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Senator Jacinta Nampijinpa Price speaks at the Mannkal Foundation’s Emerging Leaders event


(Last Updated On: March 18, 2023)

Renowned Indigenous leader, activist, and politician, Senator Jacinta Nampijinpa Price, gave the keynote address for the Mannkal Foundation’s Annual Emerging Leaders Event for Western Australian students and young people.

Senator Price spoke on matters of leadership, courage, and building a better Australia for all Australians.

Mannkal Founder Ron Manners AO expressed his delight at having such a fearless and outspoken leader lending her wisdom to Mannkal Scholars and Alumni.

‘I can think of few people as qualified to guide and encourage the emerging leaders of today than Senator Jacinta Price. She tirelessly and fearlessly raises her voice on topics others are afraid to address,’ said Mr Manners.

‘Her opinions supersede the less-informed status quo. When she speaks it is from a place of firsthand experience having spent two decades working in the Northern Territory on issues impacting Indigenous Australians.

‘Senator Price is one of the most influential leaders of our day. She unflinchingly fights for her community and tirelessly strives to unite Australians of all backgrounds.’

Additional speakers at the event included Mannkal Founder, Ron Manners AO, and Mannkal Alumnus, James Walker who will be speaking about his career in high-net-worth finance and how his Mannkal Scholarship helped him along the way.

The rest of the evening included showcasing the graduating 2022 class of Mannkal Scholars and presenting this year’s winner of John Hyde Scholar award.

Furthermore, Mannkal announced the details of the Niamh Finneran Loader Prize for writing in honour of Miss Finneran Loader, (also a much-loved Spectator Australia writer) who tragically passed away late last year. Future winners will be awarded a scholarship to travel to Sydney and have lunch with Spectator Australia Editor and Sky News Host, Rowan Dean.

‘Niamh was a gifted writer, engaging conversationalist, and brilliant young student. She had a gift for a pithy phrase that summed up her opinions – opinions she was always keen to share. We wanted to honour her memory with a scholarship and one that awarded thoughtful, well-written opinions felt appropriate,’ said Mr. Manners.

The event took place on Thursday, 9 March 2023 at the University Club of Western Australia. Below is a full transcript of the Senator’s address.

Ron Manners: Warmest greetings to you Senator Price. Now Jacinta, you have met many of our fantastic Mannkal scholars at the various Friedman conferences. But it’s so good to have this opportunity for you to speak directly to them tonight. We’ve had some fabulous speaking stars over the years for this event, but nobody has created the level of interest such as you have this evening.

So let me start by asking you some questions. The first of the questions I’d like to ask is about leadership. I feel that leadership is sadly lacking in the political sphere and in the business sphere, and linking with leadership is courage. I’d also like to touch on the word courage, and what one needs to have the courage to say what you believe in, rather than wait to see what the opinions of others are before forming your own opinions. You’re resolving things from very first principles.

So, could I ask you to give us some introductory comments? And after that, I’ll come back and continue the questions. So over to you. Thank you.

Jacinta Price: Well, thank you, Ron. I think you know, the world that we live in today requires people to toe the line of political correctness, and it seems to have influenced people on all levels. And certainly, as you know, there are those that are concerned about their positions and the threat to their positions if they don’t toe the line of political correctness.

But if we all actually stood our ground and said, ‘No, we need to be honest. We need to be able to have open, honest, and fair debate, without tearing each other down’. If more of us that did that, the less opportunity those who peddle political correctness would have to shut us down.

I think for me, personally, I’ve got a lot to lose. The people that I represent are very vulnerable people who have been voiceless for a long time. This is the reason why I decided to go down the path of putting my hand up for election in the Federal Senate. It’s why my mother chose to do what she did to become a Minister of the Crown in the Northern Territory. Because it was about understanding what goes on, on the ground.

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But without that actually being articulated, where it needs to be articulated, where laws are created, and where those laws and those decisions impact all Australians, but particularly those most vulnerable Australians. I think you have to start from a place of honesty if you actually want to resolve some of those issues. For me and my family, it’s a matter of saving lives. That’s what it is.

