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Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance

Opportunity for change: IAG applauds Indigenous recognition plan

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IAG is among the first companies to welcome a Federal Government proposal to hold a referendum within three years on altering the constitution to recognise Australia’s First Nations people.

The Government has set aside $160 million for a future referendum once a precise model has been determined.

IAG MD and CEO Peter Harmer said today that while there is still much work to do on the detail, it is encouraging to see bipartisan political commitment to act on calls for an Indigenous voice at a national level.

“It’s important that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are given the opportunity to have a voice on decisions that affect their communities,” he said. “This is an opportunity for positive change that will benefit First Nations peoples and communities – and the wider Australian community.”

Other organisations supporting the referendum alongside IAG are BHP, KPMG, Lendlease, PwC, Qantas, Richmond AFL Football Club, the NRL, Rio Tinto, Swinburne University, Woodside, Curtin University and law firm Herbert Smith Freehills.

IAG’s wholehearted supported for the change comes after the February launch of its third Reconciliation Action Plan, which focuses on providing employment, education and professional development for Indigenous people.

Constitutional changes must be agreed by Parliament before being presented to the Australian people for a vote.

There have been 44 referendums since 1901, of which only eight have enacted change. In a 1967 referendum more than 90% voted to allow the counting of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the census.

Indigenous Australians Minister Ken Wyatt says he will not “rush it” this time as the successful 1967 referendum was “a result of tireless advocacy and an extraordinary nationwide momentum for change.”

“I do not want to proceed if we are not going to be successful. I have commenced the process of engaging and seeking the counsel of Indigenous leaders on the best way forward. We need to design the right model to progress to a point of which the majority of Australians, the majority of states and territories and Indigenous Australians support the model so that it is successful,” Wyatt said.

Mr Wyatt says he will develop a consensus option for constitutional recognition to put to a referendum during the current parliamentary term, after securing agreement from all relevant groups who have a stake.

The referendum proposal will work to put an end to the “top-down command-and-control approach” of even the most well-intentioned modern policies and programs.

“Historically, Indigenous Australians have been told what they're going to get, what's going to happen, whether they like it or no,” Mr Wyatt said.

“As if Aboriginal people didn't know what they needed or wanted. As if proud members of one of the world's longest-lived civilisations have nothing to say - no wisdom to offer - about what would help their families thrive and their communities flourish.

“The development of a local, regional and national voice will be achieved.”