The future 47th Parliament may reveal the first example of Black Caucus power in Australia. The United States of America has had a powerful Black Caucus since the 1970s. In what will be an unprecedented result for First Nations people; 75% or a majority of federal Territory politicians may be Indigenous after the next election, and if they caucus federally, they will potentially have at least 8 parliamentarians.
The population of the NT is over 245,000 (75,000 are Indigenous), the majority of whom live in Darwin and they have four federal parliamentarians. The number of voters in the NT according to the Australian Electoral Commission is 165,424 but over 25,000 are not enrolled. So, only 140,502 could vote or almost 85% of the roll.
Ms Jacinta Nampijinpa Price will be the Country Liberal Party’s number one Senate candidate at the next federal election after winning a preselection battle against the sitting CLP Senator, Sam McMahon.
Territory Labor has also now confirmed that sitting Senator Malarndirri McCarthy will be the party’s candidate for the Senate and Northern Land Council chief executive Marion Scrymgour will be Labor’s candidate for the seat of Lingiari. The seat of Solomon is held by Labor MP, Luke Gosling.
There is no doubt that Aboriginal people have come a long way from colonial times of terra nullius, injustice, oppression, frontier killings and dispossession. The era before the war of the Native Affairs Branch, assimilation, welfare officers offering ration cards and blankets as they took away their children. All under the watchful eye of the ‘Chief Protector of Aboriginals’, police and other state public officials.
From the missions, camps, reserves, out stations and riverbeds they gathered to preserve what was left of kinship, language, culture and lore while respecting Australian civil laws. All the while having few legal rights and generally forgotten by all but a caring few in white society. Then to the time of protests, arrests and incarceration before achieving the celebration of the 1967 referendum. Then they had to fight for their fundamental human rights at Wave Hill, established a Tent Embassy in Canberra, fight for their stolen wages, investigate their bereavements at the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, and win back the right to their lands with legal decisions in Mabo, Wik and Native Title. They sought answers in the Bringing them Home Report, suffered the Intervention, noted the loss of the Constitutional preamble defeat, but accepted a National Apology to the Stolen Generations from Prime Minister Rudd and now finally they are speaking with citizens about the Uluru Statement from the Heart, meaningful Reconciliation, a Treaty and a referendum.
So, what can we expect from a tri-partisan Black Caucus that will also include Linda Burney, MP (ALP, Barton, NSW), Minister Ken Wyatt, MP (LIB, Hasluck, WA), Senator Pat Dodson (ALP, WA) and Senator Lidia Thorpe (GRN, Vic.)? Well enormous expectations from First Nations people would be one consequence.
A pivotal moment would be that Federal parliament would have to formally acknowledge or be mugged by political reality that a historic moment has not only occurred but could be an opportunity to discuss constitutional change. Price may also consult Senator Jacqui Lambie (JLN, Tas.) who has claimed Indigenous heritage.
For over two hundred years Indigenous people have followed Australian laws, systems and institutes – for what? First Nations people have endured a litany of maladministration by the federal government since Federation. Their culture has been systematically supressed, dismissed, brushed aside or destroyed. They still suffer daily bouts of racism, prejudice and discrimination.
Over the years governments have established departments, agencies and new services to assist them, then decided to mainstream them through whole-of-government co-designed responses. At other times they have abolished, terminated and then wound-up these same responses. Often a government will turn a new page, be optimistic about the future for them, create a new partnership, provide an emergency response, share responsibilities, define a new strategy and reform a previous system; for what? Is consensus really possible in our nation and can our leaders walk together to legislate a Voice and deal with the referendum issue?
Historically according to the federal Parliamentary Library, almost 40 prospective Indigenous candidates have also been elected to serve in the various state or territory parliaments. Former Canberran, Mr Adam Giles (Northern Territory Legislative Assembly, CLP), was the first Indigenous head of government as the Chief Minister of the Northern Territory from 14 March 2013 to 27 August 2016.
By 2022 people should be able to expect meaningful actions, engagement and constitutional change options from the Government. Who else will help drive the conversation surrounding Voice, Treaty, Truth? If not, a Black Caucus who represent the majority of the Northern Territory people.