Aborigines warm to Labor

by Chris Griffith
Published 28 January 1996 in The Sunday Mail


my face


Aboriginal groups who bitterly attacked the Goss government during last year's state election campaign seem prepared to back Prime Minister Paul Keating on March 2nd.

The general manager of FAIRA Aboriginal Corporation, Mr Les Malezer, said Mr Keating had displayed "a genuine commitment" to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people by implementing native title laws, by promoting the reconciliation process, and by providing funds to combat deaths in custody.

"The Prime Minister has played a leadership role in bringing these issues in the community," Mr Malezer said yesterday.

Mr Malezer's stand is the reverse of the position he and some other Aboriginal leaders took during last July's state election, when he suggested Aboriginal voters could give preferences to the Coalition.

It was a stand which saw him clash publicly with Cape York Land Council executive director Noel Pearson, who had advocated support for the Goss Government after it announced a 3.6m hectare wilderness park in the eastern Cape York peninsula.

"We have a different situation where we're not starting off with an automatically hostile approach to the incumbent government," Mr Malezer said.

But he said the Federal government would have to modify its Native Tile Act to make sure it delivered land to Aboriginal people. So far no Aboriginal person has been granted native title land.

Mr Malezer said the coalition would have to clarify its policy "otherwise I don't think there will be too many reasons for Aboriginal people to either vote for or give preferences to the coalition."

He said the minor parties in the Senate had made a major by getting Aboriginal issues onto the table and onto the government's agenda.