Last month, just in time for NAIDOC week, the Fremantle Council voted unanimously to formally support the “Uluru Statement from the Heart”.
The Uluru Statement from the Heart represents the largest ever consensus of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people on a proposal for substantive recognition. However, it was immediately rejected by Prime Minister Turnbull.
Thankfully, a Parliamentary Inquiry into the Uluru Statement was subsequently established, co-chaired by Senator Pat Dodson and MP Julian Leeser, submissions are currently open and it will produce an interim report by 30 July.
The Council also requested that a submission supporting the Uluru Statement be made on behalf of the Council to the Inquiry.
The Uluru Statement was the outcome of a constitutional convention held in May 2017, and comprised of 250 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders from across Australia, after some months of consultation with their communities.
The majority resolved to call for the establishment of a ‘First Nations Voice’ in the Australian Constitution and a ‘Makarrata Commission’ to supervise a process of ‘agreement-making’ and ‘truth-telling’ between governments and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
Only one of the three key elements set out in the Uluru Statement involves a change to the Australian Constitution:
- The Constitutional Change: Involves enshrining a First Nations Voice in the Australian Constitution that would empower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
- The Legislative Change: Involves the establishment of a Makarrata Commission. The Makarrata Commission would supervise a process of agreement-making with Australian governments.
- The Commission: Would also oversee a process of truth-telling about Australia’s history and colonisation.
Fremantle Council regularly acknowledges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as the Traditional Owners of this country and we pay respect their ongoing spiritual and cultural connections with it.
We recognise that many steps need to be taken if Australians are to achieve a genuine and meaningful reconciliation. The Uluru Statement is only the latest step in a long-running debate on constitutional reforms relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and what such reforms might look like. Paying due regard to the Statement is entirely appropriate at this juncture and it should not have been so quickly dismissed.
A key resolution from Uluru was the rejection of minimalist or symbolic constitutional recognition, in favour of something capable of creating substantive change while maintaining Indigenous sovereignty. 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. If the body is not constitutionally enshrined, thus guaranteeing it cannot be unilaterally dismantled like the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission was in 2005, it no longer has the support of the Uluru forum.
My heart broke listening to the words of “Anthem” in 1996 and the words are still devastatingly relevant today. I can remember when a treaty was discussed in the late 80s and early 90s – only to go nowhere. We cannot allow that to happen again. These are challenging issues, but we need to rise to this challenges and work together respectfully to resolve them.
Thousands of people have voiced their support for the Uluru Statement, if you would like to add yours sign up (and find out more) visit www.1voiceuluru.org