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Wyatt wants end to corrosive debate holding back Indigenous Australians

“It demonstrates nothing other than division, tribalism, disempowerment and the slowing of progress right across the board.

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“Be it the left of politics, the right of politics or anywhere in between – if you dare to think differently, do differently or question the norm, you are torn down.

“There is never one right answer; complex situations require the ability to test and question ourselves and the way in which we approach policy making and program delivery.”

A Noongar man from Western Australia, Mr Wyatt is this month marking 10 years since he became the first Aboriginal Australian to sit in the House of Representatives.

Following last year’s election he became the first Indigenous Australian to be appointed to federal cabinet.

But he has faced criticism from within the Indigenous community in the past year over the reworking of the Closing The Gap targets, delays to a promised referendum on constitutional recognition and a perceived failure to support the Uluru Statement from the Heart.

He said developing an Indigenous “voice” would be more than a voice to Parliament and more than a voice to government.

“It will be a voice for the youngest Indigenous Australian through to our elders, traditional owners and leaders,” he said.

“It is empowerment. It is saying clearly that government and the bureaucracy does not know best. It can not be a Canberra-designed approach in the bubble of Canberra. We have to co-design with Aboriginal communities in the same way that we do with state and territory governments and the corporate sector.”

He said Indigenous Australian needed to break free of a “negative narrative” that had been imposed often by those purporting to help them.

“I want the next generation of Indigenous Australians stepping through the school gates to know they too can be part of the great Australian success story,” he said.

“This is my mission. This is my philosophy. To change the way in which children feel, dream and aspire.

“To change how they are looked at by their peers and the nation. To change their expectations, to grow their ambition, to fuel their optimism.”

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He said he wanted to lift Indigenous Australians up to “not only to be equals, but to be remembered as the greatest of Australians – on the sport fields, in the science labs, in courtrooms and, yes, in Parliament”.

“We will never find the leaders of tomorrow if they are shouted down or exiled for having a different or new perspective on the challenges we face as a community. Equally, those challenging the status quo must do it respectfully,” he said.

“I want Indigenous Australians to look to our institutions and feel as though they belong and that they have a path to get there.”

He called on the media to highlight the achievements of Indigenous Australians and find a way to break down negative perceptions while Indigenous leaders needed to listen to the “new ways” of the next generation.

“We must all do better,” Mr Wyatt said.

“We must strive towards this new way of working because we owe it to future generations to seize the opportunity, to break the mould, and to ensure that the disadvantage that has held Indigenous Australians back for too long isn’t the defining legacy of today’s children.”

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