To whom it may concern
Submission for Co-design process
I am a non-Indigenous woman and the mother of three adult children. I have enjoyed a
long career in the screen industry. Our family lineage traces back to the first fleet that
colonised Australia, and Irish immigrants who arrived in the mid 19th century. I grew up
in Sydney. I have a distinct memory of my primary school social studies book saying the
Aborigines were a people who once lived in humpies with the implication they no longer
existed. Some years later I was catching the train to high school. Passing through
Redfern Station I saw an Indigenous man on a platform and I had a blinding insight that I
had been misled by my primary education. I had my first child at the time of the RC into
Aboriginal Deaths in Custody. I remember the horror of learning about the Stolen
Generation, the legacy of intergenerational trauma and explaining this to my children. I
remember the very public bitter resistance to Native Title and the ongoing toll of
Indigenous people being condemned to prison as a first option, not a last resort. This
incremental growth in my historical consciousness of our past and current society
continues to trigger my reflection and understanding of what it is to be Australian. In
reading about invasion, the frontier wars and its massacres and subsequent racist
policies that have devastated Aboriginal families and communities I tenuously grasp the
arc of history reverberating today. I struggle to perceive and make meaning of language,
culture and enduring Aboriginal law shaping country and how we inhabit our land
through the songs of Archie Roach and Gurumul Yunupingu, watching the dances of
Bangara, absorbing the beauty of Aboriginal painting, reflecting on the films of Warwick
Thornton and of Rachel Perkins, listening to stories of Aboriginal authors, experiencing a
shift in consciousness through the revelatory work of Bruce Pascoe and learning about
leadership and a way forward through the words of Aboriginal leaders - from Mum Shirl,
Charles Perkins and Lowitja Donahue, to the work of Pat and Mick Dodson, Eddie
Mabo, Noel Pearson, Professor Marcia Langton, Linda Burney, Stan Grant, Pat Turner,
Adam Goodes, Cathy Freeman: voices of hope for us all despite the historical burden of
dispossession, grief and disadvantage left by colonisation. It is time for non-Indigenous
Australia to be humble, to listen, to cede power and move our relationship with First
Nations People to a new footing.
Why do you think the Uluru Statement from the Heart is important?
Uluru Statement from the Heart was the result of Indigenous people across the country
coming together, consulting, negotiating, compromising and proposing a model for
constitutional reform to empower their peoples and to take their rightful place in their
own country that has never been ceded. It is important because in empowering
Indigenous communities to give Voice on the laws and the issues that concern them, our
country as a whole may begin to approach solutions for addressing the distressing core
issues that plague Indigenous communities and therefore our whole country - the
disgrace and trauma of so many deaths in custody, the terrible suicide rates of young
Aboriginal people, the disproportionate rates of incarceration, the rates of domestic
violence suffered by Aboriginal women, the poor health and education outcomes for so
many Aboriginal people. These interconnected issues underline what the Statement
says is the 'torment of our powerlessness'. Constitutional reform is the unfinished
business of righting wrongs of colonisation. It is a structural reform that gives Indigenous
Australia the voice and authority to effectively influence the matters that concern them.
Why do you think it's important to enshrine the Voice to Parliament in the Constitution,
rather than include it only in legislation?
Our Constitution allows for a 'Races Power' that is applied solely in relation to the
making of laws about Aboriginal people. That is in itself a racist proposition. It also has
'Territories' power which allows government to make laws directly in the Territories that
impact Aboriginal people without consultation of any sort. Such laws range from land
rights to cultural heritage. In the Northern Territory this affects the 30 percent of
population who are Aboriginal. The Constitution underpins our governance and by
including the Voice to Parliament in the Constitution, Aboriginal people will be assured of
a Voice to influence the decisions about laws that impact them without the risk that
politicisation and the changing whims of the government of the day represent in the case
of establishing a Voice through legislation.
How could a Voice to Parliament improve the lives of your community?
A Voice to Parliament will improve our whole community by establishing a mechanism
by which Indigenous can influence the decisions that directly impact their lives and more
broadly promote dignity, truth, justice and healing in the relationship between Indigenous
Australians and non-Indigenous Australians.
Why is it important for Indigenous people to have a say in the matters that affect them?
Indigenous people need to have a say on the formulation and application of matters that
affect them. Their culture, kinship and community ties, social organisation, knowledge
and education and health practices are unique to them and best known and understood
by them. Laws developed and imposed on Indigenous people without consultation and
consent have demonstrably failed them - closing the gap targets consistently fail,
ongoing deaths in custody, unacceptable rates of incarceration of Indigenous children.
Empowering Indigenous people with control over their lives will reverse the chronic
disadvantage that strikes at the heart of their communities. We need look no further than
the role of Indigenous Australia and local health organisations in protecting their
communities from Covid to see why it's important to give Indigenous people a say in the
matters that affect them.
The adoption of the Uluru Statement of the Heart and the Makarrata Commission
promises a profound and positive shift in Australian society through the empowerment of
our Indigenous people. We cannot afford to miss this opportunity to remedy the wrongs
of the past and present. We cannot ask Indigenous people to wait any longer.