NACCHO Aboriginal Health #NRW2019 and the Referendum News :  Communiqué from Cairns and Yarrabah workshop on 24-26 May 2019 regarding the #UluruStatement from the Heart

“ 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.”

Uluru Statement from the Heart, 26 May 2017 : See full Statement part 2 below

 ” On the second anniversary of the Uluru Statement from the Heart, First Nations representatives from across the country met in Cairns and gathered at the Tree of Knowledge in Yarrabah, to renew the invitation forged at Uluru.

We pay tribute to the men and women whose heroic efforts led to the successful 1967 Referendum 52 years ago. We met with two of those heroes – Ms Ruth Hennings, aged 85, and Mr Alf Neal, aged 94 – both of whom were awarded the Order of Australia in 2019 for their services to our people.

We thank the growing movement of Australians from all walks of life who have pledged their support for the Uluru Statement from the Heart. This is a movement that is growing and will continue to grow.

Australia has an opportunity to honour and build upon the legacy of 1967. The Australian people united then and we can do it again.

We welcome the Australian Government’s commitment of $7.3 million for the design of the Voice proposed at Uluru, and $160 million for a referendum to achieve it. We seek to meet with the Prime Minister as soon as possible about how best to proceed. The way forward must be informed by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people throughout Australia.

We invite all Australians to walk with us on this journey, thoughtfully and with purpose, and to support our voice being heard.”

This communique is issued on behalf of participants at an Uluru Dialogue workshop convened in Cairns and Yarrabah on 24-26 May 2019 by the Indigenous Law Centre UNSW and the NSW Aboriginal Land Council

Download copy of this Communique in full

FNQ Communique Uluru Statement, May 2019

Alfie Neal and Ruth Wallace Hennings – brave the tropical rain at Yarrabah where they sat and planned the vote for Australia’s indigenous population. Picture: Brian Cassey

” More than 50 years ago, Ruth Hennings sat with Alfred Neal day after day under the “Tree of Knowledge” in Yarrabah, near Cairns, plotting the protest movement across Queensland’s conservative north that helped bring the beginnings of equality for ­Aboriginal Australians.

It was from there that the mission-raised pair led the local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advancement League, in its struggle to win support for the successful 1967 referendum, enabling laws for indigenous people and including them in the census.

The only survivors of the league, Ms Hennings, 85, and Mr Neal, 94, reunited yesterday on the beach near where the tree stood after learning they — had been awarded Order of Australia Medals for services to the indigenous community.”

From NACCHO Post 26 January 2019

Megan Davis, Pat Anderson and Noel Pearson holding the Uluru Statement

” We were right to gift the Uluru Statement from the Heart two years ago to the people of Australia, rather than to the politicians or the government.

Its sentiments and its passion and its sincerity have appealed to a wide cross-section of society.

Just as with the long campaign that led to the successful 1967 vote dealing with First Nations in the constitution, people are standing up ready to join us on this journey.

Corporate support is growing. The big law firms, the finance sector, theAustralian Medical Association and a whole host more are already on board. Support is growing from ordinary Australians.

This support gives me hope that there’s a real chance for structural change that gives us a say in the business of the Parliament for policies that affect us. “

Patricia Anderson was co-chair of the Referendum Council and a former NACCHO Chair : She is an Alyawarr woman. See Part 3 Below

” The idea is that if you have direct Indigenous input into law and policy making, the quality of advice will be vastly better than contemporary decision making which is primarily done by non-Indigenous people making decisions about communities they have never visited and people they do not know.

This is why so many communities are not flourishing. This is why so many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are struggling. The decisions made about their lives are crafted by people in Canberra or other big cities. Apples and Oranges.

The reform is constitutional, meaning it requires a referendum so that the proposal can be put to the Australian people to approve. This is why the Uluru Statement was issued to the Australian people. Because it is only we exclusively, as Australians united, who can make an alteration to the text.”

 Professor Megan Davis is a constitutional lawyer and Pro Vice Chancellor Indigenous UNSW. She is an Aboriginal woman from the Cobble Cobble clan from south-west Queensland. See Part 4 below for full text

“This is a historic agreement that he reached with us [on ‘closing the gap’ between indigenous and non-indigenous well-being] and because of his superb leadership on it we are going to work closely with him. Constitutional recognition was a complementary parallel process and “it’s important both get done.”

