Senate debates

Wednesday, 23 November 2022


First Nations Australians

7:38 pm

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

It's time for real ambition in this country. Through a treaty republic we have an opportunity to right the historical wrongs that shape our present. Before the British invasion over 500 sovereign nations governed these lands, each with their own laws, languages and customs. Colonists waged a war on First Nations people. They violently imposed their authority without negotiation or consent. We need to tell the truth about who we are and where we come from. Only then will we be able to heal and move forward as a united nation. Despite ongoing acts of genocide in this country, First Nations people have never ceded our sovereignty. Sovereignty is our assertion to be self-determining and to be self-governing. We maintain our sovereignty through the law of our land, through an unbroken connection to our country, our waters, our skies, our totems.

Treaty is a negotiation about sharing sovereignty in this country. We've never had this conversation. Through a treaty process, we meet as equals to ensure genuine peace and justice. Treaty will not cede our sovereignty; it will strengthen it. Treaty is a formal agreement between First Nations people and the Commonwealth government. Treaty protects First Nations rights and sets the terms for sovereign bodies to negotiate with the government. That's why treaty is important. It's a blank canvas. We can write it together. We could have a treaty of the 21st century right here in this country. We're only one of a few Commonwealth countries left without a treaty with its first people. Only a treaty will allow for this country to be cared for as it should be, with thousands of years of knowledge and connection.

Incarceration rates, deaths in custody and child removals are all symptoms of an ongoing war against First Nations people in this country. Treaty is an end to that war. We have an opportunity to do things differently in this country. We don't need a new king; we need a head of state chosen by the people. This parliament and our Prime Minister shouldn't be subordinate to someone on the other side of the world who we didn't even elect. A treaty republic will force us to tell the truth about our history and move us towards real action to right the wrongs that started with colonisation, creating a nation we can all be proud of that would bring us together and give everyone in this country something to celebrate.

The rights and responsibilities I've spoken about have been spoken about time and time again in this chamber. They come from the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which this parliament supported earlier this year. We could use this moment and momentum to empower our country to democratically elect our own leader, someone who represents all of us, and unite a country that has owned up to its past and chosen its own future. That unity would be more powerful than any king.