Aboriginal register would be an ‘insult’

CALLS for a national register for Aboriginal people is an "insult and an "outrageous" idea akin to pushing First Nations progress back more than 120 years, indigenous leaders including a State Government minister have said.

The proposal to "develop a national strategy for establishing a register for Aboriginal people" was part of indigenous entrepreneur and lawyer Josephine Cashman's letter to Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton, in which she accused an acclaimed author of faking his indigenous heritage.

The complaint by Ms Cashman, a member of a key Federal Government advisory body, alleging Bruce Pascoe of Dark Emu fame of "dishonesty offences" has since been referred to the Australian Federal Police.

Townsville indigenous leader and human rights activist Professor Gracelyn Smallwood said the idea of a register was "outrageous".

"It's like putting us back in the Protection Act (era)," she said.

Queensland's Aboriginal Protection Act of 1897 was a policy based on segregation and protection that effectively abolished the legal rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Queensland Labor Minister and Quandamooka woman Leeanne Enoch said there were indigenous people alive today who lived under one of Australia's most "discriminatory, oppressive pieces of legislation".

"This offensive talk of a register of indigenous people is an insult to everything they endured and fought against to make this nation a better place for all," she said.

"It's an insult to all Australians."

Palm Island activist Lex Wotton said a database akin to Ancestry.com for indigenous people would be useful to trace back lineage, considering the lack of records from the impacts of colonisation and rape.

But he said it shouldn't be "weaponised" to discredit someone's Aboriginality.

Ms Cashman is one of Prof Pascoe's most vocal critics.

Prof Pascoe's award-winning book Dark Emu argues for a rethink of the hunter-gatherer label for pre-colonial indigenous Australia.

Prof Pascoe, speaking to the Mercury in Tasmania yesterday, said he rejected the allegations made against him in full.

Both Mr Wotton and Prof Smallwood backed Prof Pascoe's contribution to understanding indigenous history, saying his research couldn't be faulted.