Senate debates

Wednesday, 23 November 2022

Statements by Senators

First Nations Australians

1:42 pm

Kerrynne Liddle (SA, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

For around 40 years, there has been a three-part test to confirm Indigeneity. In essence, the test requires demonstrating Aboriginal descent, Torres Strait Islander descent or both; identification as a person of that descent; and acceptance by the community in which the person lives as being of that descent. It makes provision for stolen generations.

It's not perfect, but there is no evidence that it is broken, nor am I aware that it has become irrelevant. I'm alarmed at tinkering with this definition and its impact and consequences for program and service delivery for the people who need it most. There should be no place in government or in policy for a self-identification test or for fluidity in the definition depending on policy or program application. With self-identification, there's no validation and no accountability. It counts people who should not be counted, it relies on the box ticker having a moral compass and it risks greater access by charlatans to those special services designed for those who need it most. It fails, fails and fails every test.

In the most recent ABS census, Australia asked who was Indigenous. With that, there was a 25 per cent increase since the previous census. Esteemed academics have described the national five per cent annual growth rate as astonishing, noting the growth was much faster than could be accounted for by births alone. That's possibly explained by the reply emails sent from ancestry tracing sites that tell people they are indeed Indigenous through a relative, where there is no lived connection, no lived experience, no life experience and the connection is not even for more than a maybe century.

What should be occurring is accountability of the government, its agencies and community organisations, ensuring the bona fides of Indigenous claims. We better get it right before we ask Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to elect representatives to the Voice, should that be successful at referendum.