Editorial by Erica Pegorer, Executive Director
Not since Sorry Day was I as moved as when listening to the reading of the Uluru Statement from the Heart, as read by Sally Seals on Q and A last week. Its language was simple and powerful, devoid of legal jargon. It is one of those historical documents whose significance will become more apparent as time goes on, in the same way as the 1992 Mabo Decision the 2008 national apology to the stolen generation. The Uluru Statement will become the document of our time. It was inspirational, moving and heart felt and captured the ambitions and aspirations of our Indigenous Australians.
Frank Brennan quoting Ms Anderson, co-chair of the Referendum Council and chairperson of the Lowitja Institute, made a poignant and profound statement capturing the heart.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait representatives have told us that ‘in 1967 we were counted,
in 2017 we seek to be heard, we are voiceless and powerless in our own lands. This is our country.
We have been here for 60,000 years.’ Australians of good will acknowledge that sovereignty is
a spiritual notion for Indigenous Australians and that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
incarceration and separation of children are indicators of ‘the torment of (their) powerlessness’.
We affirm the aspiration of the Indigenous leaders gathered at Uluru: ‘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.’ (F Brennan 2017)
The Indigenous want a First Nations Voice enshrined in the Constitution and have called for a Makarrata Commission to supervise and monitor agreements between Indigenous groups and the Federal Government and engage in truth telling about history. Makarrata is a Yolngu word meaning the restoration of peace after a dispute. The terms on which this will be achieved include substantive constitutional reform, a formalised political advisory body, and treaty. A Makarrata Commission would oversee the treaty process.
From the onset, one thing seems certain. There is no quick fix to the Australian Constitution and politicians’ responses have been somewhat ambivalent. Our Prime Minister pointed out, for example, that any claim must be acceptable to the general public to succeed and the Deputy Prime Minister was quick to add that the proposal, ‘would not fly’! In the same Q and A episode, Noel Pearson predicted that the document would get more support from the people of Australia than it would from our Parliamentarians.
"The Uluru Statement is entirely consonant with international law — for politicians and commentators
to suggest that the proposals are somehow unattainable, or abstract aspirations, is disingenuous…
the Uluru Statement has lit a fuse that cannot go out". (Galloway 2017).
What a challenging, yet hope-filled test Noel Pearson has set us. Is it possible that the people of Australia could be as prophetic and enlightened as to create a fertile ground that will pressure our politicians to make significant not merely symbolic changes to the Constitution that will allow our indigenous people to flourish? Let’s hope that we can finally have the courage to do something amazing and bold, something real and right that goes beyond the next election and something that will finally make a difference to the lives of so many! How much longer do they need wait for their voices to be heard!
As a Kildare Ministries community let’s choose to follow Pope Francis’ call to be less concerned about ourselves and more outward looking, less preoccupied about safeguarding our privileges and having the courage to walk with our indigenous people as they articulate their future with all the ambiguities and complexities. Let’s be inspired by the standard of leadership embodied in the Uluru Statement and contest the apathy evident in the current political discourse. Being counted is not enough, let us help them now to be heard!