As an Indigenous man in a senior government role, Ken Wyatt is ambitious but pragmatic, as he struggles to bridge the gap between Indigenous expectations and political realities.
Wyatt, minister for Indigenous Australians, aspires to deliver constitutional recognition of Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in this term, though he must know the odds are against it. The government is committed to a referendum only if there is bipartisan support on the question and a good prospect of success.
He also wants to land a legislated “voice” for Indigenous people, and on Wednesday he unveiled a process.
Achieving even this will be hard. Wyatt is caught between those Indigenous figures who see the idea as now much watered down from their preferred model, and those on the right of politics who cast it as an exercise in separatism.
As the first Indigenous federal cabinet minister, and widely respected in first peoples’ communities, Wyatt is well placed to be listened to by Indigenous Australians. His standing gives him leverage. By the same token, the pressures on him are much more personal than they’d be on a non-Indigenous minister.
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