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The Prime Minister's Indigenous Advisory Council Is Deeply Divided

As the recognition debate reaches a key moment, community leaders have very different views on the issue.

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As the debate around constitutional recognition becomes increasingly messy and fraught, one of Tony Abbott’s key advisors has publicly distanced herself from a fellow community leader.

Indigenous Advisory Council member Josephine Cashman (Supplied)

Josephine Cashman, a member of the Prime Minister's handpicked Indigenous Advisory Council (IAC) has spoken out against the council's chairman Warren Mundine ahead of Monday's constitutional recognition summit in Sydney.

Cashman has exclusively told BuzzFeed News that Mundine's views on constitutional recognition for Indigenous people are counterproductive and not shared by the majority of the council.

"I don't agree with Warren, I don't have the same views that he has around recognise. I'm not going to repeat the opinions of others on the IAC but there is a diversity of opinion on this and on that point he is not the voice of all the members of the IAC at all and he's certainly not my voice on this issue."

Cashman is a supporter of Indigenous conservative leader Noel Pearson's proposed model, which calls for a separate bill of rights for Indigenous people and any reference to Indigenous people in the constitution as a symbolic gesture. Pearson also wants the formation of a separate Indigenous body that would look after Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander issues.

Mundine tells BuzzFeed News those ideas are toxic and unrealistic and are dangerous in gaining public support, "I think it is dead and gone. I think everyone realises that looking at a pseudo third chamber of the legislator is not on and a general public will not support it and my prediction is that if you have it there as the way forward it will be the end of the amendment for the constitution."

Indigenous Advisory Council chair Warren Mundine (Don Arnold / WireImage)

Mundine say that it's time to stop the "megaphone" discussion taking place amongst key players through the media and sit down to calmly work through the impasse. He Believes the Australian public will never vote in favour of constitutional recognition if the proposal is too drastic.

"No referendum in Australia has ever got up, not one that has had a major change to the constitution. They have all been minimalist changes. Don't underestimate minimalist change. The 67' referendum was a very minimalist change but it had a tremendous phycological change to Australian governance and the way people acted. In that you got land rights legislation very quickly and [Aboriginal politician] Neville Bonner got elected to federal parliament very soon after that. Do not underestimate a minimalist approach in changing the psyche of a nation."

Cashman says this idea will not get the support of the public and politicians.

"I'm not aware of anyone he's consulted with around his proposal, I think its not going to be supported by the majority of Aboriginal people and that is going to be accepted by both sides of the coin."

The bipartisan summit will include 40 Indigenous leaders to specifically discuss the timing and wording of the referendum for the recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the constitution.

The summit will be co-convened by Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten with the hopes of creating a unified consensus among politicians and community leaders on the question that will be put to the public.

Formerly with BuzzFeed News, Allan Clarke is a NITV reporter based in Sydney.

Contact Allan Clarke at

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