Senate debates

Wednesday, 7 September 2022

Statements by Senators

Australian Constitution

1:51 pm

Photo of Lidia ThorpeLidia Thorpe (Victoria, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

I made some remarks earlier today towards Senator Antic, and I'd like to withdraw those comments.

Photo of Deborah O'NeillDeborah O'Neill (NSW, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Thank you, Senator Thorpe, for assisting the chamber. You have the call for your two-minute contribution.

Photo of Lidia ThorpeLidia Thorpe (Victoria, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

Thank you, Acting Deputy President. First Nations people in this country are the oldest living continuing culture in the world. We are sovereign to our lands, waters, skies and totems. This is sovereignty. Violent colonial invaders never sought an agreement to live peacefully alongside us. The colonisers say that they are sovereign. We say that we are sovereign. Treaty is an agreement to share sovereignty.

First Nations people have always fought for the right to make our own decisions when it comes to our people, our culture and our country. In the 1930s, Yorta Yorta man William Cooper petitioned King George V for Aboriginal seats in parliament. In 1963, the Yirrkala bark petitions called for land rights. In 1988, the Barunga Statement called for self-determination. In response, Labor Prime Minister Bob Hawke promised to begin working on a treaty by 1990. Now, the states have taken up this Labor visionary's work. Victoria, Queensland and the Northern Territory all have treaties in the works.

Do you know who suggested we change the Constitution? John Howard! In the lead-up to the 2007 election, John Howard promised that the coalition would hold a referendum to recognise Indigenous Australians in the preamble of the Constitution. Why is Prime Minister Albanese following John Howard's lead? Why is the Prime Minister out of step with the Labor governed states?

Treaty is not an overnight process, which is all the more reason to start laying the groundwork now at the federal level. Treaty is an opportunity to celebrate this nation together. It's an opportunity to unite and mature.