Yarning In Progress: Education Quarterly, Issue 5 2023
It is time our nation formally recognised Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the first people of Australia.
Through the Uluru Statement From the Heart, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people stated this recognition must be meaningful and substantial for it to be practical. Recognition is proposed through an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice to Parliament, which will have a genuine, practical impact on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families and communities across the country.
Fact: The Uluru Statement calls for an Indigenous Voice to be guaranteed in the Constitution The Uluru Statement calls for the “establishment of a First Nations Voice enshrined in the Constitution”. An Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representative body would provide advice to the Parliament and government on laws and policies that particularly affect the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
Fact: A Voice to Parliament provides the foundation for better outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are best placed to understand the problems that affect their families and contribute to the solutions. A Voice to Parliament will bring together the diverse knowledge and experience of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and provide advice to Parliament and the government so that the laws and policies needed to address issues will actually work.
Fiction: A Voice to Parliament would function as an additional or “third chamber” of Parliament. No, a Voice to Parliament would be separate from the Parliament and function as an independent source of advice to the Parliament and government to make laws and policies that have a better chance of working on the ground where real change is needed.
Fiction: Australia would be the only country in the world with a representative structure for Indigenous people No, there are Indigenous representative bodies in Norway, Sweden and Finland. In New Zealand, there are dedicated seats in its parliament that are reserved for Maori representatives. Compared with these, the Voice to Parliament is a relatively modest proposal that provides non-binding advice to the current Parliament and government.
Fact: The Constitution can only be changed through a referendum If we are to formally recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the first people of Australia in the Constitution and give a constitutional guarantee for a Voice to Parliament, we must achieve a successful referendum.
The content of this column is based on information contained in a 15-minute digital course, including interactive questions, “What is a Voice to Parliament?”, available from fromtheheart.com.au/education and ulurustatement.org.