CANBERRA, Australia (AP) -- An Indigenous senator in Australia quit the minor Greens party on Monday in a disagreement over a referendum to be held this year that would create an Indigenous Voice to Parliament.
Sen. Lidia Thorpe’s resignation illustrates deep divisions among Indigenous Australians on the referendum and increases the difficulty for the government in getting legislation through the Senate.
The Greens have suggested they will support a referendum likely to be held this year that would enshrine in the constitution a body representing Indigenous people to advise Parliament on policies that effect their lives. It would be known as the Indigenous Voice.
Thorpe had argued that Australia should first sign a treaty with its original inhabitants that acknowledged that they had never ceded their sovereignty to the British colonists.
She said after quitting the Greens that the party’s support for the Voice was “at odds with the community of activists who are saying treaty before Voice.”
Another high-profile Indigenous Sen. Jacinta Nampijinpa Price has also spoken out against the Voice, arguing it would divide the nation along racial lines. Her conservative party, the Nationals, took an official position in November to oppose the referendum, prompting a senior lawmaker and Voice advocate Andrew Gee to quit the party.
Indigenous people accounted for 3.2% of Australia’s population in the 2021 census. Indigenous Australians are the most disadvantaged ethnic group in Australia. They die younger than other Australians, are less likely to be employed, achieve lower education levels and are overrepresented in prison populations.
Pakistan-born Faruqi said she and Thorpe had worked together as “strong allies against white supremacy and racism in all its forms.”
“I know that we will continue to work together, this work of decolonization, as well as working for climate justice,” Faruqi said.
Thorpe said she would continue to work with the Greens on their climate policy. The Greens want Australia to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 75% below 2005 levels by the end of the decade.
With the Greens’ support, Labor had only needed to enlist the vote of a single unaligned senator. With Thorpe’s departure, Labor now will need the support of two unaligned senators.
Thorpe referred to the then-British monarch during a Senate swearing in ceremony in August last year as “the colonizing, her majesty Queen Elizabeth II.”