Page 4864 - Week 13 - Wednesday, 1 November 2017

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Motion (by Mr Gentleman) proposed:

That the Assembly do now adjourn.

Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders—Uluru statement

MS STEPHEN-SMITH (Kurrajong—Minister for Community Services and Social Inclusion, Minister for Disability, Children and Youth, Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs, Minister for Multicultural Affairs and Minister for Workplace Safety and Industrial Relations) (5.37): In May the First Nations National Constitutional Convention met at Uluru on the lands of the Anangu people. The majority of delegates supported the Uluru statement from the heart, which called for two things: a first nations voice enshrined in the constitution; and a makarrata, or treaty, commission.

Last week the federal Liberal-Nationals government broke the nation’s heart by confirming it had rejected the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander voice to parliament. Attempting to explain why they thought the proposal was too ambitious, the federal Minister for Indigenous Affairs made it clear that there was no evidence to support their assertion that it would not fly with voters. He said:

I don’t need evidence … We have done a lot of polling, not on this particular matter, but on other matters.

Finally, he admitted:

It’s our instincts.

In delivering the Uluru statement, members of the first nations convention, represented by Professor Megan Davis, said:

In 1967 we were counted, in 2017 we seek to be heard ... We invite you to walk with us in a movement of the Australian people for a better future.

The first nations people of this land have experienced more than 200 years of policies and decisions being made about them, their country and their culture. Yet they did not issue demands; they issued an invitation. This generosity of spirit has been met with “a slap in the face”, in the words of Senator Pat Dodson.

To the shock of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders, who placed their trust in this process, it is happening again. Other people are making decisions for them without them. Canberra’s own Rod Little, co-chair of the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples, said:

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have been let down once again.

His co-chair, Dr Jackie Huggins, has described the government’s rejection of a referendum proposal as a low point in race relations. She has said that

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