2167

Submissions: Your Feedback

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Submission Number
2167
Participant
Sharni Chan
Submission date
Main Submission File
Main Submission Automated Transcript

Sharni CHAN

Gundungurra and Darug Country
Hazelbrook, NSW
Australia

Dear Co-Design Body

Submission to Co-design process

I am a non-Indigenous woman who was born on Wiradjuri Country in Wagga Wagga and
now lives and works on Gundungurra and Darug Country in the Blue Mountains. I am a
Research Fellow, I work in child protection research and currently investigate therapeutic
approaches for children and young people with abuse and neglect related trauma.

Why do you think the Uluru Statement from the Heart is important?
The Uluru Statement from the Heart is an important document that clearly articulates the
aspirations Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples from across Australia for self-
determination. I cannot imagine a more powerful thing than the gathering of so many
diverse language and cultural groups uniting behind this task in common cause, and I
cannot imagine that any other group of people in history could have achieved what the
authors of the Uluru Statement have achieved, against all odds. The Statement is yet
another example of the generosity of spirit, the strength, resilience and commitment
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples continue to show towards their own
peoples and the good of the whole country.

Why is it important for Indigenous people to have a say in the matters that affect them?
At a very basic level, it is a human right for Indigenous people to have a say in the
matters that affect them, recognised in international instruments that Australia is
signatory to. Non-Aboriginal people have had more than 200 years of control over
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and where has this brought us? In the
earliest days this included large scale massacres, exploitation, widespread cruelty,
sexual assault of women and sexual abuse of boys and girls, denial of language and
culture, separation of generations of children from the love and protection of their
families. This was tantamount to genocide. Today Aboriginal and Torres Straight
Islander peoples face the highest rates of incarceration, child removal into out of home
care. Many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are locked out of secure
housing due to racism and discrimination in health, education and employment, the
ongoing impact of Stolen Wages, Aboriginal women face high levels and more severe
levels of violence, and Aboriginal people are still dying in custody. Many Aboriginal and
Torres Strait Islander communities face disproportionate and worsening impacts of
unmitigated Climate Change. These problems can only be solved if Aboriginal and
Torres Strait Islander people have control over their lives, their Country, their kin and
communities. Within their communities they have over 65,000 years of knowledge and
experience of how to live well in this country - to raise up strong children, to care for
Country. Despite state sanctioned attempts at genocide and ongoing institutional and
interpersonal racism, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples continue to survive
and resist colonisation. Against all odds they have produced some of Australia's best
artists, brightest intellectuals, actors, musicians, athletes, psychologists, writers,
community and public health professionals. Their contribution to the Australian
community is disproportionate to their numbers relative to the non-Indigenous
population. It is long overdue that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples were in
control of matters that affect them via a First Nations Voice to Parliament protected by
the Constitution and a Makarrata Commission to supervise agreement-making (treaty)
and truth-telling.

How could a Voice to Parliament improve the lives of your community?
A Voice to Parliament would improve the lives of people in my community in quite
specific ways. I will provide one small example which I think reflects the broader issue of
why we need Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander voices enshrined in Parliament. I live
in a bush fire affected area. For 200 years Gundungurra and Darug people have been
prevented from caring for Country, burning Country. The cumulative result has been
wildfires, destruction of bush and animal habitat, loss of animals, houses, community
trauma. If Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have a voice in Parliament, we
can start to implement Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander solutions to problems that
we cannot solve without their cultural knowledge and experience. I used the example of
caring for Country with Aboriginal fire practices, but we need this expertise to improve
our health care and education systems - to learn how to live together and live well in this
country, to support families and grow strong children, look after our old people and live a
good life. We need a Voice to Parliament so urgently, while we still have the old people
with us who can share their knowledge, tether their young people to 65,000 years of
ancestral wisdom and in doing so ensure cultural continuity of how to live well in this
country.

Why do you think it's important to enshrine the Voice to Parliament in the Constitution,
rather than include it only in legislation?
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people deserve a durable voice that can only be
protected through Constitutional change. Legislative change is too vulnerable to the
whims of racism governments.

Thank you for the opportunity to provide this submission.

Yours sincerely,
Sharni Chan