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Riverbank Frank opposes The — ‘It’s time to unify, not divide

Frank Doolan says the government needs to rediscover regional Australia, and not ‘split us down the middle’. Photo contributed

Tricia Duffield

The proposed Voice to Parliament has divided opinion, with many Aboriginal leaders warning it has the capacity to divide, rather than unite, indigenous voices.

Among those opposing the proposal is one of the western region’s most respected indigenous leaders, ‘Riverbank’ Frank Doolan.

After growing up at Bourke, Frank now lives in Dubbo on the bank of the Macquarie Wambool River and is a highly respected Wiradjuri Elder.

Frank has been a tireless advocate for justice and human rights all his life. Riverbank and said that he was committed to his culture and his people, but that he also cared passionately about equality for all Australians.

The Voice to Parliament, he said, had the potential to divide rather than unify Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians.

His comments add weight to concerns raised by other Indigenous leaders, including Kamilaroi man Peter Gibbs, who has worked as an advisor to both state and federal governments, and Brewarrina Shire Councillor, Trish Frail from Brewarrina.

Peter Gibbs, who also grew up in Bourke, and now heads up the Regional Enterprise Development Institute, has been quoted as saying the Voice is ‘fundamentally divisive’ and would achieve ‘nothing’.

Frank, Peter, and Trish are among a growing number of people opposed to the proposal.

Riverbank Frank said the days of ‘tokenism’ were over.

“None of us know too much about the Voice to Parliament, but what’s suggested, and proposed with an almighty flourish that makes us believe they’re doing something magnificent for Australia, is a re-hashed version of ATSIC,” he said.

“The knockers would say it’s not a funding body as ATSIC was, but I see it as another bureaucratic body with no real reason to be set up.

“As an indigenous man, I reject the government assertion that we need another Voice to understand and hear Aboriginal people.

“They have known about Aboriginal people since the Whitlam days when we had our first Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, and when Prime Minister Albanese put his hand on his heart and promised to govern for all Australians, I say I am well aware of my rights and responsibilities as an Australian citizen,” he said.

Aboriginal people weren’t officially recognised as citizens until 1967 and weren’t counted in the official Census until 1971 and Frank said that recognition came with promised equal rights for Aboriginal people.

“I come from a time when we had nothing until Prime Minister Whitlam came along like Santa Claus with money for the bush, but I say if you want to build communities in the bush you do things for the entire community and share those facilities with your Indigenous brothers and sisters,” he said.

“The Labor Party needs to re-discover regional Australia and not split us down the middle.

“They need to go to country towns and see what is happening with crime, family breakdown, and family violence, but also the working partnerships that we have.

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