Pat Turner NACCHO CEO and co-chair of a new joint council formed between Indigenous peak bodies and state and federal governments to re-design ‘Closing the Gap’ targets, said she had been impressed with the Prime Minister so far.

FROM SMH / The AGE May27 Deborah Snow

On Sunday morning, many travelled to the historic Tree of Knowledge at Yarrabah, outside Cairns, a site closely associated with the launching of the successful 1967 referendum which gave Indigenous Australians the right to be counted in the census and allowed federal laws to be made for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders

Monday marked the 52nd anniversary of that referendum – one of only 8 to be carried out of 44 referendum proposals ever put to the country. ( 90 % said YES )

1967

2019

Senior Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders gathering in far north Queensland this weekend called for a meeting with Mr Morrison “as soon as possible” to try to make progress on constitutional recognition:

They were marking the second anniversary of the solemnly-worded Uluru Statement from the Heart, which was adopted in May 2017 at an unprecedented summit of Indigenous leaders from around the country.

The communique of around 40 Indigenous leaders at the weekend welcomed the Liberal party’s promise made during the election campaign of $7.3 million to develop a proposal to take to a referendum, and the budget allocation of $160 million to bring that referendum about.

But it said the way forward “must be informed by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people throughout Australia”, saying the movement for recognition was “growing, and will continue to grow”.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has “committed to getting an outcome” on constitutional recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, paving the way for a national discussion on the best way to achieve it.

But he has given no timeframe on how long the process might take.

It was in the shadow of this magnificent natural wonder that the Uluru Statement was born.

It was in the shadow of this magnificent natural wonder that the Uluru Statement was born.

The freshly elected Mr Morrison told the Herald that “we need to work together across the aisle and across our communities to get an outcome that all Australians can get behind and we’ll take as long as is needed to achieve that.”

Labor had committed to a referendum in the current parliamentary term had it been elected.

Mr Morrison said “my priorities for Indigenous Australians are to ensure Indigenous kids are in school and getting an education, that young Indigenous Australians are not taking their own lives and that there are real jobs for Indigenous Australians so they can plan for their future with confidence like any other Australian.”

His comments coincide with his appointment of Western Australian MP Ken Wyatt as the country’s first Indigenous cabinet minister, with the title of Minister for Indigenous Australians.

Mr Morrison’s predecessor Malcolm Turnbull dismissed the idea of the Voice saying it would amount to a third chamber of parliament.

A Liberal party policy document released in the last days of the campaign said more work was needed on “what model we take to a referendum and what a Voice to parliament would be.” It talked broadly of “comprehensive co-design of models to improve local and regional decision making and options for constitutional recognition.”

Indigenous leaders are rapidly re-calibrating expectations after the shock election victory of the coalition.

A bipartisan parliamentary committee last December recommended that the Voice “should become a reality”, after a co-design process between government and First Nations peoples.

A range of industry and other organisations have also come out in support of the Uluru statement, including the Law Council of Australia, the AMA, the business council, ACOSS, major law firms, big miners BHP and Rio Tinto and – as of last week – 21 leaders of investment banks, super funds and accounting firms.

Some Indigenous leaders told the Herald on Sunday that Mr Morrison’s re-election might not slow the momentum for constitutional recognition.

Lawyer and human rights advocate Teela Reid, a Wiradjuri and Wailwan woman, told the Herald that the election result “does not really change much for blackfellas. We have always had this kind of experience with the left and the right. History has proven that change is not easy.”

She said if anything, a re-election of a coalition government “motivates us more”. But she said the Morrison government should get a referendum done “as soon as possible. Our old people don’t have time, they deserve the question to be resolved in their lifetimes”.

Many of those behind the Uluru statement want a referendum to embed the principle of a Voice first, with detailed design taking place after a successful vote. But some indigenous leaders, such as Tom Calma, co-chair of Reconciliation Australia, worry that a too-vague proposal will not command majority support.

A government source told the Herald, “The Prime Minister is intensely pragmatic. He will get a result on this. He just wants the right one.” A referendum without an agreed model risked getting “very Brexity” the source said, adding that a fixed timeframe could put pressure on a fragile process.

Labor’s putative leader-elect Anthony Albanese told the Herald that “if there is one area where we can put aside partisanship and work together in the national interest, it must be to advance the agenda of the Uluru statement.”

