Senate debates

Wednesday, 23 November 2022

Statements by Senators

Uluru Statement from the Heart

1:10 pm

Photo of Patrick DodsonPatrick Dodson (WA, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The Uluru statement is an invitation to the nation and it requires a response from the nation. It was given to us with goodwill by the 1,200 First Nations representatives that participated in 13 regional meetings across the country in 2016 and 2017. The 250 delegates that they selected to attend the final constitutional convention at Uluru formed a consensus on how they wanted to be recognised in the nation's Constitution. What emerged was a call for voice, treaty and truth, and since that day the Uluru statement has travelled the length and breadth of this country. Many hundreds of people from all walks of life have signed their names to it. We as Australians have each been accorded an opportunity to lay a new foundation for our relationship, rather than the one our nation was built on—the lie of terra nullius, that there were no people here when the British came.

What First Nations people have asked for is a very simple thing: a say in how the parliament makes laws about their wellbeing and their lives. It will give Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples a say on the issues that affect them—after 250 years, not a bad idea—by allowing communities to have a say on their destinies, and that will improve their lives and their circumstances. The government's role is to ensure that the bricks and mortar of a referendum are sound and that we give the Australian people the best chance of making a clear and considered decision on a voice to parliament. We are consulting with First Nations leaders and constitutional experts to lay the groundwork for a referendum.

We have established three key groups to assist this preparation. The first group is a referendum working group of 22 First Nations leaders, all of whom have deep experience on voice, treaty and truth and we know have been working in these spaces for years. The second group's called the Referendum Engagement Group, a group of more than 60 First Nations leaders and community members drawn from regions across Australia to provide advice on what communities need and to propose ways for First Nations peoples to be meaningfully engaged in the Constitution. The third group is a constitutional expert group from across the political spectrum to consider the words on the questions proposed by the Prime Minister at Garma this year and to ensure the ultimate supremacy of the parliament. The work of each of these groups is ongoing.

Let me share one part of the work to date, a set of principles for the Voice that have been agreed by the working group. It will be a body that provides independent advice to the parliament and the government. It will be chosen by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples based on the wishes of their local communities. It will be representatives of those communities. It will be gender balanced and include youth. It will be accountable and transparent, and it will work alongside existing organisations and traditional structures. The Voice will not have a program delivery function. Nor will it have a veto over the parliament or the executive government.

I want to make one thing very clear. The government is here to facilitate and support what is needed to deliver a referendum. The Voice to Parliament is not the creation of the Labor Party, nor should the referendum be a campaign dictated by politicians. This is for the Australian people. The Aboriginal politicians here represent their parties and their diverse electorates. We are not the unified advocacy for First Nations that the Voice to Parliament will provide. If the referendum is to succeed— (Time expired)