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Submission Number
Hilary Kuhn
Submission date
Main Submission File
Main Submission Automated Transcript

Hilary Kuhn 29 April 2021

Port Douglas, QLD 4877

Indigenous Voice Secretariat Co-design Co-designVoice@niaa.gov.au
Uluru Dialogue < ilc@unsw.edu.au>

Submission to the Interim Voice Report in support for the ‘Uluru Statement from the

Dear Voice Secretariat,

Thank you for the opportunity to make a submission to the Interim Voice Report in support
for the ‘Uluru Statement from the Heart’.

I have worked closely with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people since 1970 and have
witnessed much change over the last 50 years. During those times I have mourned the passing
of so many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elders and the concomitant loss of their
encyclopaedic knowledge.

I also have mourned the consequences of the lack of meaningful dialogue between
immigrants and indigenous people in Australia. For many proponents of an increasingly
irrelevant European knowledge have adhered to the colonial dictum of debasing Aboriginal
people and knowledge despite recognition through the 1967 Referendum and the High Court
Native Title decision in 1992.

I find the detailed Aboriginal knowledge of the ecology and hydrology of this driest inhabited
continent to be astounding. For the accrual of knowledge over 65,000 years not only informs
harvest of traditional foods and medicines but also qualifies seasonal cues for management of
land and waters and adaptation to changes in the climate.

Indigenous knowledge is so longstanding and co comprehensive. I was privileged to learn
from Aboriginal women with traditional training and knowledge. To live and work with those
women in traditional country was enlightening. When an Aboriginal Elder told me of the
marine transmogrification in the Gulf of Carpentaria 10,000 years ago, he described the
impacts as though it was yesterday. For these reasons I am very embarrassed by the lack of
respect and recognition of indigenous knowledge in this country by many non-indigenous

Over the years, I have also heard many first-hand recounts of massacres from indigenous
survivors and their descendants and of the ramifications of legislation to ‘protect’/’manage’
indigenous people who were not even acknowledged by federal and state constitutions. I am
ashamed that the War Memorial provides no meaningful recognition of the frontier war and
the thousands of indigenous casualties. I am also ashamed of the ‘ripoff’ by colonial
governments and settlers: the ‘land grab’ and the appropriation of indigenous knowledge
without acknowledgement or remuneration. The lack of a treaty has long been bemoaned by
indigenous and non-indigenous Australians. This was exemplified in the extraordinary
response to the 1967 Referendum and in the huge volume of non-indigenous Australians who
marched for reconciliation at the bicentenary in 1988.

Given the profound impacts of British colonisation and European settlement on indigenous
people and their country in Australia, I am constantly impressed how indigenous people
armed with the fortitude of their traditional cultural heritage manage to leave bitterness
behind to focus on new pathways that overcome conflicts of the past.

In my mind, this is the thrust of the ‘Uluru Statement from the Heart’ that invites all
Australians ‘to walk with us to a better Australia’:

The Uluru Statement is an invitation to the Australian people to work with First
Nations people to create a better future. It is a gift: a strategic roadmap to peace,
where First Nations peoples take a rightful place in our own land. It is a moment
where all Australians can come together to realise our nation’s true potential.

This roadmap, set out in the Uluru Statement, is Voice, Treaty and Truth. The path to
a better Australia. But we need your voice to get there. We need you, your family,
friends, organisations, and communities to rally together and to help us make this a
reality. The time is now.

I welcome this invitation and extend my support.

The Uluru Statement from the Heart calls for Constitutional Change ‘to enshrine a First
Nations Voice in the Australian Constitution that would empower Aboriginal and Torres
Strait Islander people’:

A Voice to Parliament enshrined in the Constitution. A First Nations Voice, protected
by the Constitution, will mean that agreement-making and truth-telling can finally be
done on equal terms. With Voice, we can begin the journey of coming together after a
struggle – Makarrata. We are the Uluru Dialogue.

I fully support this proposal.

The Uluru Statement from the Heart also calls for Legislative Change that

involves the establishment of a Makarrata Commission. The Makarrata Commission
would supervise a process of agreement-making with Australian governments.

I fully support this proposal.

The Uluru Statement from the Heart calls for a Makarrata Commission that

would also oversee a process of truth-telling about Australia’s history and

I fully support this proposal.

It is now almost four years since the issue of the Uluru Statement from the Heart to the
Australian people. When the Uluru Statement from the Heart was delivered to the federal
government of Australia, there was no response.

As the federal government continues to procrastinate on any response to the Uluru Statement
from the Heart, it has become apparent that a referendum of the Australian people is required:

The Referendum Council recommended that a referendum be held as soon as
practicable to enshrine a Voice to Parliament and commence the journey to Voice,
Treaty and Truth. The Referendum Council was confident that the detail on a Voice
would be worked out after a referendum supervised by the Australian parliament. A
2018 parliamentary committee on the other hand recommended that there is more
‘meat on the bones’ of a Voice before can go to a referendum. Now, in 2021, the
government’s handpicked committee chosen to design the voice has released a report.
It has asked the Australian people for their views. And following this report we
believe there is plenty of information about what a Voice may look like and it is time
for the government to put the Voice to the Australian people in a referendum. The
Minister of Indigenous Affairs Ken Wyatt banned consideration of Uluru through the
Terms of Reference for the co-design groups. Minister Wyatt has sought to ignore
First Nations and public support for constitutional enshrinement. The Interim Report
avoids the issue by saying, incorrectly, that the line between Parliament and the
Government is thin.

Obviously, the Morrison government now needs to understand the extent of support amongst
the Australian voting public for constitutional enshrinement of a First Nations Voice. I
support the demands put to the Morrison Government that it must:

• Honour its election commitment to a referendum ‘once a model for the Voice has
been settled’,
• Enable legislation for the Voice to be passed after a referendum has been held in the
next term of Parliament, and
• Design a membership model for the National Voice that ensures an inclusive
selection of previously unheard Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as well
as established leadership.

For all Australians, the importance of a constitutionally recognised, legislated and
appropriately designed indigenous Voice is urgent. For the Voice will offer a lens for unity
between all Australians, indigenous and non-indigenous, informed by the wisdom of the
oldest human culture in the world as exemplified by the proposal for a Makarrata

In my opinion, the Voice is our most important cultural and political imperative. Without it,
there will not be any meaningful reconciliation between indigenous and non-indigenous
Australians, a scenario that can only be detrimental to our future as an integrated society.


Hilary Kuhn
29 April 2021