U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland met with Australia’s Indigenous Affairs Minister Linda Burney to discuss the road to reconciliation for Australia’s Aboriginal communities. Haaland, an Indigenous woman from the southwest United States, visited Canberra at the end of a weeklong trip to Australia. At a joint press conference with Haaland at Parliament House, Burney said that the world was watching as Australia approached a referendum on constitutional recognition through a voice later this year. The Albanese Labor government proposed to hold a referendum sometime this year on whether to insert an Indigenous Voice to Parliament, which would set up an almost-permanent Indigenous advisory body to the two houses of Parliament.
Haaland refused to weigh into Australia’s debate surrounding the Indigenous Voice to Parliament, but she did point to the Biden administration’s efforts in trying to include more Indigenous voices in their policymaking. She said that U.S President Joe Biden was working hard to ensure Native Americans had a “seat at the table” of the government and his administration. Haaland also said that both the United States and Australia shared a “tragic history” around the abuse of Indigenous people, but she was “heartened” to see how the Australian government was working to reconcile the past. She also noted that Indigenous knowledge was valuable in “this era that we’re in with climate change.”
Following the meeting, Burney asked the federal opposition leader Peter Dutton to “stay engaged” in the debate. Despite a “constructive” meeting with the referendum working group for the Voice, Dutton has maintained that the referendum is on track to be defeated. Meanwhile, Country National Senator Jacinta Price launched the Fair Australia campaign in opposition to the Voice saying it was “pitting Australians against each other.” She said that the legislation “does nothing to help vulnerable Australians, instead starting the country on a pathway to treaties and splintered sovereignty.”