which was supported by the Albanese government. However, Senator Thorpe and other figures from the “No” camp have demanded treaties as a priority over the Voice.

Senator Thorpe emphasized that treaty would give each Indigenous nation the opportunity to negotiate on matters such as land and sea rights, and called for a government that is willing to engage in the treaty process. She highlighted that unlike a referendum, a treaty does not require public voting and can be achieved through legislation. Senator Thorpe concluded her speech by urging the nation to have difficult conversations in order to mature as a society and achieve reconciliation with Indigenous communities.