Questions and answers about the proposed First Nations Voice to Parliament

Questions and answers about the proposed First Nations Voice to Parliament

4.8.        Why is the Uluru Statement from the Heart important?

 The Uluru Statement from the Heart is a document written collaboratively by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in 2017 that calls for change in Indigenous policies. The Statement calls for a Voice to Parliament, and a Makarrata Commission ‘to supervise a process of agreement-making between governments and First Nations and truth-telling about our history’ to facilitate positive change.[99]

The Uluru Statement from the Heart is an important document because, based on significant representation across Aboriginal peoples, it collectively and generously addresses an ongoing need for reform. While First Nations people have repeatedly voiced their desire for change through consultations and representative bodies, these recommendations and opinions have often been inadequately taken up or ignored (see Question 4 on the history of non-recognition).[100] During the dialogues with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people held at Uluru prior to the formation of the Uluru Statement, Megan Davis, who was one of the leaders of the process, noted that people felt ‘exhausted’ from the lack of response to their appeals in the past and were originally sceptical of the dialogue process.[101] The  Uluru Statement from the Heart addresses these frustrations and concerns in an attempt to further reconciliation and equality in Australia.[102]

The document differs from previous attempts to ameliorate Indigenous affairs as it was formed with an understanding and acceptance of Indigenous sovereignty while offering suggestions in compliance with the Australian legal system. Not only does the document adhere to the principles of public law, but the dialogue process also reflects ‘principles of representative democracy’. The recommendations outlined in the statement take the power of the Australian government into account. They specify that the government would legislate the boundaries of recommendations like the Makarrata Commission.[103] The Uluru Statement constitutes an example of active citizenship—an important aspect of democracy—and exists for the benefit of all Australians.[104] Thus, the statement is of high importance as it offers legally viable propositions created by and for the benefit of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

In summary, the Uluru Statement from the Heart can be said to be a careful representation of the desires of a significant part of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population. The document outlines a roadmap for change which was formed in a structured process with a large number of contributors, involving 250 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders.[105]

The document is also important because it accords with global processes. According to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), Australia is obliged to discuss and listen to the recommendations of First Nations peoples, especially regarding their capacity to participate in political processes.[106] This declaration points to the rights of Indigenous peoples to self-determination.[107] Recommendations from the  Uluru Statement from the Heart fall under UNDRIP and should therefore be carefully considered and implemented as wisely and sustainably as possible.[108]

Continue readingExcerpts 5.8.

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