Australia`s Aborigines to launch political party

An Aboriginal activist hopes to give disadvantaged "first people" a voice.

Sydney: An Aboriginal activist seeking to establish a political party for Australia`s native people on Thursday said he hoped to give the country`s disadvantaged "first people" a voice.

Indigenous rights campaigner Maurie Ryan has applied to have the "First Nations" party registered with Australia`s electoral commission to address what he feels is a lack of real advocacy for the country`s native tribes.

"The reason why we created the political party is because we don`t have a voice," Ryan said.

"There are around 27 political parties and none of them represent the interest of Aboriginal people."

Ryan, the grandson of well-known land rights activist Vincent Lingiari, accused both major parties of perpetrating "racism at its highest level" with a controversial 2007 crackdown on social disorder in remote Aboriginal camps.

The so-called intervention, initially enforced using troops, was launched by the conservative government of John Howard and continued by the ruling centre-left Labor party. It has been condemned as racist by the United Nations.

"They (Aboriginal people) are like prisoners in remote communities," said Ryan of the policy, which quarantined welfare payments and imposed alcohol and pornography bans.

While First Nations would focus on uniquely Aboriginal issues including sovereignty and land rights, Ryan said he also hoped to offer a real alternative to the major Liberal/National and Labor parties on more mainstream issues.

"We want to be able to give an alternative to the wishy-washy policies of Labor and Liberal, who have done nothing," said Ryan.

Once thought to number more than one million, Aborigines now account for just 470,000 people out of Australia`s total population of 22 million, and suffer disproportionately high rates of disease, imprisonment and unemployment.

Aboriginal men have a life expectancy 11.5 years shorter than their non-Aboriginal counterparts, while Aboriginal women die 9.7 years sooner.

Next February will mark three years since former prime minister Kevin Rudd delivered a historic apology to Aborigines for wrongs committed since white settlement in 1788.

His successor, Julia Gillard, has announced a referendum on constitutional recognition for the country`s native people, who have a deep cultural tradition stretching back some 40,000 years.

Bureau Report