1039

Submissions: Your Feedback

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Submission Number
1039
Participant
Anne Cregan
Submission date

To whom it may concern

Co-design process: Submission for Anne Cregan

I am a lawyer who has had the privilege of working for many decades with Aboriginal people and communities.

Why do you think the Uluru Statement from the Heart is important?

The Uluru Statement from the Heart is the most significant document for a more just future for Australia in my lifetime. It gives us a way forward in our relationship with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people; a way forward determined by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in a process with great cultural authority.

The Uluru Statement is an eloquent statement of the sovereignty and spiritual connection to this land of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Its expression of the torment of powerlessness of First Nations people cannot fail to move. The pathway forward suggested by the Uluru Statement from the Heart is a generous invitation to walk together.

In my view the pathway laid out in the Uluru Statement is the only way we can address our failures that have resulted in the challenges facing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and the only way we can create the circumstances in which Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and the Australian community as a whole can thrive.

Why do you think a Voice to Parliament is important?

If Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities are to thrive we need their expertise influencing the decisions that affect their lives. A voice is needed not only to Parliament but also to Government and needs to be heard early enough in the development of policy and legislation to have a real influence.

Why do you think it's important to enshrine the Voice to Parliament in the Constitution, rather than include it only in legislation?

For the Voice to be effective it needs certainty, stability and independence. If the Voice is subject to Parliament as its existence is only in legislation it is vulnerable to the politics of the day. The Australian Government has a history of abolishing organisations established to advance Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander interest at a national level.

It is also extraordinary that the First Nations, the people who have lived on and cared for these lands for 60,000 years, were and are effectively unrecognised in the founding document of the Australian State.

Constitutional recognition of First Nations people must be in a form supported by the people being recognised. Enshrinement of the Voice to Parliament is the only form of constitutional recognition supported by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. All other forms of recognition have been rejected.

Why is it important for Indigenous people to have a say in the matters that affect them?

The only initiatives I have seen that have been effective over the long term in addressing the issues faced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples (issues arising from dispossession, colonisation and disrespect) and in creating opportunities for their communities to thrive have been those developed by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities themselves. If a democracy is government of the people, it is abhorrent that a group of people so impacted by law have no real say in the making of laws affecting them.

The Voice must be enabled in the Constitution as a first step then designed by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people once enabled. The triggers for when Government and Parliament are required to engage with the Voice must not be too narrow and there must be scope for the Voice to trigger that requirement, not only Parliament. The Voice must be properly resourced and its resourcing cannot be subject to the vicissitudes of relying wholly on the budget cycle.

This is such an opportunity for Australia to finally listen to and act on the will of First Nations people. We must accept the invitation to walk together graciously and with the same generosity with which it was offered.

Anne Cregan