Wyatt issues warning on constitutional reform

Member for Hasluck and Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt (right) poses for a photograph with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Photo: AAP
Member for Hasluck and Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt (right) poses for a photograph with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Photo: AAP

RECOGNISING Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the constitution has to be done right or it will be put on hold for decades, Indigenous Australians Minister Ken Wyatt says.

Speaking at the National Reconciliation Breakfast in Perth on Friday, Mr Wyatt said the government remained committed to constitutional recognition, but it would be a long process.

“We want to get it right,” Mr Wyatt said.

“If we don’t, we risk putting this issue on hold for another 30 or 40 years.”

Work would continue with indigenous communities to design a model for the change and a referendum would then be held.

He also reaffirmed the government’s commitment to establish a central National Resting Place for ancestral remains that were removed from country and placed in museums, universities and private collections in Australia and overseas for more than 150 years.

Establishing the resting place in Canberra was a recommendation in a bipartisan report in November that followed an inquiry into enshrining an indigenous voice in the constitution.

“The National Resting Place will be a central place for commemoration, reflection and healing,” Mr Wyatt said.

“A place for ancestral remains to rest in honour and peace, where all Australians can celebrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures.”

Mr Wyatt was on Wednesday sworn in as the first indigenous Australian to hold the indigenous affairs portfolio.