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Submission Number
Critical Development and Indigeous Geographies cluster group, Macquarie University
Submission date

Critical Development and Indigeous Geographies cluster group, Macquarie University
Submission in support of the Uluru Statement from the Heart, April 2021
Interim Report to the Australian Government
Indigenous Voice Co-Design Process

The Uluru Statement from the Heart is a generous and generative statement inviting all Australians to walk together towards a more just future. The following submission is one way we are responding to this important and generous invitation.
We are a group of scholars from the Discipline of Geography and Planning in Macquarie University’s School of Social Sciences and are part of the Critical Development and Indigenous Geographies Research Cluster. We are honoured to be situated on Darug Country in northern Sydney. Our research focuses on the interface of Indigenous and local communities, institutional frameworks, governance, sustainability and justice to rethink rights, responsibilities and belonging. We nurture the theory–practice nexus through innovative research approaches including close collaborations with communities, families, NGOs and place in Australia, Asia, Africa, the Pacific, Aotearoa-New Zealand and Sápmi.
We speak from our positions as academics, students and people who engage with, listen to and work together with communities with particular insights into some of the harm caused by successive government interventions into the lives, lands and livelihoods of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. We have witnessed, studied, taught and written about the diverse ways the Australian government has attempted to silence and disenfranchise First Nations communities, not only through harsh policies of dispossession and assimilation but also successive iterations of reconciliatory processes and ‘closing the gap’ strategies that have led to limited, if any, real change. The time for discourse around reconciliation and ‘sorry’ has passed. It is now time for action.
The Uluru Statement is a constructive offering, providing clear steps that can be taken to bring about the substantive change that Australia desperately needs to be able to face our future with a sense of hope. Through our particular knowledges and experiences, we know that justice requires processes that support the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to self-determination, to be actively and directly involved in legal and political processes that affect their own lives. Such representation and justice will flow through to all areas of society, contributing to a fairer and more prosperous future for all. The Uluru Statement is written with a generous spirit, creating hope for Australia’s future but particularly hope for future generations - that things can and do change - things can come good! The unprecedented nature of the consultation process, bringing together hundreds of First Nations knowledge holders from around the continent, foregrounds important matters around whose voice counts. It recognises different forms of expertise as articulated by diverse and dynamic Indigenous communities.
It is imperative that a First Nations Voice to parliament is constitutionally enshrined in order to protect it from being disbanded by successive governments. History has shown us that one government’s promise can easily be destabilised by its successor (eg. ATSIC 1990-2005). Current political and legal efforts are not working, with reporting from the Closing the Gap initiative, successive Royal Commissions, the Australian Human Rights Commission etc. clearly showing that material and substantive changes in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s lives are happening too slowly and not ensuring their rights to safety, health, well-being and dignity. The cruelty of asking for a solution only to immediately dismiss it has the potential to undermine trust between First Nations peoples and the Australian state for generations, representing another missed opportunity to redress past injustices. These issues are too important and too strongly tied to the identity and future of this nation to be delayed further. The only right and moral response is to boldly embrace and act on this opportunity.
We are deeply aware of Australia’s violent history and present, and recognise that unless we come to terms with this, we are destined to have a violent future. Peace and prosperity starts with truth telling and justice. Australia is shamefully positioned as the only settler-colonial nation without any form of treaty or recognition or reparation process with its First Nations Peoples. Not only does Australia have a moral imperative to respond, we are obliged to as signatories of the United Nations (UN) Declaration of Human Rights and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigeous People (UNDRIP) to ensure our policies and laws respect all peoples’ human rights. Australia’s inability, and seemingly our unwillingness, to face up to the violence and injustice of our past and present extends beyond this fractured nation, impacting our relationships with our neighbours here in Asia and the Pacific and further afield.
A constitutionally enshrined voice is just one of many steps that need to be taken. In sum, we are calling for:
The Government to 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 has been held in the next term of Parliament; and
The membership model for the National Voice must ensure previously unheard Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have the same chance of being selected as established leadership figures.

Yours sincerely,

Staff and students of the Critical Development and Indigenous Geographies research cluster of the Discipline of Geography and Planning, Macquarie School of Social Sciences, Macquarie University

Associate Professor Fiona Miller
Associate Professor Sandie Suchet-Pearson
Lillian Tait, PhD candidate
Lara Newman, MRes candidate
Helga Simon, PhD candidate
Lauren Tynan, PhD candidate
Dr Jess McLean
Associate Professor Kate Lloyd
Anna Dunn, PhD candidate
Harriet Narwal, PhD candidate



We acknowledge the Traditional Owners and custodians of country throughout Australia and their continuing connection to land, waters and community. We pay our respects to the people, the cultures and the Elders past, present and emerging.