Dear Co-Design Body
Submission to Co-design process
I am nearly 55 years old, a Canberran born and bred and as caucasian as they come. I have benefitted from my middle class, privileged background. I am a retired nurse, having worked most of my career in public hospital acute care departments. I gained my qualifications from the then Cumberland College of Health Sciences (Sydney) and the University of Canberra. I volunteer with the Northside Community Service.
Why do you think the Uluru Statement from the Heart is important?
The Statement from the Heart is a powerful plea from the first peoples of this land to all of us that live here now. It comes with love and hope for a better future. It is sincere and all Australians will benefit from its message. The Statement was created following a world leading consultation model, exhaustive and comprehensive. It was written down from the many Indigenous voices across Australia, voices that haven't been heard before. The future success of this nation we call Australia depends on the full acknowledgement and implementation of the Uluru Statement from the Heart.
How could a Voice to Parliament improve the lives of your community?
We as a nation owe this much to the rightful custodians of Australia. Improving the quality of policies and programs by incorporating and truly listening to Aboriginal & Torres Strait voices helps all of us. Policies will be more efficient and effective. The general health and wellbeing of everyone is improved when all of the population is considered. There is a known and direct link between general health and wellbeing and societal alienation, poor literacy and limited opportunities to improve ones circumstances. When policies and programs reflect comprehensive and thoughtful input directly from the societal groups they are targeted to there is more chance of success. From a general societal level, formally acknowledging the vital importance of a voice from Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander people will, I hope, heal some of the grievous wounds the colonisation of this land has caused the first peoples living here. A cohesive society is safe and successful for everyone. And simply put it is well past time.
Why is it important for Indigenous people to have a say in the matters that affect them?
This land was not empty, it was not handed over peacefully, it was ripped from the hearts and minds of the oldest continuing culture in the world. It is well past time for the first peoples of this land to be given a voice, protected from the changing policies and programs of our political system. This land was never empty, Terra Nullius was the biggest crime perpetrated by my forebears. I acknowledge that the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people suffered and are suffering because for too long others have decided what was best. Truly listening to the people that policies or programs are targeted for absolutely improves the outcomes for everyone, including financial considerations. No one else fully understands the needs and desires of someone other than the person living it. For too long the patriarchal approach to polices has perpetrated harm. The long history of this has totally destroyed any trust between Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander peoples and governments, police, health & education systems etc. A voice to the very place that creates much of the legislation that effects Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander peoples will go a long way to repairing this relationship. It is time to listen and to act, it will benefit us all.
Why do you think it's important to enshrine the Voice to Parliament in the Constitution, rather than include it only in legislation?
The Voice to Parliament MUST BE PROTECTED from the ever changing political cycle. A voice from Aboriginal & Torres Strait islander peoples it vital for all parts of the political spectrum, especially those who disagree. Enshrining the Voice in our Constitution will ensure its existence for as long as we have our Parliamentary system and its Constitution. This will provide assurance to Aboriginal & Torres Strait islander peoples that their voice is important, valuable and SAFE. Too many times policies, organisations and programs come and go because of the vagaries of our politicians. The trust in Government is justifiably low, protecting a Voice to Parliament will go along way to repairing trust.
The Government must honour its election commitment to a referendum once a model for the Voice has been settled to ensure that a First Nations Voice to Parliament is protected by the Constitution. Enabling legislation for the Voice must be passed after a referendum (preferably held at the next scheduled General Election) has been held in the next term of Parliament. I also wish to make it clear that I understand a constitutionally protected voice to parliament does NOT mean a third chamber of Parliament or non elected people passing legislation - that fear mongering and downright lying must stop. We have many constitutionally elements in out governance system, adding an Aboriginal & Torres Strait voice to Parliament is simply adding to this list. I would hope that the model agreed to will also ensure that the people chosen for the Voice to Parliament are not those that already hold a platform that gives them a voice.