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Australia unlikely to follow recent Maori political success says CAS director

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Australia’s indigenous population must unite to ensure proper political representation according to Curtin’s Centre for Aboriginal Studies.

CAS Director Anita Lee Hong said competitive, fractured clans were preventing Australia from replicating the success of the Maori party in New Zealand.

At their recent election the all-indigenous party won five seats and helped form the minority government under Labor’s John Key.

But Associate Professor Lee Hong believed an Aboriginal party wouldn’t occur in her lifetime.

‘Not until we get over competing and fighting amongst ourselves could anything happen,’ she said.

‘In Canada they use the term lateral violence to describe tall poppy syndrome attacks on excelling members of clans.

‘Most people are really possessive about their clans and looking after their own interests – even some representative members of [the former] Australian and Torres Strait Islander Committee (ATSIC) couldn’t get along.

‘It would be great if we could look toward New Zealand and take bits from their experience that we could use but people need to want to negotiate.’

Associate Professor Lee Hong said it was easier to increase the number of Aboriginal members of existing parties.

‘We have Ben Wyatt who’s currently the opposition treasurer and is doing a fantastic job representing all the people of WA. Ben would be the ideal next leader of the [WA] Labor party. He’s an excellent role model for other indigenous people aspiring to enter local, state or federal politics, ‘ she said.

The 1840 New Zealand Treaty of Waitangi, and 1975 recognition of the treaty, helped established Maori cohesion as Ms Lee Hong hopes the Federal Government apology will among indigenous Australians.

She said it would be fantastic to have indigenous parties and councils in parliament like our neighbours.

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