In May 2017, at Uluru, following months of consultation and dialogue, 250 First Nations delegates from across the continent came together to create a direct and powerful ‘Uluru Statement’ regarding their aspirations for true recognition in Australia’s Constitution:
“We seek constitutional reforms to empower our people and take a rightful place in our own country. We call for the establishment of a First Nations Voice enshrined in the Constitution, along with a Makarrata Commission to supervise a process of agreement-making between governments and First Nations and truth-telling about our history”.
The Statement sees the Voice as a body advising the Parliament on all matters concerning the wellbeing of First Nations peoples and their communities.
On winning the election in 2022, Prime Minister elect, Anthony Albanese committed to the Uluru Statement from the Heart “in full”.
At the Garma Festival in July 2022, Albanese suggested that the referendum question should be as simple as ‘Do you support an alteration to the constitution that establishes an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice?”
In addition, he introduced a possible three sentence change to the Constitution as a starting point for discussion, should the referendum result in a ‘yes’ vote:
- There shall be a body, to be called the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice.
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice may make representations to parliament and the executive government on matters relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
- The parliament shall, subject to this constitution, have power to make laws with respect to the composition, functions, powers and procedures of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice.
The Social Justice Advocates of the Sapphire Coast support the establishment of a First Nations Voice to Parliament, enshrined in the Constitution, and a Makarrata Commission to supervise a process of ‘agreement-making’ and ‘truth-telling’ between governments and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Only by speaking to Parliament can Indigenous people have their views considered by the whole Parliament, not just the sitting government.
It is unacceptable that the Australian Constitution, alone amongst all other First World Nations Constitutions, continues to fail to recognise the First Nations peoples of this country. The SJASC encourages a ‘yes’ vote in the 2023 referendum.