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Constitution Alteration Bill - the Voice to Parliament

On the 22nd of May I gave a speech about the bill before Parliament to initiate the referendum process for an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice to Parliament.


Before I begin this speech I’d like to first acknowledge the traditional owners of these lands, the Ngunnawal and Ngambri peoples whose connection to the land we now know as Canberra has spanned tens of thousands of years, and which continues today. I’d also like to acknowledge the Jagera and Turrbul people, the rightful owners of the lands across my home city of Meanjin/Brisbane.

First Nations people across this continent are a part of the oldest continuing culture in the world. The resilience, courage and strength of First Nations people who have continuously fought for better outcomes in the face of unrelenting racism and discrimination is incredible.

The Greens are committed to progressing all elements of the Uluṟu Statement from the Heart - Truth, Treaty, Voice. 

A successful referendum could be the start of a decade of change for First Nations people as we move towards Truth-telling, Treaty-making, and self-determination.

As we approach the voice referendum we are pleased to have secured the commitment from the government that First Nations Sovereignty will not be ceded, and that Truth and Treaty will also be pursued. 

The Greens and I are also strongly in favour of ensuring that the Voice is truly representative of First Nations people by ensuring membership of the Voice is directly elected by First Nations people, rather than being a hand-picked by the Government of the day, or by another convoluted selection process that shuts out First Nations voices not already connected to the political system. 

Establishing the Voice, and the simultaneous progression of truth-telling and treaty, will give this country a shot of moving forward towards First Nations justice.

Because it’s well past time for this country to hear the truth.

That the violence and state sanctioned genocide that started with colonisation continues today. 

First Nations communities are still experiencing high rates of imprisonment, deaths in custody and removal of children from their families. 

That significant underinvestment in First Nations healthcare, education and housing continues to leave First Nations people significantly more likely to experience housing stress and overcrowding, homelessness, poverty and health issues. It’s a truly terrible and unacceptable thing that First Nations people are so often homeless on their country, as a result of the systemic failures of government. 

That the destruction of land, water and sacred sites is devastating communities' connection to country and culture, and that unchecked climate change will likely impact First Nations people first and hardest.

These problems are not some distant history, they are here and now, pervasive and getting worse. 

Successive governments at all levels already know the solutions but continue to ignore them. 

The rate of First Nations child removal is at an all time high. A new generation of First Nations children are being taken from their families. Yet, the self-determined solutions of the Bringing Them Home Report are still ignored by Governments.

Our legal system fails First Nations people on a daily basis with life and death consequences. First Nations people make up 3% of the population but more than 32% of the daily prisoner population. There have been more than 500 First Nations deaths in custody since the 1991 royal commission into the issue, yet for decades governments have refused to implement many of the commission’s recommendations. 

First Nations children continue to be criminalised and institutionalised at record levels, and yet Labor governments across the country refuse to raise the age of criminal responsibility to at least 14, despite every expert and First Nations organisation in the sector begging them to do so. It shouldn’t take a constitutionally established Voice for Labor Governments to realise prison is no place for any child. 

First Nations sacred sites remain unprotected, with tens of thousands of years of cultural heritage able to be wiped away in an instant in the name of iron ore extraction or setting up a new gas plant. 

When will the Government listen to communities demanding for protection of these cultural assets, or will they continue to let the mining industry ride roughshod of tens of thousands of years of history. 

Across the continent, the impacts of climate change are destroying communities, and country, and First Nations people are so often on the front lines of that struggle, fighting to protect their land from the wanton destruction of multinational mining corporations. Yet, this government cosies up to the fossil fuel industries, approves coal mines and ignores climate science and cultural knowledge.

These are not new problems, nor ones without self-determined solutions already known to the Government. 

Let’s be really clear that a voice to parliament is not going to solve every problem in this country, and it must only be the start of a pathway towards genuine justice. 

A Voice to Parliament, democratically selected by First Nations people, in tandem with Truth-Telling and Treaty  can help bring the country along the journey towards First Nations justice. 

That means politicians hearing the voices of First Nations people even where they don’t want to hear what they have to say. 

I can think of so many brilliant First Nations leaders and organisers who are currently denied a voice on the national stage - locked out by a political establishment that don’t like what they have to say. 

If the outcome of this referendum  is those leaders getting a chance to speak truth to power and a chance to speak on the national stage - then that will be a positive step forward. 

I’m looking forward to ensuring as many people as possible in Griffith vote yes and we continue the push for Truth and Treaty. 

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