As a nation we’re quite comfortable. We’re one of the leading nations in the world. And we’re very, very privileged. I think that’s what lends itself to this idea that we should therefore listen to the voices that have been pushing guilt politics on us as a country. And if we feel privileged, it’s not our place to try to argue. But that’s what democracy is about. It’s about drawing a line in the sand and taking a position, an honest position. And I think fear is what controls a lot of leaders these days. Fear of whatever repercussions they imagine they might be confronted with if they’re actually being honest.

It shouldn’t be about a popularity contest, really. It shouldn’t be about ensuring that everybody loves you. Because ultimately, I think no leader globally, has ever been extremely popular. Where they could make decisions and go ahead and please everybody, it’s certainly not what it’s about. The understanding that you are not going to please everybody is what you have to come to terms with. It’s certainly what I’ve come to terms with over the years. I think Australians in general are just looking for people who are real.

Ron Manners: Jacinta, you actually speak for a lot of people. A lot of Australians feel that they’re not represented at all at the moment. So that’s fantastic. I had a long involvement in successful Aboriginal partnerships in farming in Esperance and in mineral exploration around Kalgoorlie. During those times I’ve witnessed government policies that actually achieve exactly the opposite to their original intent. And I’m wondering if that’s your experience throughout Australia, and it particularly in the Northern Territory?

Jacinta Price: Yes, absolutely.

From very far back there’s this notion that we have the highest rates of incarceration amongst Indigenous Australians, and there’s an argument that Aboriginal people have been locked up ever since colonisation. And it’s just been worse ever since. This is not, in fact, true.

In the early 1900s, Aboriginal people were pushed into missions, and taken off their lands, which you know was very unfortunate, but it did happen historically. And there were those who were incarcerated, for things like spearing cattle. While there were high levels of incarceration of Indigenous people around that time, at the beginning of the 1900s, this began to change. It began to lower by 1905. There was, in Queensland, in particular, those percentages began to lower to I think it was 5 per cent for Indigenous men incarcerated in Queensland.

By 1915, there were no Aboriginal women incarcerated,

So, these rates decreased, historically during that time, because a lot of Aboriginal people were beginning to become part of the workforce. They were working as stockmen and women. They were taking on jobs and taking on those sorts of roles. And I guess, understanding and transitioning into a different way of life.

But with good intentions, of course, the Equal Pay decision was passed. And the outcome of that meant that a lot of Aboriginal people, in particular in the Northern Territory, lost their jobs because station owners couldn’t afford to pay them the equal wage. Then that was coupled with welfare and access to alcohol.

That is when we began to see our levels of incarceration increase dramatically from there and be maintained all this time. So, the Equal Pay decision was a decision made out of good intentions, but has created, terrible consequences.

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Another is obviously it was wonderful to have our land back and land rights. But in places like the Northern Territory, we were land-rich and dirt-poor. So, while it’s communally owned, there’s not the opportunity for economic development.

So Aboriginal people live on their land and have the whole spiritual connection and the romanticism of culture. It’s wonderful to have that, but we should be able to have the opportunity to create economic development opportunities to be the job creators in our communities. And that hasn’t occurred yet.

There are a lot of well-intended policies out there, which have had really dire consequences. Another one is the fact that states and territories have followed the lead in terms of what happened with the stolen generation. The outcome of the stolen generation is that Aboriginal kids are now treated differently to all other Australian kids. So, they’re in a dysfunctional situation.

The priority is for them to be connected to culture and Country. And again, that’s that romanticism. But you can’t have those meaningful connections if your family is completely and utterly dysfunctional. And we have big families. And keeping children connected to some kin further on in the family, doesn’t necessarily remove them from the dysfunction. So, what we should be doing is putting kids in homes and with families, regardless of their cultural heritage, or their race. We should be putting them in homes that can meet their needs that can uphold the human rights, that can love and care for them.

But that’s not what the focus is with the way the kinship policy works, and the directives that have been handed down as a result of the stolen generation. It’s a completely different set of circumstances now than what it was previously.

So yes, there’s a lot of policy that’s well intended yet have dire consequences.

Ron Manners: Now Jacinta, I’m a great believer in the Australian Constitution, because as I see it the Constitution is to protect us citizens from rapacious governments. So, could the ‘Voice’, this constitutional amendment that’s being proposed, be yet another example of good intentions that could easily go astray?

