Albanese pledges Indigenous visits as PM

Anthony Albanese says he would make regular trips to Indigenous communities if he was elected PM.
Anthony Albanese says he would make regular trips to Indigenous communities if he was elected PM.

Anthony Albanese has committed to regular visits to Indigenous communities if he becomes prime minister.

The Labor leader made the pledge in an exclusive interview with AAP as he stressed the importance of an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander voice to parliament.

Mr Albanese said he would "absolutely" make regular trips to Indigenous communities if his party wins the next federal election.

"It's really important that an Australian prime minister recognise that part of what makes this great country the best country on earth is the fact we have the oldest continuing living civilisation on earth," he told AAP.

"That's something that we should be really proud of."

The opposition leader said respect and engagement with Indigenous communities was a way to succeed where others had failed in closing gaps across health, education, justice and employment.

Key to that will be a voice to parliament enshrined in the constitution, a move recommended in the 2017 Uluru Statement from the Heart.

"It's not an extra chamber of parliament," Mr Albanese said.

"It just means Indigenous people should be consulted about matters that affect them. It's polite.

"The implementation of the Uluru Statement from the Heart would be really important. It's more than just symbolic. It's something that leads to engagement, consultation, outcomes and respect."

While Prime Minister Scott Morrison's travel has been curtailed during the coronavirus pandemic, he has not matched the efforts of his predecessors in visiting Aboriginal communities.

Malcolm Turnbull's 2018 trip to Tennant Creek in the NT was the first time a prime minister visited the community since Malcolm Fraser in 1982.

Tony Abbott honoured his pledge to govern from an Indigenous community for one week a year with trips to the Torres Strait, Cape York and Arnhem Land in 2014 and 2015 before he lost his job.

Mr Morrison visited Jabiru, the main township of the Kakudu National Park, during the last election campaign.

He has also visited regional areas with significant Indigenous populations like Katharine in the NT and Dubbo in NSW.

Mr Morrison appointed Ken Wyatt as Indigenous Affairs Minister in 2019 making him the first Aboriginal person to hold the portfolio.

Mr Wyatt's shadow minister Linda Burney is also Indigenous.

Mr Albanese acknowledged fantastic success stories in Indigenous employment, skills and political representation.

The Sydney-based MP, who was elected to parliament in 1996, joined the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander affairs committee in his first term.

"I was conscious of the need to learn more about Aboriginal communities in remote areas," he said.

"I grew up pretty close to Redfern and went to school with a lot of Aboriginal kids. Going on the committee was really important."

He has twice attended the Garma festival in Arnhem Land, along with work trips to Wilcannia, Bourke, Halls Creek, Fitzroy Crossing and Jabiru during his quarter of a century in parliament.

The Labor leader said Australia needed to do better on Indigenous issues but that wouldn't be achieved without consultation.

The government has ruled out a referendum on a voice to parliament but Mr Wyatt remains committed to legislating.

Australian Associated Press