I support an Indigenous Voice to Parliament, enshrined in the Constitution because this is the ethical and moral way forward and has been long overdue.
We live on Aboriginal land and it is wrong that the first settler of this continent not just feel second class citizens but are often treated as such. The statistics regarding life expectancy, health, incarceration, and poverty are simply shameful and only a strong commitment from the top, like Constitutional change, will start a genuine change of attitude.
I came to Australia from Hungary in 1986 and became a citizen in 1988. I knew nothing about Australia’s Aboriginal history but what I could pick up in the news and through my Sydney-born son’s education in public schools was white, colonial prejudice and nothing else! I’m now ashamed that I allowed myself to be so grossly mis- and under-informed. My encounters with Aboriginal people through work and in the community during the past few years made me realize the magnitude of injustice over centuries and prompted me to educate myself on the matter. My readings of memoires, essays, archaeological and historical books, and Aboriginal literature have opened my eyes to their struggles, creativity, cooperation, wisdom for survival -- and made me utterly taken aback by the fact that as soon as they figured out a way of surviving and co-habiting, rules have changed and made them subordinated again and again over centuries all the way to current times!
We are living in the 21st century; we cannot continue our colonialist (and racist) behaviour. Australia generously opens its borders to refugees and migrants from all over the world. I’m one such beneficiary. How come we can’t be as generous to the first peoples of this ancient land? More accurately, how come we don’t appreciate their welcoming of us and don’t ask for forgiveness for all the past wrong doings and try to show genuine remorse through meaningfully corrective actions instead of repeating, in different disguise, past mistakes causing renewed harm? Australia was never Terra Nullius and the land was never ceded. We must acknowledge this by Constitutional change and enshrine an Indigenous Voice to Parliament to start a healing process and unite us all.
It is absolutely crucial to have an independent, broadly representative body advising Parliament on all issues impacting on Aboriginal lives and culture. This independent and adequately funded Voice must be permanent and should not depend on the whim of any Government. Their voice should be heard in a transparent manner, through discussions by Parliament and should be protected by Constitutional change. It is also essential that there be shared decision-making at the local and regional level, that state and territory Governments fully support the National Voice, and that the membership model for the National Voice include previously unheard Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander voices, especially the voice of young people.
The Indigenous Voice would complement existing Aboriginal and Torres islander organizations and structures and Government’s engagement with this advisory body should be done in a culturally appropriate manner.
There is so much work to do and so much to learn from Aboriginal Australians about land and sustainability, how to be grounded and listen to each-other, to consider long-term impacts. Importantly, Australia should not drag its feet way behind other countries like Canada and New Zealand in its addressing of its colonial past. We have received a gift when we were invited to hear and act upon the Uluru Statement from the Heart. Let’s not delay, be humble and grateful for this long overdue opportunity to do the right thing for once!
I wholeheartedly support and urge the development of an Indigenous Voice to Parliament, followed by a Referendum to enshrine it in the Constitution.
Waverley NSW 2024