Australia is the only country with a colonial history that does not recognise its indigenous peoples in their foundational documents. Advancing as a nation requires reconciliation with indigenous peoples. Recognition of indigenous peoples in the constitution is an essential part of this process. In my first speech as a Senator, I said “All Australians will always be equal, but we cannot have indigenous people feel estranged in the land of their ancestors.”
The Uluru Statement from the Heart asks legislators to consult Indigenous people on the laws which affect them. I agree.
The Indigenous Voice to Parliament provides for a mechanism where this can occur.
In my upcoming book, Buraadga, I argue that five principles are necessary to ensure that the whole nation is brought into the process of reconciliation:
- Capture broad support of the indigenous community
- Focus on community level improvements
- Maintain the supremacy of Parliament
- Maintain the value of equality
- Strengthen national unity
At the opening of the current Parliament, the Governor-General’s speech supported ‘group up governance models for enhanced, inclusive and local decision-making on issues impacting the lives of Indigenous Australians’.
The Morrison government has already committed $7.3 million for the co-design of the voice to Parliament. Ken Wyatt has established a parliamentarians’ working group to allow all political parties to come to the table.
This is a challenging process. It requires listening to all parties with dignity and respect. It requires taking all Australians on a journey towards a more just and whole society.