Lidia Thorpe Has Quit The Greens So She Can Keep Fighting For First Nations Sovereignty

lidia thorpe quits the greens

Icon, legend and Senator Lidia Thorpe has announced she’s resigning from the Greens and will move to the crossbench so she can more openly advocate for Blak sovereignty.

Thorpe, the first Aboriginal senator from Victoria, made the announcement on Monday afternoon and revealed part of the reason she was leaving was so she could have the freedom to critique the Voice to Parliament.

“I have told Greens [leader] Adam Bandt and the Senate president that I am resigning from the Greens to sit on the Senate crossbench,” Thorpe said in the presser.

“This country has a strong grassroots Blak Sovereign Movement, full of staunch and committed warriors, and I want to represent that movement fully in this parliament. It has become clear to me that I can’t do that from within the Greens.

“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. 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. This is the movement I was raised in… this is who I am.”

Thorpe said her “ancestors and matriarchs” wanted her to “keep infiltrating, keep your integrity, keep the fire burning, keep the fight alive”, and so that’s what she was going to do.

Honestly, makes sense. There’s only so far you can go with radical critique of the state if you’re in a party that, to some degree, represents it — how far can revolutionary politics go if the people you have to convince are the ones whose power you threaten? So quitting means Thorpe can now advocate for her own community on her own terms, without having to contend with the niceties of representing a party. Especially if she wants to openly criticise the Voice, which she and other First Nations activists have been weary of but the Greens supports.

That being said, Thorpe thanked Bandt and deputy Greens leader Mehreen Faruqi for being “strong allies” who helped her in “pushing the government to fo further on truth and treaty”. She said she would continue to vote with them on issues of climate, but things weren’t so simple with the Voice and she would remain in negotiations with the government before she made a public decision.

Bandt said he was “truly sad” to see Thorpe leave the Greens and had wanted her to stay.

“Senator Thorpe leaves the Greens with an enormous amount of respect. She is a fighter for her people. She has helped put treaty [and] raising the age of criminal responsibility on the parliamentary agenda,” he said, per Guardian Australia.

“I made it clear to Senator Thorpe that she still had a place in the Greens and that I wish she had continued in the Greens, including as the party’s First Nations spokesperson, that she had the right to, of course, under our constitution, vote differently on the question of Voice and, if she came to a different position on the question of voice, that I would take over responsibility for being the party spokesperson on Voice so that she would be free to speak her mind.

“She’s obviously decided to adopt a different course.

“I wish she had made a different decision, but I understand the reasons that she has given for that decision.”

ICYMI, the Voice to Parliament is a proposal to enshrine an Indigenous voice in the constitution and allow Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders to give advice on maters which impact their lives.

A referendum is going to take place in 2023, but the Voice is actually really contentious. The various “yes” vs “no” campaigns are in full swing and both consistent of prominent First Nations activists and authority figures.

To give you a TLDR, First Nations people who are advocating we vote yes on the Voice argue that it’s good because it would recognise First Nations people in the constitution and give them an opportunity to have their voices heard by a government that largely makes decisions about them without them.

However, others have criticised the Voice to parliament as purely symbolic. It only has “advisory” powers, which basically means that the government has no obligation to enact or action the suggestions made by First Nations people as part of the Voice. It’s probably good to note that symbolic progress is not the same as actual progress. If you’re going to elevate the voices of First Nations people, maybe make it so they must actually be listened to.

First Nations activists, especially Lidia Thorpe, have also pointed out that if the government really wanted to close the gap with First Nations people, it would focus its energy on treaty and stopping Blak deaths in custody, rather than creating a purely advisory board whose powers are still shrouded in uncertainty. Who would make up the Voice? How would those people be chosen? How is this all going to work?

Others have simply said they need more information before they commit to either a yes or no vote — which you’d think is a very reasonable position, but Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has said they’ll give more information on the Voice after the referendum. Vote first, ask questions later is obviously a weird take to have, and so the uncertainty remains.

Regardless of what we think of the Voice, it’s important to note that it’s really only the opinion of First Nations people that matters here. It’s their lives that will be impacted by it.