NAIDOC 2019: Voice, Treaty Truth

Voice, treaty truth NAIDOC week logo

The 2019 theme of NAIDOC is Voice, Treaty, Truth. 

This reflects Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people's desire to:

  • Have their voice heard after being excluded when the Australian Constitution came into being. 
  • Have an enhanced role in decision-making in Australia’s democracy.
  • Have their fellow Australians recognise that sovereignty has never been ceded, and their land was taken without agreement. 

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities are diverse and no one voice speaks for them all. But one man who is vocal about what these themes represent to him - during NAIDOC week and beyond -  is Thomas Mayor. He is a Torres Strait Islander man from Larrakia country in Darwin, Branch secretary for the Northern Territory Branch of the Maritime Union of Australia, and a signatory to the Uluru Statement from the Heart. 

He shares what the NAIDOC themes mean to him, and more importantly, what they mean in relation to each other:
Treaty (and its relationship to constitutional recognition)
"There is constitutional recognition and there is treaty, which is an agreement between First Nations and government. They are different things but they're not exclusive to each other. The constitutional recognition that we are calling for since the Uluru Statement is a constitutionally enshrined First Nations voice. It's a representative body that is permanent and mandated by the Australian people through a referendum and is able to affect decisions made about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders communities. Treaty making very much relies on constitutional recognition, because treaties or agreements between governments and First Nations internationally can be breached. They have been breached in the US and in Canada. And so you need that representative body that is able to unapologetically represent the interests to the Commonwealth Government."


"Truth telling is really important. The call has been going on for a long time, but it's whether or not people's ears are open, or whether or not they're willing to embrace our dark past.Truth telling is important to healing; to be able to come together as one country and celebrate sixty thousand years of history that we don't celebrate right now. But that can't be done until you acknowledge what happened. 

"When the Constitution was enacted, it came from a discussion of old white men. In the context that our people would die out and so were excluded from those discussions. The outcome was the sharing of power between the colonies of Australia. But if we were to do that again today, the First Nations would be at the table and we could all undo a wrong. It's a simple ask: just give us a voice to be able to affect the decisions that are made about us as First Nations people. It will save money, it will save lives. For the Australian people there is everything to gain by achieving an unbroken culture - one of the oldest cultures in the world. That is something to embrace and accept and include in the ruling document of this country - the Constitution"


"Having a voice is extremely important to truth telling. That's why it's a key thing and that's why it's the main issue that I talk about. There needs to be a national representative voice able to do something with the truth, to start closing the gap, and have those negotiations, and start having policy that isn't destructive but is really beneficial. That voice is important to truth telling and seeing that something comes out of it." 

More: DCA's Indigenous resources 

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