Image by Uluru Statement from the Heart
Authorised by Thea Ormerod on behalf of ARRCC, 264 Pitt St, Sydney. 2000.
Later this year we will vote in a referendum to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the Constitution and give them a say in issues that affect them through a Voice to Parliament. This arises from the Uluru Statement from the Heart, in which First Nations people invited all Australians to walk with them. ARRCC supports a Yes vote because we believe that it will enable us to be more effective when addressing the injustices that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have suffered since colonisation, and help create a more united Australia for us all.
The Uluru Statement From the Heart, which was signed by over 250 Indigenous leaders, says that “When we have power over our destiny our children will flourish. They will walk in two worlds and their culture will be a gift to their country.” It is an invitation to all Australians to walk with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples “in a movement of the Australian people towards a better future.”
The Uluru Statement reminds us about the dispossession of Aboriginal people - the loss of land, the Stolen Generations, the loss of culture – and health and social problems that have come from this. It also speaks of their long struggle to maintain their identity and care for their communities in the face of poverty, discrimination and the indifference of mainstream Australia.
The Voice will be elected from Aboriginal people across Australia and will advise to government, and so to the rest of us, about the laws and policies that impact them.
It will provide advice only, and not be a third chamber of Parliament. The proposal for the Voice came from a very long process of discussion among First Nations people and has been carefully designed. It has the backing of more than 80% of First Nations people.
Voice, truth-telling and treaty
The Voice will be supported by two other initiatives called for in the Uluru Statement from the Heart: truth telling and treaty. Truth telling will come through a Makarrata Commission – ‘makarrata’ meaning ‘the coming together after a struggle’ – somewhat like the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission. It will recognise and record the frontier wars and past injustices, making way for what the Uluru Statement calls ‘a fair and truthful relationship with the people of Australia.’ This process has already begun in Victoria.
Treaties will be negotiated to recognise the relations of First Nations people to country and their role in caring for it. It is not concerned sovereignty in the English sense, nor is it a threat to land ownership.
It will take time to heal the wounds from two hundred years of history. But we believe that a Yes vote at the referendum will put us on the right road, and that accepting the courteous invitation of the Uluru Statement will help create a more united Australia.
How it fits in with our climate concerns
Why should an organisation like ARRCC that is concerned with the climate catastrophe support Indigenous recognition and so the Voice?
ARRCC stands not just for climate sanity but also for climate justice. Aboriginal people are on the front line of climate change, even though they have contributed much less to it than other Australians. For many, poverty and inadequate housing make heat more dangerous and escape from it harder. In many cases the mining of coal and fracking for gas threatens their land and their sacred sites. Rising temperatures threaten some of their ceremonies and rituals. And yet more than ever we need their understanding of how to look after country if we are to deal with the fires, droughts and other climate challenges that are ahead of us.
We encourage you to form you own opinion on the Voice. For more information on the design principles, please see the Uluru Statement website. For further information see the links below.