Stan Grant challenged at forum for supporting constitutional recognition of Indigenous people

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Stan Grant challenged at forum for supporting constitutional recognition of Indigenous people

Updated

Aboriginal journalist Stan Grant has been confronted at a conference in Alice Springs for supporting constitutional recognition of Indigenous people by an academic and advocate who wants him to hold out for a treaty.

Key points:

  • Dr Marcus Woolombi Waters confronts journalist Stan Grant
  • Grant is a member of the Government’s Referendum Council
  • Dr Waters says Grant has “hurt” the Indigenous community with his position
  • Constitutional recognition does not rule out a treaty, Grant says

Grant was a keynote speaker on the final day of the National Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention conference in Alice Springs when debate arose during question time about his position on the Federal Government’s Referendum Council.

Why don’t we want it? … because we don’t want to be recognised by the perpetrator of the violence.

Dr Marcus Woolombi Waters

In front of hundreds of people after Grant concluded his speech, Dr Marcus Woolombi Waters from Griffith University challenged him, saying a treaty was needed instead of constitutional recognition.

“The hurt, that came with you signing on to the Recognise program, because you’re seen as a leader,” Dr Waters said.

“And we know in our communities that we don’t want it [constitutional recognition].

“Why don’t we want it? … Because we don’t want to be recognised by the perpetrator of the violence.

“We don’t want to give up 87,000 years of our history, our language, our ceremony to join a constitution that’s 200 years old.”

Last month Grant was appointed to the Referendum Council, which has bipartisan political support, to help drive the recognition of Indigenous Australians in the constitution.

In this week’s federal budget $9.6 million was allocated to the Referendum Council.

A further $5 million was allocated to the Recognise campaign, which aims to build awareness of recognising Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the constitution.

Grant defends participation in Referendum Council

After Dr Waters’ comments Grant replied that having constitutional recognition did not stop the possibility of a treaty.

“There are clauses in that constitution that have allowed our children to be taken away, that have allowed our homes to be invaded, that told us who we can marry and where we can live,” Grant said.

“You seriously don’t want those clauses in the constitution … so if we want to remove racist clauses from the constitution we can’t sit outside and say we don’t want to be part of the process.”

Grant defended his newly appointed position advising the Government.

“It’s an advisory council, not an advocacy council. It’s an important distinction,” he said.

“People on the council — Indigenous and non-Indigenous — hold different views … that are still being worked through.

“My own ideas are still being worked through, and I’m listening to what my people have to say,” Grant said.

“Do we need a treaty? That’s still to be determined.”

Grant is a former ABC political correspondent and award-winning reporter who has also worked as a foreign correspondent for Channel Seven and American media company CNN among other roles.

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