Renowned Indigenous leader Nyunggai Warren Mundine says he would support an Indigenous Voice to Parliament if it passed the referendum but wants “no more mistakes”.
Mr Mundine, a highly respected Indigenous businessman and former politician, said it was time for governments to get off the backs of Indigenous Australians and instead look at how they could encourage entrepreneurship and economic growth in their communities.
In a surprising admission, he said he was “happy to sign up” for the initiative if Australians voted for it.
“It has to work, we can’t have any more failures,” Mr Mundine said.
“We’ve got to make it work, I’m committed to that, but I see better ways of doing things.”
The comments came during News Corp’s Beyond ’23 panel on Tuesday discussing whether the Voice to Parliament could be achieved and what it would deliver for First Nations peoples.
From the Heart director Dean Parkin, Indigenous affairs academic Anthony Dillon, Fox Sports journalist Hannah Hollis and Mr Mundine took part in the panel, moderated by Sky News host Chris Kenny.
The historic referendum, first revealed by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese this year, proposes giving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander constitutional recognition to give advice on policies that affect their lives.
It has drawn both support and derision across the country, with opponents arguing the Voice to Parliament is not clear enough and it would divide the country on the basis of race.
Mr Mundine, who is a vocal opponent of the Voice to Parliament, said he was concerned about what the real issues around economic development and education were.
“I don’t see people sitting in Canberra making those decisions and having that input,” he told the panel.
“We’ve been doing that for 50 years and it hasn’t worked.”
Mr Mundine said hundreds of millions of dollars had gone to Indigenous communities over the years and many were still in poverty.
“So how do we use that money to get people out of poverty?” he asked.
“I want government to get off our backs and start … letting them focus on how we encourage entrepreneurs.”
Mr Parkin said there was a big difference to what the legislation would achieve on the ground, comparing it to how the Native Title Act operated.
“A Voice could make real improvements in the way economic opportunities are made to Indigenous landholders,” he said.
“We’ve got to create the overarching structures fit for purpose, they have to be enabling and powerful.”
Beyond ’23 also examined census data to get an indication of what Australia’s demographics could look like in the future.
Australia relies heavily on migration, with most people coming from India, China, Nepal, the Philippines and Vietnam since 2017.
Meanwhile, ancestry is led by the English, followed by Australians, Irish, Scottish and Chinese.
Analysis also showed younger people were delaying home ownership and were also having children later in life compared with their parents.
Data also revealed 38.4 per cent of Australians had no religion, while the main religion was Catholicism at 20 per cent in 2021.
That compares with just 16.6 per cent of people having no religion in 1996 and 27 per cent practising Catholicism.
The event was told Australia could continue to delay its ageing population by encouraging more migration over the next few decades.
This would allow time for more automation in aged care, in particular, but also across all industries.
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