My name is Alison Holland and I am an Associate Professor in the department of History and Archaeology at Macquarie University. I teach Australian and World history, with a special interest in and focus on Indigenous rights, governance and policy and the broader question of human rights. Across two decades I have researched and written on aspects of Indigenous rights, governance and policy in Australia from an historical perspective. I consider this puts me in a unique position to comment on the co-design process because I have focussed on the history of the Indigenous policy setting with a particular interest in how Indigenous people have themselves historically represented their claims, as well as other civil society actors. I know, therefore, that Indigenous political actors have been asking for parliamentary representation at least from the 1930s. The context of these requests have always been the denial of their rights under various government policies (protection, assimilation). While they are no longer under such targeted government policies, the significant issues impacting their lives in many ways continue to be the same: ongoing barriers to closing the gap, high rates of deaths in custody (nearly 500 since the Royal Commission on Deaths in Custody) and children behind bars; high rates of Indigenous child removal and custody in care; Indigenous women's vulnerability; desecration of sacred sites and more. In their long quest for recognition, the Uluru Statement from the Heart was an important landmark moment when, via a process of local, regional and national dialogues, Indigenous people provided a blueprint for change. This was an initiative that the Federal government supported and encouraged. The Statement was issued in May 2017 with several core requirements. I believe they represent the baseline requirements for all future policy making in Indigenous affairs. The most important requirement is for a First Nations Voice to Parliament to be enshrined in the constitution. Without this protection the voice - their representation - will forever be vulnerable to political whim and machination. Enabling legislation for the Voice must be passed after a referendum has been held in the next term of parliament and the membership model must ensure previously unheard Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have the same chance of being selected as established leadership figures. The Federal government must uphold its promise, on applying for (and winning) a coveted seat on the UN's Human Rights Council in 2017, to swiftly hold a referendum on constitutional recognition. That was four years ago. It is critical to Indigenous well-being that their own determinations are taken seriously and acted on and it is time this promise was honoured.
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