2851

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Submission Number
2851
Participant
Sarah Naarden
Submission date

In 2013, I had the privilege to work with Wurrundjeri Elders of the Kulin Nation to co-design the Monash Health Aboriginal Healing Garden in Melbourne. The project aimed to Close the Gap in Indigenous Health and make hospitals more welcoming for First Nations People. It won a Federal Government Community service Award in 2015. The most valuable learning was understanding the impacts of intergenerational trauma. In particular understand how policies around displacement and dispossession has effected several generations of social and interpersonal wellbeing with compounding problems. I began to understand the deep frustration of Indigenous communities who have been racially discriminated by the apathy of non-indigenous Australians. Many who claim they are not racists yet in the same sentence ask “ why cant they just get over it, there has been so much government spending on their problems”
After spending time in 2016 with Kapululangu Elders in Balgo East Kimberly, in women's ceremony and cultural training , I was particularly inspired to action. With the lived experience of remote communities, I became aware of the significant disadvantage including barriers to quality health care, education, job opportunities, limited access to fresh food, poor quality of services like water and waste removal. I also became increasingly aware of the resilience of First Nation Elders and the capacity to forgive with a heart felt invitation from non Indigenous Australians to walk with humility and earn back our trust to receive their ancient wisdom.
In 2020, I decided to take transformative action. I could no longer observe the Black Lives Matter movement unfold whilst a sacred tree was destroyed for road building , a sacred cave blown up for mining. I could no longer hear the cries of social injustice with thirty years of inaction on the commission for Black Deaths in Custody. So I began to work on a First Nations Trust building project with Initiatives of Change Australia. Since 1956, the organization based in Melbourne has built capacity for Indigenous leaders. Currently, we create education forum for non Indigenous Australians with truth telling and truth hearing events that support the co-design process of Voice, Treaty and Truth. This includes workshops, book launches and historical site visits to build communities of care. We create local action with International impact by collaborating with our global hubs of human rights from Switzerland, India, Canada, US, UK, Africa and South East Asia. They all have their international gaze cast on Australia with it critical time for constitutional change to recognise our First People’s ancient sovereignty.
With this experience in mind and heart, I affirm the Uluru Statement from the Heart and support The Voice of First Nations People be enshrined in the Constitution to Parliament. In an historic consensus First Nations people asked for this in 2017, however constitutional options were explicitly removed from terms of reference in the Co-Design process. I thank you for re-opening this national conversation after the previous government had rejected it.
My understanding is that constitutional enshrinement is the only viable option for substantive structural change to improve the lives of First Nation Peoples enabling justice and self determination.
The establishment of a permanent advisory Voice can form the basis of a reliable, ongoing seat at the table of government for our First Nations Peoples. I support a Makarrata Commission of truth-telling and supervised treaty-making and request three actions:
1. The Federal government honours its electoral promise to take a model for a Voice to Parliament, with a referendum.
2. The legislation for the Voice is passed after the referendum in the next term of Parliament.
3. The National Voice member model ensures ALL Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island grass root voices are heard.
It is a timely opportunity to join other countries around the world in honouring it’s First Nations Peoples in both a symbolic and practical way.
The next step for this government is to demonstrate leadership and solidarity enabling ALL Australians to support First Nations Voice to Parliament.
I believe these steps will enable Australians to engage with a fuller expression of our nationhood and appreciate the gift of sustaining the oldest living culture in the world.