On Saturday 15 June, I attended ‘Exchanging Ideas: First Nations Consensus in Constitutional Reform, Nation Building and Treaty Making Processes’ held at the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney.
Professor Megan Davis, young activist lawyer Teela Reid, Thomas Mayor, current Northern Territory Treaty Commissioner Professor Mick Dodson, and Native Title Senior Counsel Tony McAvoy were some of the speakers at the event and all spoke powerfully about the vision of the Uluru Statement from the Heart and where we are up to in bringing the promise of the Statement into being.
I was reminded of two big things…
Firstly, the Statement wasn’t offered to the politicians or the parliaments or governments. It was a profound and generous appeal to the Australian people, their fellow citizens, you and I who collectively hold the power through referendum to respond to that appeal.
The second thing I was reminded of on Saturday was that, two years after the Uluru Statement was offered to us, and despite the out of hand rejection by the then Prime Minister Turnbull and his government – the Statement is still defining the debate. It’s not going away.
In fact, the broad support of Australians for Voice, Treaty and Truth has forced the Federal Government to soften their stance and they are now prepared to consider how to see a Voice established.
Of course, I am writing this message to you with the recent news that the last national representative body to be established – The National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples – has just gone into voluntary administration because it had been left with far from adequate government funding since 2015.
ANTaR’s consistent work advocating for the Uluru Statement has helped create the conditions for the Government’s reconsideration of the Voice. As we see the probable demise of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples national representative body – the need for a Voice to Parliament is an imperative more than ever.
On Saturday, in the context of expected Treaty negotiation process in the NT, Mick Dodson said ‘It’s a long game’. For the oldest continuing civilisation on earth, time has a different relativity but we have an opportunity to make the long-game considerably shorter by our shared work to convince our fellow Australians that Voice, Treaty and Truth is necessary for all of us – Reconciliation is for all of us.
If you haven’t already, please consider a donation to support our advocacy efforts. The next 12 months are going to be big for ANTaR. We are undertaking an ambitious program around the unfinished business of Treaty and I will have some exciting announcements in the coming months about what we are doing with our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander partners.
Let’s make 2019 a landmark year for Reconciliation, please support our Mid-Year appeal.
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Some of us may have been frustrated with the Election outcome that seemed to reward a policy-free agenda without any national vision for reconciliation. But I am determined to turn crisis into opportunity and inertia into action. With your help we will continue to push the agenda that the First Peoples of this continent have so eloquently set for us in the Uluru Statement from the Heart!