An Indigenous activist who walked 6,000 kilometres to meet Malcolm Turnbull has criticised the Prime Minister for disrespecting him during their meeting at Parliament House.
Clinton Pryor accused Mr Turnbull and Indigenous Affairs minister Nigel Scullion of speaking over elders at a parliamentary courtyard meeting on Wednesday, after ending his Walk for Justice from Perth to Canberra that began last year.
“Nigel Scullion was very rude,” he said.
“He was talking over us as we were telling the Prime Minister what we want.”
Senior Elders read from a statement outlining a list of demands during the meeting, including calls for treaty negotiations and an acknowledgement of Aboriginal sovereignty.
They also included scrapping cashless debit cards for welfare recipients, disbanding the “unrepresentative Aboriginal advisory council” and shutting out Indigenous policy advice from mining magnate Andrew Forrest.
Elders wanted the re-establishment of forcibly closed remote communities, a moratorium on mining leases on some traditional sites and a royal commission into the state police forces’ treatment of Indigenous people.
Mr Pryor was unhappy with the meeting and the way requests were met, which he said fell “on deaf ears”.
“During this process both the prime minister and the minister for Indigenous Affairs were disrespectful – speaking over the top of Aboriginal Elders to defend unfair policies – rather than listening respectfully,” a media release on Pryor’s behalf stated.
He said Mr Turnbull had refused to meet either at the Aboriginal tent embassy outside old parliament house or the parliamentary forecourt, insisting instead on the “private prime minister’s forecourt” at Parliament House.
The forecourt required security checks for the visitors.
Mr Pryor said he was disappointed that he and the Elders were made to enter Parliament House through the back of the building instead of the front.
“We were disappointed that we had to walk around the back to meet him,” he said.
“He should’ve came out and seen me after I walked 6,000 kilometres to see him.”
However, a spokeswoman for Mr Turnbull said an invitation to meet at his office or courtyard, and was “interested to hear their perspective, but respectfully disagreed with several of the matters raised”.
She said he stood by using the cashless debit card in Western Australia’s Goldfields communities and closing the Swan Valley Noongar Settlement because of reports of violence and sexual abuse.
“The situation there does not reflect all communities, but the Gordon inquiry highlighted at the time the serious issues impacting the lives of innocent women and children,” she said.
She said an independent evaluation showed the cashless debit card designed to stop welfare money being spent on gambling, drugs and alcohol was working in Ceduna, South Australia and the east Kimberley.
Mr Pryor said a final word as the Prime Minister left, while Mr Turnbull offered a handshake.
“It was a great honour to meet you, but I was really disappointed you didn’t come out the front to talk to me,” he said.
He said it was not the meeting he hoped for.
The Wajuk, Balardung, Kija and Yulparitja man also met with Opposition Leader Bill Shorten on Tuesday outside the front of Parliament House.
Mr Shorten reiterated his support for a treaty at the meeting.
“You can’t have real healing unless everyone’s doing this together, and like you said, you don’t want to do this divided, two separate walks or two separate groups, I get that,” he said.
Mr Pryor hoped that action would result in his week in Canberra.
“I’m proud that this has got people back onto their feet again and to continue fighting for our rights, and finishing this quest that we need for our people and get it across the line,” he said.
Picture Courtesy: Clinton Pryor’s Facebook Page.