Jacinta Price: It’s one of those on steroids; in fact.

The problem with the Voice is the fact that there’s so many governance structures that are failing within the Indigenous industry. We have land councils. We have corporations. We have a raft of different organisations where their governance structures aren’t working.

As it stands, there are 999 corporations as of the last estimates that haven’t met their reporting requirements for the last two financial years. And the governance structures within them are clearly, obviously failing. But these are organisations that are funded to predominantly overcome disadvantage for Indigenous Australians.

So if all that mess sits underneath this overarching bureaucracy, how can it how can anything actually anything positive come of it? I had a conversation recently with somebody about the fact that even in structures like the land councils here in the Northern Territory, you have an executive and some of the members of that executive are, in fact, illiterate.

In traditional terms, Aboriginal people, when it comes to decision making, will often follow the status quo. They won’t want to speak out against something, because speaking out against an issue can very much lead to violence. And so, they’ll avoid confrontation, and sit there and nod in agreeance.

For a lot of vulnerable Indigenous Australians whose first language is not English, who haven’t had a great education, who are still connected to the traditional cultural way of doing things, they can very much be influenced and manipulated. And we see it a lot. We see it a lot in a lot of these governance structures. And you know, it occurs across the board. I see this Voice model as providing the opportunity to do exactly that.

We need to audit and review the structures that already exist, to understand where the successes are, and support those successes. But do away [with structures] if they can’t be reinstated appropriately, and there’s often no real accountability.

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So things don’t change in that regard. Now the proponents of the Voice are seeking to establish a whole entire overarching bureaucracy on top of the mess that already exists. And that is very, very dangerous, as far as I’m concerned. We really need to clean up our mess before we even go anywhere near the Voice.

Ron Manners: Jacinta, you’ve answered a lot of questions on that. If I could move back to a central theme of leadership, I sense that Australians are hungry for a leadership that will focus on policies that will bring us all together as one nation rather than pursue these race-based constitutional amendments. Now, let me bring it to a conclusion by asking you for your suggestions of such policies that we can all move on. We’ve got a fabulous country; we’ve got to get it moving again. So please…

Jacinta Price: Absolutely. And I think a lot of the demise of Indigenous Australia and the inability to close the gap has been because there’s been a primary focus on our race, as opposed to our needs. And while some Indigenous Australians are amongst our most vulnerable Australians, not all Aboriginal people are disadvantaged. You’re not automatically disadvantaged, because you’re an Aboriginal person in this country. There are some really successful Aboriginal people. And I’m one of those examples, I guess. And I didn’t need a Voice to get to where I got to. And many others who are successful as well didn’t need a Voice to get to where they got to.

Our focus should be on serving Australian people on the basis of need. I believe that’ll bring Australians together. Eventually, what I think we should aim for is the need for there not to be an Indigenous Affairs Minister, for there not to be all these organisations that exist primarily for focus on Indigenous Australians.

Ultimately, we all just want to be Australians as one. And the idea of reconciliation, I think, has been weaponized against non-Indigenous Australians to suggest that this is how high you must jump, for reconciliation to occur. As far as I’m concerned, reconciliation is about people coming to the table together, and putting something on the table to offer to everybody sitting at their table.

And I feel like that’s the direction we need to go. We need to certainly have some pride in our country. We’re one of the greatest countries on the face of the earth, and we don’t celebrate it enough. Many Australians have been convinced that self-flagellation is how we must conduct ourselves, as opposed to recognising how wonderful is our nation. How wonderful is it that there are those from other parts of war-torn nations that want to come here and make this their home? We’ve got to see what it is they see in our nation, and recognise that we’ve all contributed to it. Everybody. We have a shared Australian culture that each and every one of us has contributed to, that each and every one of us our ancestors have contributed to, and we should be very proud of that. And they’re the sorts of conversations we need to start having and speaking in those terms. That’s how we bring about a country where we feel like we’re one and we’re together again.

Ron Manners: Thank you so much, Jacinta. On behalf of us, all of us here tonight, we thank you sincerely, and I look forward to our next meeting somewhere around the capital cities. Thank you!

As reported by The Spectator Australia