It has been over a year since the historic gathering at Uluru and the release of the Statement from the Heart, and over a year since the Referendum Council released its final report into constitutional recognition of the First Australians.
Labor has made clear our view – we cannot call on First Nations people to give us their views on what form of constitutional recognition they want, and then reject those calls.
Yet that is exactly what Liberal Prime Ministers have done.
In the last year, both Turnbull and Morrison have rejected the calls for a Voice to Parliament, repeatedly claiming it will become a third chamber, and that any referendum will not get the support of the Australian People.
Labor has pushed for a Joint Parliamentary Committee to do further work on this issue, in the hope that there can be a return to bipartisanship.
Labor is proud that Senator Patrick Dodson, the father of reconciliation was the co-chair of that committee, continuing to work with patience and respect with First Nations people and the Parliament.
The Joint Select Committee Relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people 2018, released its report at the end of November, calling for bipartisan recognition of the need for a Voice. The Final Report is available at: https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Joint/Former_Committees/Constitutional_Recognition_2018/ConstRecognition/Final_Report
More than a year after the Uluru Statement from the Heart and the Final Report of the Referendum Council, the overwhelming evidence to the Committee was that First Nation’s peoples want a Voice, and a more meaningful say in the issues that impact their lives.They have have reiterated their desire for a more meaningful say in the issues that affect their lives. They continue to call for a Voice to Parliament. And they continue to call for a Makaratta Commission to oversee a process of truth telling and agreement making.
Labor has heard those calls and has committed to deliver.
It is clear that the Government’s handling of the Uluru Statement has set the nation back on the long overdue work of recognition of First Nations people.
Labor’s position is clear: we will work with the Government, but we will not wait for them. First Nations people have waited 250 years to be recognised for who they are, the First People of this country, and for recognition as sovereign peoples whose land was taken by force.
That is why, while the Government remains opposed to the call from Uluru, a Labor Government will legislate the Voice to Parliament as a first step towards constitutional entrenchment. Achieving this goal is the priority task for constitutional change should Labor be elected to office.
Labor is also committed to doing what we can to right the wrongs to the past, and ensure those wrongs are never repeated.
That is why we have committed to a compensations scheme for the Stolen Generations in Commonwealth jurisdictions, as well as the establishment of a Healing Fund. We will also convene a National Summit on First Nations Children, to address the extremely high rates of child removal.
We continue to commit ourselves to working with First Nation’s people every step of the way.