Brunswick West 3055
To whom it may concern
Co-design process: Submission for Valerie Kay
I am an academic who teaches about climate change and public health, and a 72 year old grandmother, a white person, born in Australia, who longs for reconciliation between the Indigenous people who have lived here for over 65 thousand years and those who have come since the British Invasion. My ancestors on my father's side were also invaders and settlers in early south Australia, but this country is the only home I know. My ancestors did wrong in taking the land of Indigenous people and accepting the results of violence, even if they themselves did not take part in active violence (I don't know this and maybe never will). I would like to be part of resolving these wrongs. As a child, I went to a small rural school with children of Indigenous heritage, although this heritage was not discussed. I know now that we were living on their land, which our ancestors had stolen. Yet as children we were friends. In the spring they led us to look for orchids in the bush. I hope that Indigenous people can lead us now to reconciliation and a true understanding of this country.
Why do you think the Uluru Statement from the Heart is important?
It represents so many Indigenous people's voices and such a deep process of bringing together so many people throughout the country. It is a beautiful and poetic expression and its emotional truth seems so strong and clear. I know that not all Indigenous or First Nations people of this country agree with everything in the Statement or the recommended process of Voice-Treaty-Truth. Some I know would like to see truth telling and treaty first. I understand this view but I think the work that has been done in the Uluru Statement needs to continue. I hope that in the process these differences can be resolved. Generally in complex processes, things don't always go in straight lines, and I hope that in this process there will be room for these differences to be resolved. In the meantime, I trust in those who are carrying the work of the Uluru Statement forward.
Why is it important for Indigenous people to have a say in the matters that affect them?
Indigenous people should not just have a say in this process, they need to lead it, otherwise there cannot be reconciliation. The Voice to parliament can provide this leadership. This is not leadership based on the power of legislation and regulation (not a 'third chamber') but leadership based on the wisdom and rights of the first people of this country. The ancestors of white people and settlers took the land violently from Indigenous people. In order to achieve reconciliation we need to respect the sovereignty that was never yielded and let Indigenous people lead the process. Additionally, we face a crisis of climate change and ecological degradation that threatens us all. This crisis has been caused by the kind of industrial society developed by the white supremacist and patriarchal regime established in Australia after British invasion. I say this not as someone just loosely using value terms, but as someone whose original academic background is in history, especially Australian history. This is a description of the kind of society established in this country after British invasion, and the kind of exploitative society that has brought us to an ecological crisis. In contrast, Indigenous people lived with this land for 65000 years. I don't idealise them, I know they were not perfect, as no humans are, and that they changed the land. But they lived with it sustainably and with respect for 65000 years. Australia needs Indigenous leadership now.
How could a Voice to Parliament improve the lives of your community?
I think I have said that in the section above, but in brief, to help make us whole, to reconcile us as people, to provide leadership and knowledge in responding to the ecological crisis we all face.
Why do you think it's important to enshrine the Voice to Parliament in the Constitution, rather than include it only in legislation?
Past experience shows that organisations set up by legislation to represent Indigenous people can be readily overturned by the government of the day. It is possible to change the constitution, but it is a much more significant process and a constitutionally enshrined system to represent Indigenous people is much more appropriate. In the past it has really been a white man's parliament and a white man's law that Indigenous people were being 'let into'. A constitutionally enshrined Voice is really the first step beyond that, to say this is not just a white person's state that may or may not allow Indigenous people rights, but a state on the way to true reconciliation and treaty between the First Peoples and those who came later. The country we call Australia will be something different and better when this process is complete, I believe. I hope to see this in my lifetime.
I think that's all I want to say. Maybe I could have expressed it more clearly, but I will let this stand 'from the heart' following in the spirit of the Uluru Statement, I humbly hope.