DCA’s Building Workplace Capability for Indigenous Australia Network has taken place. Invited Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander leaders shared their thoughts on the Uluru Statement from the Heart, which draws a diverse range of views from the community.
Last year, this consensus report embodied a range of recommendations, including the establishment of a ‘First Nations Voice’ in the Australian Constitution. The federal government rejected this key recommendation, but the debate continues.
Differing views in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community about the Uluru Statement and the way forward remain. Here’s what the leaders who spoke at our event think as they continue to push for change, and their suggestions on how you can be an ally in this important national conversation.
Thomas Mayor, former Chair and advocate for the Uluru Statement
“The Uluru statement is written to you, the Australian people. A movement is needed now. One beyond black and white, beyond left and right.
“What we need is a constitutionally enshrined First Nations voice. We need a voice that is accountable to us. Not one that’s sensitive to the actions a government can wield over funding."
“The more positive voices we have on social media, the more decision makers will see the pressure is building. Labor would be committed to commencing action in the first 100 days of their election. Congratulate them on that.
"In your organisations, make sure people know about the Uluru Statement. Print it out. We in the community plan to set up campaign infrastructure to respond to the government, and you can get behind that.”
Professor Mick Dodson AM, Director of the National Centre for Indigenous Studies at The Australian National University.
"I think Uluru has lost the politics. Essentially, the process we are involved in with constitutional recognition and reform – and I don't think it should just be about that – but it is a political process.
"Don't get me wrong. I am totally in support of the idea of a representative body that speaks to Parliament on our behalf. But as soon as Barnaby (Joyce) described it as 'a third chamber of Parliament', politically we were dead. We haven't put enough effort into using that political capital that Tanya speaks of, and trying to win the politics.
“Let’s line up other ducks before we talk about the voice to Parliament; in our Constitution, Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander people can be lawfully discriminated against. Section 25 disenfranchises people on basis of race from voting. Sub section 26 permits racial discrimination and gives power to pass racially discriminatory laws.
"We don’t need that in a modern, democratic state.
"If you knock out those two sections there’s a strong, irresistible argument ... it’s another approach."
“From a corporate sense, you should have a Reconciliation Action Plan. If you haven’t, get one.
“If you do have one, make sure there are lines of accountability, with targets being met up the line to the CEO and Chair. You don’t want a document that’s flowery – you want one that’s active and living and doing things.
“At my university, we have an Indigenous engagement strategy and recruit at all levels. We also have targets that make people answerable up the line.
“And as an individual, agitate [for the accountability] until you get it.”
Tanya Hosch, General Manager, Inclusion and Social Policy, AFL and member of The Referendum Council.
“In our recent history, the pursuit of the individual has been prioritised over the collective. The attempt to get collective agreement now, on not what but how, is a significant thing.
“This isn’t just an Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander issue. This is a nation building opportunity that is politically treading water because it’s an inconvenient part of the conversation."
“There’s a lot of small things you can do that add up to a lot.
“Think of practically supporting the people who are carrying the work in this movement. Let them know you care.
“Be informed and commit to staying informed. Sign up to mailing lists and be prepared to be one of those people that communicates this message to other groups.
“And remember – you can’t push for change and not be unpopular.”
DCA members are also encouraged to download and share within their organisations the recordings and the transcript of this event.
More resources on Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Inclusion here.