Perth, WA 6000
To whom it may concern
Submission to Co-design process
I am an American who has lived in Australia for just over a year. I am awaiting approval for a partner visa to make Australia my permanent home. I have moved here after completing a degree in Scots Law and a Master's degree in International Law. I currently work for the Conservation Council of Western Australia as a research consultant. My work suffers a great detriment from the lack of an enshrined Aboriginal voice to speak for the care of country.
Why do you think the Uluru Statement from the Heart is important?
The Uluru Statement from the heart is important because it is an invitation from the culture for reconciliation. It represents a desire to collectively heal and move forward as a nation. Without the consent of those who have been impacted it is impossible to truly address past wrongs. The language represents a maturity in the process requested, and necessary, for Australia to grow and become a nation that champions Aboriginal representation. It represents an opportunity to be a role model for the rest of the world which still struggles and will continue to struggle without an example of a system that succeeds.
How could a Voice to Parliament improve the lives of your community?
When viewing the most recent Senate estimates environment session Senator Thorpe made a statement which resonated with me, “I must put on the record that I feel very unsafe, in a very white space, talking about unceded country and hearing of our totems becoming extinct. So I think everyone needs to check themselves. My question is: is this relating to the violence of the systemic racism that we have to deal with in this country with the extinction of our totems? Is this relating to the violence of the systemic racism that we have to deal with in this country with the extinction of our totems?” She speaks exactly of this question we hope to answer now. Of enshrined representation in government. Of a permanent voice to speak for totems, to preserve, conserve, and respect the environment we live in. She acknowledges the fact that government is not yet a safe space for an Aboriginal voice. I believe that an enshrined voice in Parliament would help Aboriginal communities across Australia feel not that they are being allowed to speak but that they are being heard. It would give Aboriginal groups confidence speak out for Aboriginal rights not as an invitation but as a part of conversation every day.
Why do you think it's important to enshrine the Voice to Parliament in the Constitution, rather than include it only in legislation?
A constitution is a representation the rights which a society values is a moral sense. A constitutional right is infallible where legislation is subject to the whim of the government of the day. A right enshrined in the constitution requires one who violates it, no matter what way, to answer to that violation. Where legislation largely sets out rules to be followed dependent on the situation. A right within a constitution is an underlying theme of the conversation of every decision passed by government. It is not to be called upon when the circumstances arise but it is the voice that calls upon a society choose the way in which that right is upheld.
Why is it important for Indigenous people to have a say in the matters that affect them?
In the past I have lived in the United Kingdom, the United States, and Cambodia. Each nation with their own Aboriginal rights and history of colonization to acknowledge. The difference I have found in Australia is the striking visibility of the inequality experienced by the Aboriginal people here in Perth. Even with some social norms that seem like they have not even been imagined in other nations, such as the acknowledgement of country. The idea of a welcome to or acknowledgement of country was alien to me when I first arrived. Even with such practices, there seems to be little practical effect on the day-to-day reality of First Nations people in Australia. It is perhaps this visibility which allows for the acknowledgement that an aboriginal voice in Parliament is so needed and lays the path for what will become that enshrined voice. In every nation the circumstances which lead to these realities differ. It seems, in retrospect, strange to think that it took me many years of education and learning about different cultures to understand, even some small way, how solutions that are not informed by those who they wish to serve are not solutions at all. It is no wonder why the most reputed international organizations with all the money of the world cannot force functioning government systems on nations whose culture does not accept such a system. The same applies here to Marakatta. We cannot legislate away the struggle of any culture’s past or present. The healing must to be led by those who are harmed, and spoken by those who have experience.
I believe 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. I believe legislation for the Voice must be passed after a referendum has been held in the next term of Parliament. I believe 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.