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The shattered trust between European and Indigenous Australians provides lessons in what not to do. Littered with failed outcomes, broken commitments and disappointment, it is perhaps the most complex and long-lasting issue facing Australia. Danny Gilbert, Founding Partner of Gilbert + Tobin and Co-Chair of the Cape York Partnership discusses trust-failure (and ~$30m he wants to raise to help fix it) with Liam Cox and Peter Wilkinson. For more: https://lnkd.in/gdJpNAA https://lnkd.in/gy4JG-A

Video Transcript

Liam Cox:

Black Lives Matter marches across America sparked marches here in Australia, highlighting the long-standing distrust between the government and our indigenous community. Danny Gilbert is the co-founder at Gilbert and Tobin and co-chair of the Cape York Partnership Group. Danny joins me alongside Peter Wilkinson. Danny, thank you for your time. Trust has broken down badly. What can be done to repair it?

Danny Gilbert:

Well, I would… I think the black lives matter is complex. Why so many people turned out, there are a number of reasons for that, failure of trust in government to deal into and fix the problem. The longstanding problems about unacceptably high levels of indigenous incarceration in this country is a longstanding issue. Deaths in custody is a longstanding issue. There’s a lack of trust there, but more fundamental than that, I don’t think there has ever been trust between indigenous Australians and the rest of the country. If you go back for 230 odd years, much of what they have ever asked for has been dismissed or ignored. So, I think it’s not the trust has broken down recently. The trust has never been there.

Peter Wilkinson:

The difficulty is that it’s got to start somewhere. There’s got to be trust before there’s going to be any real collaboration, any constitutional reform or treaty doesn’t there?

Danny Gilbert:

Well, I think trust will emerge if the Australian people, led by the Australian government deliver on some of the requests that the indigenous community has made. And the thing that I think would be is, certainly up the most in my mind, is the call for constitutional recognition or enshrinement of the voice as espoused, From the Hearts. I think that if we have the constitutional recognition that is asked for there, that will be a platform for the building of trust. And I would say that the work that I’m involved with would indicate from recent research conducted by the CT Group, the L Crosby Textor Group that I’m working with would indicate that there is support for constitutional recognition of the voice at or above 50% of the Australian population.

Peter Wilkinson:

In the communication business, as you know, we look at different ways to reach people and one would be through more ambassadors like yourself in the European Australian community to campaign for this. Do you say that we need to broaden the base of the campaign?

Danny Gilbert:

Absolutely. We do. And the way we are approaching it through Cape York is to start to roll out an education campaign, getting people to understand what it is that’s being asked for. But contemporaneously with that, it does need many people to stand up and say, “We support this.” And to be able to articulate the reasons why it’s important. There are many people and many corporations who do support it, but when it comes to articulating the case and making the case, I think they need to lift their game. I think the case is not difficult to be made, but that’s from someone who’s been so embedded in it for such a long time. I have to accept that for others, they might not feel like that. And there’s an important process to be undertaken here before we could go to a referendum with a great deal of confidence, but there is time. I mean, the Commonwealth, the government is now said, it’s unlikely to be in this term.

Peter Wilkinson:

The key messaging is really important. Because I think there’s a lot of shrugging shoulders, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, know the indigenous community wants recognition, but I don’t quite sort of get why it’s important.”

Danny Gilbert:

Well, there are two facts to it Peter. There is the recognition in itself. So, we have our founding document, the rule book for the country is as our constitution. It’s a lot of history to the way indigenous people were treated or not treated in the constitution, too long a discussion for today. But they want the recognition of who they are as the descendants of people who lived here to 60,000 years in our national rule book. So, they want to be recognized for who they are, but they want that second, they want that recognition to contain meaningful benefits for them. And all that is being asked here, that in the decisions that are made about their future, their education, their welfare, et cetera, their communities, that they have a guaranteed voice in that. Not that that voice must be, can be imposed upon government. That’s not what’s proposed. They just want to have a process whereby, a structural process whereby they can be heard on matters that affect their lives, their futures, their communities, rather than a top-down approach, which has been the case since 1967, where the government delivers from the top with inconsistent and incomplete, and sometimes a very poor consultation.

Liam Cox:

How can we persuade Scott Morrison to implement this?

Danny Gilbert:

Well, I think Scott Morrison… Scott Morrison, if you read his… Listen carefully to his Closing The Gap speech. In my opinion, Scott Morrison is not ruling out anything. But what we’ve got to do, and what we’re planning to do here is to mobilize the arguments through social media is what the From the Heart campaign is fundamentally looking at.

Peter Wilkinson:

So is somebody putting some grunt behind it? Some resources, money, people, time?

Danny Gilbert:

We’ve had a very generous grant from BHP, which has been very helpful over the last year, but we will need to raise considerable more as time goes on. If you look at what the marriage campaign cost numbers, I’ve heard there is thirty, circa $30 million. We will need to raise a very significant sum of money.

Peter Wilkinson:

That’s a big ask, isn’t it?

Danny Gilbert:

It is a big ask, but this is a grand and ambitious program and something that will help, not completely solve, but will help close that trust gap and build a proper relationship between the indigenous community and the rest of Australia.

Peter Wilkinson:

So besides the spokespeople, the resources, the key messages and so on for a campaign, you need a timeline. What’s the timeline on this?

Danny Gilbert:

Well, Minister Wyatt suggested or said a couple of weeks ago that it’s unlikely to be in this term of government. He previously having indicated, hoped that it would be during this term. I think that’s a sensible thing for him to have said, with everything that’s going on, you’ve got a, we’re going to have an economy faced with great difficulties for some time. It seems to me to be sensible, to put it over to the next term of government. And hopefully at that point, once we have completed the co-design process, we will be moving to a consensus from both major parties. The Labor party have supported it. There is work to be done with the coalition, but it’s wrong. People are wrong to write the coalition off in my view.

Liam Cox:

Danny, you’re clearly committed to the cause. What’s the end goal for you?

Danny Gilbert:

The end goal is to bring indigenous Australians to the table of opportunity at every level. At least on par with the benefits and fruits of this country that are made available for everybody else. That’s the end game, and constitutional radiation is about part of that. A very important step along the way. It’s a platform.

Liam Cox:

Well, these are deep-seated issues that need to be addressed. And I must say, as a privileged white man, I’ll never truly understand the fight of our indigenous community, but we can all educate ourselves and Danny, you are creating change. You are making a difference. So congratulations and thanks for your time today.

Danny Gilbert:

Thank you very much.

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