We represent non-Indigenous Australians whose hearts and minds were filled with hope as First Nations voices called for acknowledgement in the Constitution and recommended treaties to bring about structural reform for socio-economic improvement.
There have been many consultations and reports over many years, with the latest being the Uluru Statement from the Heart.
The Uluru Statement from the Heart calls for ‘constitutional reforms to empower our people and take a rightful place in our own country’. It calls for a constitutionally guaranteed advisory body to provide advice to Parliament. The proposed body has no voting rights and will not alter the make-up of the Australian Parliament, but it will, for the first time, give First Nations peoples a voice to Parliament. It also seeks a Makarrata Commission to commence treaty negotiations engaging with all Australian governments and more active steps for ‘truth telling about our history’.
We are concerned about the negative response from the Australian Government to the Uluru Statement from the Heart.
Many First Nations peoples that we know and respect are again experiencing a governmental rejection of their views.
First Nations voices are the only ones who can truly explain and ameliorate the historical intergenerational traumas, the marginalisation, the hurts and all their consequences.
We are concerned this inability to listen and work constructively with First Nations peoples potentially compounds intergenerational traumas and their consequences.
Evidence from many studies, here and overseas, shows when First Nations peoples are empowered, the adverse consequences of their marginalisation are more effectively addressed.
We urge governments to support institutional reform to hear to the multiplicity of First Nations voices and allow them to bring a rich and varied range of proposals for constructive change to the table.
Many of us have seen the devastatingly negative effects of successive federal, state and territory policies imposed on First Nations peoples; peoples who consistently remind us they are the best able to address the current situation affecting them, their families and communities.
We strongly support progressing Australia’s First Nations peoples’ right to a say in the decisions that affect their lives.
First Nations peoples make up the first sovereign nations of Australia with evidence of their presence in Australia for over 60,000 years. This sovereignty was ‘never ceded or extinguished and co-exists with the sovereignty of the crown’. However, it is yet to be rightfully acknowledged and First Nations peoples are not mentioned in the Constitution.
We agree with the Uluru Statement of the Heart that “With substantial constitutional change and structural reform [our emphasis] this ancient sovereignty can shine through as a fuller expression of Australian nationhood’. Such reforms must empower First Nations peoples and enable individuals, families, and children to flourish and consequently contribute inevitably to a more complete Australian society.
The Australian Government has been seeking support for recognition from both Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians over many years.
A national survey recently found over 70 per cent of Australians surveyed support First Nations peoples’ constitutional recognition, with 60.7 per cent supporting the Voice to Parliament proposal, and the Uluru Statement from the Heart was ‘endorsed by unprecedented Indigenous consensus’.
We urge the Australian Parliament to listen to First Nations peoples’ recommendations in the Uluru Statement, and to back this attempt to improve their circumstances and participate more fully in Australian society.
We do not want Australia to continue on a path of policies and associated expenditure on interventions and activities that are proving ineffective in many situations.
Giving First Nations peoples a say in the decisions that affect their lives will provide an opportunity for doing things differently and more productively, by simply listening to the advice of people who are affected, and by allowing First Nations peoples to claim their rightful place in the nation.
We support First Nations peoples’ Uluru Statement from the Heart. We call on the Australian Parliament to make this a national priority.
First Nations peoples includes all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Australia.