House debates

Monday, 21 November 2022

Private Members' Business

First Nations Voice

11:23 am

Photo of Louise Miller-FrostLouise Miller-Frost (Boothby, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

The electorate of Boothby, which I'm honoured to represent here today, is on Kaurna Yerta, the unceded lands of the Kaurna people. I pay my respects to the Kaurna people, on whose lands I live, and also to the Ngunnawal people, whose lands we meet on today, and to all First Nations people present and watching online.

We rightly acknowledge country before all gatherings that take place here in our nation's federal parliament. We do it as a way of acknowledging the incontrovertible fact that sovereignty over the land we now call Australia was never ceded by its First Nations people. To acknowledge this of course raises a series of other profound question for us as Australians—questions we've been reckoning with in myriad ways since Europeans first set foot on this continent. The 1967 referendum, amongst other things, gave the Commonwealth the right to make laws for all peoples, including our First Nations people. But we also know that some of the laws, policies and programs that have been made in respect of First Nations people have not helped them address the issues, concerns and ambitions that they have for themselves. In some instances, they have made their lives more difficult and have entrenched disadvantage. In some instances, they have brought great, great sorrow to individuals, families and communities. Life expectancy for Aboriginal people is still a decade less than for other Australians, and infant mortality is 1.8 times the rate for non-Indigenous babies. Despite efforts to address these and other disadvantages experienced by our First Nations people, these statistics remain. As we sit in our offices in cities and try and think about what might make a difference, we neglected one very basic principle of any form of community development: that, unless the community itself is engaged, these efforts don't work.

And so one of the basic principles of the Uluru Statement from the Heart is Voice—that we in this place will ask for input from First Nations people via a representative body as to what they think about any law we make that affects them. The Uluru statement itself is such a beautiful piece of writing, and the section that specifically relates to the member's motion is as follows:

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.

I encourage every member in this place and, indeed, every constituent of Boothby and every Australian to consider deeply this humble request. We can build a better future for all of our children. The Uluru statement shows the way.

The Uluru statement makes plain that the problems facing First Nations Australians are indeed deep-seated and structural. This, it says, is the torment of their powerlessness. And so they require structural solutions. We are asked to begin with a structural change to the way policy choices relating to First Nations Australians are made, by ensuring that policy for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians is not made for them but with them and by them—the basic principle of 'nothing about me without me'. As my colleague Wiradjuri man the member for Robertson said earlier, 'grassroots, bottom-up'. A Voice to Parliament enshrined in our Constitution would ensure that this would take place. It will deliver real and practical advice and guidance.

In my first speech here, I also said the following:

I'm proud to be here as part of the Albanese Labor government, which has committed to the important reconciliation work that is the implementation of the Uluru Statement from the Heart. Voice. Treaty. Truth. This is unfinished business for us all. Together, we are stronger. The work of bringing us together is overdue.

This remains the case six months later, and I commend those in our community already working to plant the seeds that will grow into what I hope will be a widely embraced social movement advocating for First Nations Voice. We can build a better future for all of our children. The Uluru statement shows the way.


No comments