Television interview – SBS & NITV The Point with John Paul Janke
JOHN PAUL JANKE, HOST: What was going through your head when you heard these words?
ANTHONY ALBANESE, PRIME MINISTER: It was incredibly humbling. It was one of the greatest moments of my life was to be here last year, and to be presented with the Yidaki by Yunupingu after I arrived here. And I will never forget the conversations that I had, two conversations in particular that I had with Yunupingu. One, after I gave my speech last year, he looked at me with the depth of someone who had been let down and disappointed for so long, so many times and said, ‘Are you serious?’ And I said to him, ‘Yes, we are going to do that’. And then when I spoke to him, in some of his last days, he said to me, ‘You spoke truth’. And when I was presented with the spear, the Woomera, by the young boy too, symbolising, I felt that it was symbolising the next generations coming through as well. I was very conscious when you’re here in this amazing country, that the Australian story goes back at least 65,000 years. But that the story hasn’t ended. We have an opportunity to write the next chapter. And I feel a sense of history, a sense of obligation to make a difference. And I thought it was an incredibly moving and generous moment.
JANKE: We’re heading to the final few months before the referendum. And sadly, we’ve seen an increase in rising racism. For a lot of Aboriginal people, it’s actually turning into maybe a referendum on Aboriginality. How do you personally reconcile that something that is so important, the next chapter, could also be doing so much harm?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, I am concerned. And one of the things that we did in the Budget this year was to put in additional money, specific funding for mental health support for Indigenous Australians. I have been shocked by some of the statements that have been made, the trolling that has occurred, the misinformation which is out there. But you know what gives me a bit of positive enthusiasm and makes me more confident is that if the people involved in the No campaign need to resort to things that the referendum isn’t about, because they can’t put a logical case of why constitutional reform in the form requested by Indigenous Australians should be agreed to, then that gives me confidence that we are on track, that we will be able to convince a majority of Australians in a majority of states to vote Yes in the referendum.
JANKE: We’ve seen fear campaigns of the past, of course, back in the 90s, over the Native Title Act, Mabo legislation and the Wik legislation. There always seems to be a fear campaign when there seems to be advancements or policies that address injustices of the past. The latest now is, of course, the WA heritage laws. They’re reportedly being scrapped. A lot of people are heartbroken by this news. Is the Labor Party going to succumb to changes every time there’s a fear campaign?
PRIME MINISTER: I was told by many people, they said it was a risk holding a referendum. And of course, it is. But it is the request of Indigenous Australians. And none of the leaders here at the Dilak Council yesterday, or any of the other leaders involved in the Referendum Working Group, no one has come through my door and said, ‘This is getting too difficult. We should not proceed’. So, I think we know that these things are difficult. And unfortunately, during the Mabo and Wik decisions, we had scare campaigns about Native Title, people were going to lose their backyards. I’ve had questions about, ‘Will individual Australians be paying a tax for this issue?’ All the nonsense that we’ve seen in the past, we’ll continue to see, unfortunately, during the coming weeks.
JANKE: Final question. If you have grandkids in 20-30 years down the track, and for your grandkids to say to you, ‘Granddad, what did you do when the referendum succeeded?’, a quick sentence, what would you tell them?
PRIME MINISTER: I beamed with pride in Australia, in our nation acknowledging First Nations people and the great privilege that we have of sharing this continent with them.
JANKE: Thank you, Prime Minister.
PRIME MINISTER: Thank you.