Uluru Statement from the Heart

 In Aboriginal Land Rights, News
uluru statement from the heart support

As we mark 3 years since the Uluru Statement from the Heart, a First Nations Constitutional Voice is yet to be achieved. In this blog, Gemma Wallace and  Jasmin Boyce consider the call for constitutional reform. Johnston Withers Lawyers and Conveyancers continue to support the Uluru Statement from the Heart.

On 27 May 1967, the Australian public overwhelmingly voted to amend the Australian Constitution to empower the Commonwealth to make laws relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and to provide for their inclusion in the Australian census.

The changes made by the 1967 referendum were important and overdue steps towards inclusivity and reconciliation with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. The referendum was and is a monumental event in Australia’s history.

Since the referendum, we have seen further progress at the Commonwealth level with the passage of the Racial Discrimination Act in 1975 and the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act in 1976, and the recognition and protection of Native Title under Australian law following the High Court decisions of Mabo and Wik in the 1990s.

But despite the progress that has been made since 1967, the laws and customs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples continue to be afforded little recognition in the Australian legal system, and their many voices continue to be excluded from political and institutional decision-making affecting them and their communities.

As a result, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples remain in many ways disempowered and deprived of their right to self-determination. They continue to experience lower rates of literacy and numeracy, a greater incidence of health problems, higher rates of child removal, higher rates of incarceration and proportionally more deaths in custody, than non-Indigenous Australians. And notably, these issues are amplified for those Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples who live on country and in doing so maintain a connection to their history and culture.

So, fast forward 50 years, and another call for Constitutional change is being made.

On 26 May 2017, the 50 year anniversary of the referendum, the First Nations Constitutional Convention was held at Uluru. The Convention saw a coming together of representatives from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities across the country. Its outcome was the Uluru Statement from the Heart – a document outlining measures which should be implemented in order to recognise and empower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

At its heart, the Statement calls for a First Nations Voice enshrined in the Constitution. It is an invitation to all Australians to right the wrongs of the past and present, and to walk with our First Nations peoples towards recognition and reconciliation.

It has now been almost 3 years since the inception of the Uluru Statement from the Heart and despite Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ continuing calls, progress has been slow and a Constitutional voice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples is yet to be achieved.

Johnston Withers Lawyers and Conveyancers continue to strongly support the Uluru Statement from the Heart. In solidarity with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, we call for the implementation of a First Nations Constitutional voice.

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