Opposition Leader Peter Dutton has backed an Indigenous senator who claims colonisation had a “positive impact”, urging Australians to listen to her rather than “capital city views”.
Coalition senator Jacinta Nampijinpa Price on Thursday warned the voice to parliament would divide the nation, using a National Press Club speech to say the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians was not caused by systemic racism.
She also rejected suggestions British colonisation had a negative impact on Indigenous people, resulting in intergenerational trauma.
“There is no ongoing negative impacts of colonisation,” she said on Thursday.
“If we keep telling Aboriginal people they are victims, we are effectively removing their agency and then giving them the expectation that someone else is responsible for their lives.”
The opposition leader praised her courage and said Senator Price’s comments represented a broad range of views as she had grown up in Alice Springs.
“(She) was brave, prepared to stand up for what she believes in, and believes passionately about making a better society for Indigenous Australians,” he told Nine’s Today show on Friday.
“The left, including Linda Burney, have got this capital city view of what should happen and frankly, we’ve been listening to people like Marcia Langton and others for 30 years and here we are today with a worse situation for Indigenous Australians than than we’ve ever had.
“So I’d start listening to people like Senator Price so that we can get practical support and assistance to Indigenous people on the ground.”
Labor’s national president Wayne Swan called Senator Price’s remarks “bizarre”.
“This story didn’t begin 42 years ago when Senator Price was born. It goes back to 1788,” he told Today.
“I grew up alongside Indigenous communities and she is denying their lived experience – experience of the Stolen Generation, experience of lost wages where people weren’t paid.
“There’s been a whole lot of traumatic experience over a long period of time which has left a legacy that the country has to deal with.”
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has urged MPs to spread a message of love, hope and reconciliation ahead of a referendum on an Indigenous voice to parliament.
Mr Albanese said the October 14 vote was a once-in-a-generation opportunity for constitutional recognition.
“In the next four weeks, Australians can take the next step to a better future by writing ‘yes’. That is all we are being asked to do,” he said.
“Just as Indigenous Australians have walked those distances (to reconciliation), we are being asked to walk just a few steps to, with a hand outreached, to just join it. That’s what Australians do, move forward together.”
The ‘yes’ campaign will ramp up efforts across the country over the weekend, with thousands expected to attend walks for the voice.
More than 40 events will take place in capital cities and regional towns in every state and territory.