Senator Lidia Thorpe has quit the Greens to sit on the Senate crossbench for the remaining five years of her term. Thorpe, who was the Greens’ First Nations spokesperson, announced her decision on February 6 in Canberra.
“This country has a strong grassroots Blak Sovereign Movement, full of staunch and committed warriors and I want to represent that movement fully in Parliament,” Thorpe said. “It has become clear to me that I can’t do that from within the Greens,” she added.
“Now I will be able to speak freely on all issues from a Sovereign perspective without being constrained by portfolios and agreed party positions.
“Greens MPs, members and supporters have told me they want to support the Voice,” Thorpe said. “This is at odds with the community of activists who are saying Treaty before Voice, this is the message delivered on the streets on January 26.”
Thorpe said she would not reveal her final position on the Voice, as she wanted to continue to negotiate with the government. She has previously said she would oppose the Voice, unless she was satisfied it would not cede First Nations sovereignty.
“My focus from now is to grow and amplify the Blak Sovereign Movement across the Nation,” Thorpe said.
The Greens announced the party’s support for the Voice and campaign for a “Yes” vote in the referendum, “pending sighting of the final bill” on the same day.
“The referendum will be an opportunity for the country to show its support for First Nations justice,” Greens leader Adam Bandt said. “A strong First Nations body would be a further step towards true self-determination and justice.”
Bandt also said the Greens “still strongly believe that a Treaty should come first”.
“We have secured commitments from the government that they will proceed with Truth and Treaty as well as Voice, and we will be holding the government to account on this.”
The Greens’ support for the Voice means the Labor has the required votes to pass a law to set up the referendum.
Following Thorpe’s departure, some Greens members gave public support to Thorpe and criticised the party.
The Australian Greens First Nations Network — a member group of the Greens founded by First Nations people — said on February 8, it was “outraged” with Thorpe’s departure, “because of the way in which she was treated in her role as a representative in the Parliament”.
“Senator Thorpe championed the Truth, Treaty, Voice platform which is part of the policy that our party ratified at every National Greens Conference since 2020.
“We feel that the systemic racism that is deeply embedded in the colonial structures in our country has contributed to what has occurred today.”
It also said that it did not believe “that the Voice to Parliament will solve the problems occurring in First Nations communities in black-white relations in Australia”.
“We do not feel it is necessary to ask the whole country, through a referendum, to approve the establishment of an advisory body that is subservient to the Australian parliament and gives us no rights of self-determination as outlined by in the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous People,” the group said.
Queensland Greens City Councillor Jonathan Sriranganathan criticised his party’s decision to quickly resolve on the Voice, without “fully and meaningfully involving” Greens members and “radical First Nations perspectives”.
Merri-bek councillor James Conlan announced on February 7 he would leave the party “in solidarity with Lidia Thorpe”. He noted that “Truth, Treaty, Voice — in that order” is official Greens policy. He said the party has “publicly undermined Lidia Thorpe for advocating for her party’s own policy”.
[Green Left and Socialist Alliance are hosting Lidia Thorpe and Uncle Gary Murray on February 20, 6.30pm at Drill Hall, Multicultural Hub, 506 Elizabeth St Melbourne. The Sovereignty, Treaty & First Nations Justice forum will also be live streamed.]