Mr Morrison said recognition must be achieved alongside “practical goals” which made Indigenous Australians “safe in their communities” and enjoying the same access to services as any other Australian.

Part 2

ULURU STATEMENT FROM THE HEART

We, gathered at the 2017 National Constitutional Convention, coming from all points of the southern sky, make this statement from the heart:

Our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander tribes were the first sovereign Nations of the Australian continent and its adjacent islands, and possessed it under our own laws and customs. This our ancestors did, according to the reckoning of our culture, from the Creation,according to the common law from ‘time immemorial’, and according to science more than60,000 years ago.

This sovereignty is a spiritual notion: the ancestral tie between the land, or ‘mother nature’,and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples who were born therefrom, remain attached thereto, and must one day return thither to be united with our ancestors. This link is the basis of the ownership of the soil, or better, of sovereignty. It 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?

With substantive constitutional change and structural reform, we believe this ancient sovereignty can shine through as a fuller expression of Australia’s nationhood.

Proportionally, we are the most incarcerated people on the planet. We are not an innately criminal people. Our children are aliened from their families at unprecedented rates. This cannot be because we have no love for them. And our youth languish in detention in obscene numbers. They should be our hope for the future.

These dimensions of our crisis tell plainly the structural nature of our problem. This is the torment of our powerlessness.

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.

In 1967 we were counted, in 2017 we seek to be heard. We leave base camp and start our trek across this vast country. We invite you to walk with us in a movement of the Australian people for a better future.

Part 3 : We are again asking the Australian people to walk with us ( continued )

A First Nations Voice enshrined in the constitution. That’s what the Uluru Statement calls for.

The days are long gone of that old colonial-type thinking, that somebody else, somewhere else, knows what’s best for us.

It’s important that we can talk directly to Parliament about issues that affect us. The Voice to Parliament is a modest and conservative ask but it would truly be a nation-building development, one that is long overdue.

First Nations people have always been aware that we stand on the shoulders of those who went before us.

Add to shortlist

So I was privileged to catch up in Cairns this past weekend with two people who were part of the campaign in the 1967 referendum, Auntie Ruth Hennings, who’s 85, and Uncle Alf Neal, who’s 94.

Auntie Ruth came to a meeting where some of us were planning next steps in our journey. She was tearful when she saw the actual Uluru Statement painting hanging on the wall to inspire us. She’d never seen it before.

It really was a powerful moment.

And then we visited Yarrabah, an hour’s drive from Cairns, because that’s the old mission where Auntie Ruth and Uncle Alf began planning with others how they were going to organise the campaign that became the 1967 referendum.

They were both awarded the Order of Australia this year for their efforts.

We are again asking the Australian people to walk with us, to accept our gift of the Uluru Statement from the Heart, and change the constitution so that it makes our nation complete.

Patricia Anderson was co-chair of the Referendum Council. She is an Alyawarr woman.

Part 4 Professor Megan Davis is a constitutional lawyer and Pro Vice Chancellor Indigenous UNSW. She is an Aboriginal woman from the Cobble Cobble clan from south-west Queensland.

The process that led to the Uluru Statement From the Heart and the proposal to amend the Australian constitution to enshrine a First Nations Voice to Parliament was a watershed moment in Australian history.

For the first time in our living memory, a representative group of Australia’s First Nations people met in the heart of Australia at Uluru on May 26, 2017, and agreed to endorse a sequence of reforms aimed at doing what bureaucracy and politicians have been unable to do, empower Indigenous communities to take control of their future.

The reforms known as Voice, Treaty, Truth are deliberately sequenced. A carefully crafted response to the problems that plague our communities and lead to large numbers of child removals and youth detention.

The first reform in the sequence of reforms is a First Nations Voice to the Parliament and that is the focus of our advocacy energies. The Voice to Parliament is a common feature in many liberal democracies around the world. It is a very simple proposition: that Indigenous peoples should have a say in the laws and policies that impact upon their lives and communities.

The idea is that if you have direct Indigenous input into law and policy making, the quality of advice will be vastly better than contemporary decision making which is primarily done by non-Indigenous people making decisions about communities they have never visited and people they do not know.

