Aborigines must change to survive: Mundine
Patricia Karvelas

ABORIGINAL people must adapt to the modern capitalist environment or find themselves like a "species" unable to compete in a harsh world.

Warren Mundine, the incoming national president of the Labor Party, drew on the words of Charles Darwin in the provocative speech last night, which warned Aboriginal people about the need to change to survive.

"It is neither the strongest nor the most intelligent species that survive; it is the species that is most responsive to change," he said in the address to the conservative Bennelong Society.

"How very true those words are to the situation of indigenous Australians."

Mr Mundine also attacked Northern Territory Chief Justice Brian Martin, who handed down a one-month jail sentence to a man who had anal sex with a 14-year-old girl who had been promised to him as a wife when she was four.

"It was nothing but a disgrace and I call it judicial abuse of indigenous Australian children," he said. "How would that judge like to be dragged off the bench, bashed and anally raped? The man's a disgrace and the treatment of that girl is a disgrace."

Mr Mundine, who was presented with this year's Bennelong Medal by Employment Minister Kevin Andrews last night, also lambasted a group of indigenous leaders who, he said, wished "to preserve us as museum pieces as well and keep us locked in poverty and socially dysfunctional communities". "It keeps them in a job," he said.

In a speech to the Bennelong Society today, Wesley Aird, a leading member of the Howard Government's National Indigenous Council, will call on Aboriginal people to question whether it is reasonable for them to "disengage" from society and still expect to be "maintained" by the nation's taxpayers.

In a copy of the speech obtained by The Weekend Australian, Mr Aird says indigenous communities should "move with the times".

"Communities must genuinely look at the terms on which they engage with society," he says. "Communities must, in all seriousness, question whether the old-style welfare days of self-administration and the rights agenda have delivered a worthwhile result. They must also question whether it is reasonable to disengage from society and yet still expect to be maintained by the taxpayer."

In a speech to the society last night, Mr Andrews said about six in 10 indigenous Australians aged 15 and older relied on payments from the Government.

The Australian