Judith Mitchell (née White)
(redacted) NSW 2485
To whom it may concern
Co-design process: Submission for Judith Mitchell (née White)
I am not indigenous. I am an Australian citizen, born in Lancashire, England. I was educated in the public system and hold two degrees from Oxford University: BA (Hons) in Modern History, BPhil in Latin American studies. I moved to Australia in 1986 and worked in Sydney, for the last 10 years of my employment as executive director of the Art Gallery of NSW. For the past 12 years I have lived on Bundjalung country in Tweed Shire, where I continue to write on cultural matters.
Why do you think the Uluru Statement from the Heart is important?
The Uluru Statement from the Heart was made by the National Constitutional Convention in 2017 and is a firm, dignified declaration of the relationship between indigenous people and country, and of the wrongs they have suffered. It is a most generous invitation to the healing process known as the Makarrata - and I was horrified that it was rejected by the then government.
Why is it important for Indigenous people to have a say in the matters that affect them?
It is a basic principle of democracy that people should have a say - otherwise they are at best second-class citizens. Our electoral system does not allow sufficient room for indigenous people to have a voice in policy decisions. Decades of decisions made without that voice - from misguided assimilationist policies, which created the Stolen Generation, to arbitrary one-fits-all decisions about how benefits are paid - have proved to be failures and have further marginalised indigenous peoples.
How could a Voice to Parliament improve the lives of your community?
In the age of climate change and repeated natural disasters, it is a matter of survival for all Australians that our elected representatives should listen to the wisdom of First Nations peoples about our relationship with the land. The land management practices they developed over tens of thousands of years will be crucial in saving country from the effects of drought, bushfires, floods and mono-cultivation. At a social level, we cannot talk about "respect" unless all of us learn to respect First Nations peoples, acknowledge their suffering and learn from their wisdom.
Why do you think it's important to enshrine the Voice to Parliament in the Constitution, rather than include it only in legislation?
Legislation can be changed, amended or misinterpreted. The Constitution is there for all time, as the bedrock of who we are as a society. Our First Nations people deserve that recognition.
Australia will not be mature as a country until the Statement from the Heart is accepted. To refuse the Voice to Parliament, Constitutional recognition and the Makarrata is to remain a relic of the colonial era, an outpost of a vanished British Empire that invaded this country and declared its indigenous inhabitants to be less than human (in the doctrine of 'terra nullius'), thereby justifying massacres, dispossession, enslavement and the marginalisation of First Nations peoples, with the disastrous social effects that persist today. To accept the Statement is to strengthen all that is best in Australian society: belief in fairness and justice for all, generosity and kindness, and a willingness to learn.
Judith Mitchell (née White)