Sunday, 04 Dec 2022

Staunch or stubborn? Lidia Thorpe on the voice, the treaty and real power

Staunch or stubborn? Lidia Thorpe on the voice, the treaty and real power


Staunch or stubborn? Lidia Thorpe on the voice, the treaty and real power

Speaking to Guardian Australia last month, the Djab Wurrung, Gunnai and Gunditjmara woman would not say whether she would vote yes on the referendum, based on the proposed draft wording of the question.

The referendum campaign has sharpened focus on the Victorian senator, who is the First Nations spokesperson for the Australian Greens. But anyone waiting for Thorpe to fall into line is bound to be disappointed.

At the time, Thorpe was the cochair of the Victorian Naidoc committee. She has been involved in Aboriginal politics since birth: her grandmother, Alma Thorpe, helped found the Victorian Aboriginal Health Service in Fitzroy in 1973. Her mother, Marjorie Thorpe, was a commissioner of the stolen generations inquiry that produced the Bringing Them Home report. Her first job was working for her uncle Robbie Thorpe, who ran the Koori Information Centre in Fitzroy.

Sovereignty is not, for First Nations peoples, a trivial point. And the draft referendum question, outlined by the prime minister, Anthony Albanese, at the Garma festival, which states that parliament shall have power over the voice, has brought it to the fore.

The Uluru statement called for a treaty and a truth-telling process to occur alongside the referendum on the voice. Thorpe argues that those elements have been left behind, when they should be the main focus.

An Aboriginal Victorian, one of a number of critics of Thorpe who declined to speak on the record, said that since the incident with Atkinson, First Nations people were reluctant to publicly criticise the senator for fear of a backlash from within their own community.

Thorpe says she is not concerned that other First Nations people may be wary of criticising her.

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