This is why so many communities are not flourishing. This is why so many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are struggling. The decisions made about their lives are crafted by people in Canberra or other big cities. Apples and Oranges.

The reform is constitutional, meaning it requires a referendum so that the proposal can be put to the Australian people to approve. This is why the Uluru Statement was issued to the Australian people. Because it is only we exclusively, as Australians united, who can make an alteration to the text.

This was done in 1967 to provide the Commonwealth with the power to make laws for Indigenous peoples. The highest “Yes” vote in Australian history was recorded in this referendum. On this occasion we are returning to the Australian people to ask them to empower us to make decisions about our own lives.

The amendment to the constitution is as simple as the proposal. We are asking Australians to approve a new provision that enables the federal Parliament to create a new representative body that will be known as the Voice to Parliament. It is an enabling provision similar to how the High Court of Australia was set up, the Australian population voted on a provision that proposed a High Court be created but the legislation was passed three years later.

Post-Uluru there has been two years of work conducted on what the Voice might look like. The work ahead now is to agree to the amount of detail that is required for Australians to feel fully informed when voting at the ballot box. The full blown Voice design can be legislated for after a successful referendum. The deferral of this detail is a common constitutional and political strategy around the world.

Add to shortlist

Changing the constitution is no mean feat in Australia. There are two key reasons that Indigenous people, via the dialogues that led up to the May 26 meeting, are seeking constitutional reform. First, the insecurity of Indigenous people’s status in the machinery of government when it comes to laws and policies and institutions. It is a area of public policy that is constantly and continually interrupted and disrupted from one political party to the next, from one three year term to the next, and constantly the subject of experimentation by bureaucracy and governments as new policy trends and buzz words develop and tested on Indigenous communities.

This state of disruption means that people’s lives and communities and the programs and policies that impact upon them are constantly chopping and changing. People on the ground have little control over the longevity of programs and policies. The Voice to Parliament reform is intended to bring security and certainty to people’s lives that we believe will manifest in better outcomes for communities. Being constitutionally enshrined, the Voice will be sustainable and durable well beyond political timetables. It means that Indigenous empowerment and active participation in the democratic life of the state is not dependent on which political party is in power.

The second reason for constitutional entrenchment is that it is intended to compel government to listen. At the moment, the government and policy makers are not compelled to listen or hear what First Nations have to say about the laws and policies that impact upon them. Entrenchment will mean listening to mob is compulsory and allowing Indigenous input into policy will be mandated. This will mean that laws and policies are more likely to be targeted and tailored to community problems and needs and it will mean laws and policies are less likely to fail.

Every working group in the dialogues endorsed the “Voice to Parliament” as a reform priority. The dialogues understood that the Voice to Parliament would operate as a “front end” political limit on

the Parliament’s powers to pass laws that affect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. In particular, the Voice would be empowered to give input into laws contemplated by the Parliament under two sections of the Constitution, the race power and the territories power.

These are the two powers, s51(xxvi) and s122, that impact upon Indigenous peoples the most. This input will be provided in an efficient and timely manner. The dialogues discussed in a nuanced way parliamentary sovereignty and other constitutional limitations of the Voice and all appreciated that this model would be no guarantee that these powers would not be used against them in the future in a negative way by Parliament but that it would create a limit through political empowerment, which would achieve better designed policies in the future.

Add to shortlist

The reform is urgent. The deliberative dialogue process that led to the historic consensus at Uluru and the call for a Voice to Parliament is being lauded around the world as a best practice process for eliciting Indigenous views. The United Nations Special Rapporteur told the UN Human Rights Council this in 2017 and 2018. This is an Australian innovation. The Uluru statement is an offer of friendship and peace. Many of our old people are dying and they want some peace for their country.

Despite all of Australia’s history, the Uluru dialogue participants acknowledged that while the law can oppress, the law can also redeem. And the Voice to Parliament is about fairness and using the highest Australian law to empower our people so they can take their rightful place in the nation.

We issued Uluru to the Australian people and not to the politicians. It is an offer to the Australian people and the consideration, a constitutional Voice, is a small price for the benefit that it will unlock for all Australians.

Professor Megan Davis is a constitutional lawyer and Pro Vice Chancellor Indigenous UNSW. She is an Aboriginal woman from the Cobble Cobble clan from south-west Queensland.

 

NACCHO welcomes feedback/comment:Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s