As I wrote last week, I believe it is important for all Australians to engage with the questions now being debated around constitutional recognition. These are not just issues for our First Peoples that the rest of us can safely ignore. That is lazy, and it is disrespectful. As such, it’s something I plan to try to write about in the weeks ahead. But all such attempts must start with a genuine effort to listen. Today, what Indigenous Australians have said about the Uluru Statement from the Heart delivered on Friday.
What the statement said:
We seek constitutional reforms to empower our people and take a rightful place in our own country. 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.
We call for the establishment of a First Nations Voice enshrined in the Constitution.
Makarrata is the culmination of our agenda: the coming together after a struggle. It captures our aspirations for a fair and truthful relationship with the people of Australia and a better future for our children based on justice and self-determination.
We seek a Makarrata Commission to supervise a process of agreement-making between governments and First Nations and truth-telling about our history.
– Uluru Statement from the Heart. The statement is only a page, and deserves to be read in full.
When you looked across the 13 dialogues [that led to the Statement], there was a lot of commonality … so we knew that mob have always wanted treaty … mob have always wanted Parliamentary voice … these are things that they’ve advocated for a long time.
– Professor Megan Davis, who read the statement aloud
We need to settle the issues of the past 200 years … we need to light a new fire, and we need to light it in the bellies of all young Australians … all First Nations people, to take it forward, and to lead with honour, respect, for all.
– Fred Hooper, chairperson of Murrawarri People’s Council
Why simple “recognition” isn’t enough:
Let me be clear: the Uluru consensus did not reject constitutional recognition. On the contrary, the Uluru Statement from the Heart clarifies what real constitutional recognition means to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. It calls for substantive constitutional recognition.
– Rachel Perkins [$], filmmaker and daughter of Aboriginal activist Charles Perkins
When asked what constitutional recognition means to them, First Nations peoples told the Council they don’t want recognition if it means a simple acknowledgement, but rather constitutional reform that makes a real difference in their communities.
– Statement issued on behalf of the Referendum Council’s Indigenous Steering Committee by Pat Anderson
I liken the Recognise campaign and the push to make mention of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the constitution to the scenario of someone moving into your house, taking over, and kicking you out into the yard in the shed. After many years, maybe even several generations, they come out to the yard holding the contract that states their rights to the house that was once yours, and suggest that it’s only fair to include a sentence that says: “We acknowledge that you once lived there.”
“There you go! Now you’re recognised,” they say, and they go back into your house and you go back to the shed.
– Rachael Maza, actor and director
Why a treaty, or Makarrata, is necessary:
[Sovereignty] has never been ceded or extinguished, and co-exists with the sovereignty of the Crown. How could it be otherwise? That peoples possessed a land for sixty millennia and this sacred link disappears from world history in merely the last two hundred years?
On what the First Nations voice, enshrined in the Constitution, should look like:
While some propose that the body should have veto powers, our proposal is for the body’s advice to be non-binding in order to be compatible with parliamentary supremacy and to be politically viable.
– Proposal [$] from Noel Pearson and Cape York Institute adviser Shireen Morris
On suggestions that the proposal must be weakened to win a popular vote:
Some of the media commentary leading up to and during this week’s gathering declares such reconciliation unachievable: because our people ask for meaningful reform over empty symbolism, our cause will be defeated. These commentators underestimate the Australian people. Australians want to see meaningful change in Indigenous affairs.
There is every reason to be optimistic First Australians will find common ground with Australia’s political leaders, and we will rise to the challenge.
– Noel Pearson [$], member of the Referendum Council
… in many ways the Uluru statement was silent on two issues … the issue of recognition has to be dealt with and I think it’s important to have that recognition within the constitution, that truth-telling. And secondly, I would advocate strongly that we do have to deal with the race powers because if we don’t do that, it could actually still give the Parliament the capacity to do away with a body of any sort within the Constitution.
– Linda Burney, the first Aboriginal woman to serve in the House of Representatives
It’s fine there’s come this report out of Uluru, talking about an entrenched voice into the constitution, that will have to be weighed and considered, but I don’t think we should just dismiss out of hand the work that was done by the expert panel [on constitutional recognition].
– Pat Dodson, Indigenous leader and Labor senator
We have chosen to walk away from this debate and this dialogue today because it is not a debate, they are not looking at any alternative options other than the Noel Pearson roadmap.
– Jenny Munroe, one of the delegates who walked out of the summit on Thursday
In other news
- Some other pieces on the Uluru statement: Michelle Grattan, Mungo MacCallum and George Williams. ABC report on today’s various comments. Barnaby Joyce criticised. Professor Adrienne Stone explains the constitutional implications of various proposals. A new emoji.
- John McGuire, the Indigenous cricketer who never played for Australia, or even for his state.
- “Men need to start advocating for their own flexibility in the workplace, not just supporting women’s flexibility.”
- Budget polls: Still no budget bounce [$]. Also here. Tony Abbott says don’t judge a government by polls [$].
- Budget measures: The unfreezing of the rebate for 23 million GP services will be delayed. (Another health plan has now been completely canned.) Adele Ferguson with an interesting longer piece on the banks’ response to the bank tax, and what that response should actually look like [$]. And the prize for most ridiculous argument against the bank levy goes to …
- Budget forecasts: Treasury secretary John Fraser says the economy really is picking up this time.
- And while we’re on all things budget-related, Jessica Irvine on the ongoing impact of the 2014 budget and what budgets should include.
- Culture: Sofia Coppola just became only the second woman to win Best Director at Cannes (the last was in 1961).
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