Respectful conversation in Australia – a First Nation’s Voice to Parliament

A contribution from the Friends of the Heysen Trail Reconciliation Committee.

We encourage all members to be informed on the Voice from all perspectives and to respect all individuals and their positions in relation to the Voice.

Uncle Lewis O’Brien, a significant Kaurna Elder teaches that when non-Aboriginal people look at a proposition or a problem they tend to divide into camps with a Yes or No response.

The Kaurna people were the teachers and knowledge keepers. They looked at the brain and called it muka muka because it appeared in two halves.

What that means for decision making in the Aboriginal community is that we should think both ways. In other words, look at a problem from all sides before resolving which direction to take.

The Referendum on October 14th 2023

Australians are being asked if they support Aboriginal recognition and an Aboriginal Voice to Parliament at the Referendum on the Australian Constitution that will be held on October 14th 2023.

A Referendum is the people’s choice. We should hold respectful conversations as it is beholden upon us to be informed. We need to look at this question in principle from all angles.

All perspectives are relevant; all questions are legitimate; all positions are respected.

The 1967 Referendum with a 91% Yes vote resolved to count Aboriginal people in the census for the first time. It was a campaign that supported Aboriginal rights.

Yet, up to that time, Aboriginal people had been named in the Australian Constitution solely by exception. The powers that enabled the Australian Government to make laws on the basis of race previously read, “……….except for Aboriginal people……” as it was the States that made laws for Aboriginal people. Those words were removed and since then the Constitution has remained totally silent upon Aboriginal people; not a single mention.

A bi-partisan approach to recognition in the Constitution

In 2015, Tony Abbott, as the Liberal Prime Minister, met with 40 Aboriginal leaders at Kirribili House and Bill Shorten, the Opposition leader, joined him. It was resolved in a bi-partisan way to establish a Referendum Council that would consult with Aboriginal people as to their views on recognition.

The Referendum Council held twelve Regional dialogues right across the country. From these, delegates were appointed to go to Uluru. Six years ago the Uluru Statement from the Heart was developed as a result of the meeting at Uluru.

The Uluru Statement from the Heart

243 people at Uluru agreed by consensus that not only did they want Constitutional Recognition, they wanted something more substantive by having a Voice to Parliament.

Click on this link to read the Uluru Statement from the Heart.

This remarkable statement, which is full of grace and meaning, is clear and invites us to join the people’s movement across the country to unite for change.

“In 1967 we were counted, in 2017 we seek to be heard. We leave base camp and start our trek across this vast country. We invite you to walk with us in a movement of the Australian people for a better future”.

Follow this link to read the full statement prepared by FOHT Reconciliation Committee.