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1.29 2017 Uluru Statement from the Heart

<p>The Ulu<u>r</u>u Statement from the Heart, with signatures of those who attended the National Convention. The surrounding artwork, by Rene Kulitja and other local artists (Charmaine Kulitja, Happy Reid and Christine Brumby), depicts A<u>n</u>angu stories (Tjukurrpa) about the creation of the country around Ulu<u>r</u>u</p>

Photo: Thomas Mayor

<p>The Ulu<u>r</u>u Statement from the Heart, with signatures of those who attended the National Convention. The surrounding artwork, by Rene Kulitja and other local artists (Charmaine Kulitja, Happy Reid and Christine Brumby), depicts A<u>n</u>angu stories (Tjukurrpa) about the creation of the country around Ulu<u>r</u>u</p>

It is 2017.

A process of consultations between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities has led to the development of a statement about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander sovereignty.

Any move for a treaty between the Australian nation and one or more First Peoples nations will involve a challenge to the existing Constitution and a referendum.

Read the information in the Defining Moment in Australian history: 2017 Uluru Statement from the Heart, and the wording of the statement below, and answer the questions that follow.

In 2017 over 250 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders met at a constitutional convention at the foot of Uluru in Central Australia on the lands of the Anangu people.

The majority resolved, in the ‘Uluru Statement from the Heart’, to call for the establishment of a ‘First Nations Voice’ in the Australian Constitution and a ‘Makarrata Commission’ to supervise a process of ‘agreement-making’ and ‘truth-telling’ between governments and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

The statement read:

We, gathered at the 2017 National Constitutional Convention, coming from all points of the southern sky, make this statement from the heart:

Our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander tribes were the first sovereign Nations of the Australian continent and its adjacent islands, and possessed it under our own laws and customs. This our ancestors did, according to the reckoning of our culture, from the Creation, according to the common law from ‘time immemorial’, and according to science more than 60,000 years ago.

This sovereignty is a spiritual notion: the ancestral tie between the land, or ‘mother nature’, and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples who were born therefrom, remain attached thereto, and must one day return thither to be united with our ancestors. This link is the basis of the ownership of the soil, or better, of sovereignty. It has never been ceded or extinguished, and co-exists with the sovereignty of the Crown.

How could it be otherwise? That peoples possessed a land for sixty millennia and this sacred link disappears from world history in merely the last two hundred years?

With substantive constitutional change and structural reform, we believe this ancient sovereignty can shine through as a fuller expression of Australia’s nationhood.

Proportionally, we are the most incarcerated people on the planet. We are not an innately criminal people. Our children are alienated from their families at unprecedented rates. This cannot be because we have no love for them. And our youth languish in detention in obscene numbers. They should be our hope for the future.

These dimensions of our crisis tell plainly the structural nature of our problem. This is the torment of our powerlessness.

We seek constitutional reforms to empower our people and take a rightful place in our own country. When we have power over our destiny our children will flourish. They will walk in two worlds and their culture will be a gift to their country.

We call for the establishment of a First Nations Voice enshrined in the Constitution.

Makarrata is the culmination of our agenda: the coming together after a struggle. It captures our aspirations for a fair and truthful relationship with the people of Australia and a better future for our children based on justice and self-determination.

We seek a Makarrata Commission to supervise a process of agreement-making between governments and First Nations and truth-telling about our history.

In 1967 we were counted, in 2017 we seek to be heard. We leave base camp and start our trek across this vast country. We invite you to walk with us in a movement of the Australian people for a better future.

The Uluru Statement, Uluru Statement from the Heart, https://ulurustatement.org/the-statement, viewed 14 October 2020

1. What was the purpose of the constitutional convention?

2. What is ‘sovereignty’?

3. What does the statement say about sovereignty of the Aboriginal people?

4. What does it say about the need for a ‘voice’ in the Constitution?

5. What does it say the existence of that voice will achieve?

6. What is the meaning of the word ‘makarrata’?

7. What is the proposed Makarrata Commission designed to achieve?

8. The Constitution can only be changed by a referendum. What needs to have been done before people can vote at a referendum for changes to the Constitution? (You may need to do some further research to answer this question.)

9. The proposal has supporters and opponents. June Oscar, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, has stated:

‘The Uluru Statement recognises the need for an entrenched constitutional voice on the one hand, whilst maintaining the long term aspirations of our peoples for a treaty on the other. One change can be achieved with constitutional change, and the other outside of the constitution through new legislation and the creation of Makarrata or Treaty Commission. Both have the potential to be meaningful and both represent the collective vision of our peoples ... The Uluru Statement carves out a path for change and we need that to be embraced by our fellow Australians and our political leaders.’

Parliament of Australia, Daniel McKay, Uluru Statement: a quick guide, Parliament of Australia, 19 June 2017, https://www.aph.gov.au/About_Parliament/Parliamentary_Departments/Parliamentary_Library/pubs/rp/rp1617/Quick_Guides/UluruStatement , viewed 14 October 2020

How would a constitutional change give Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people a voice?

10. How would the Makarrata set a path for change?

11. Liberal senator James Paterson has expressed his concerns about the unintended consequences of substantial constitutional change:

‘Any proposal that could impinge on parliamentary supremacy is highly unlikely to win support because it is a core foundation of our liberal democracy. A first nations’ voice, enshrined in the Constitution, runs the great risk of doing so. There are many different ways it could be formed. But even the most modest proposal, requiring parliament to consult an elected representative body, makes conflict with the democratically elected parliament for all Australians virtually certain.’

Parliament of Australia, Daniel McKay, Uluru Statement: a quick guide, Parliament of Australia, 19 June 2017, https://www.aph.gov.au/About_Parliament/Parliamentary_Departments/Parliamentary_Library/pubs/rp/rp1617/Quick_Guides/UluruStatement , viewed 14 October 2020

Why does Senator Paterson believe that the proposed First Nations Voice could ‘impinge on parliamentary sovereignty’?

12. What was the significance of the Uluru Statement from the Heart for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s rights?

13. How would this event have influenced the development of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s rights over time?

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