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We must see self-determination if we want to see change

Daniel Morrison -

My name is Daniel Morrison. My bloodlines flow from the Noongar, Yamitji, and Giga clans of Western

Australia.

I am the CEO of Wungening Aboriginal Corporation. We are an Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisation, with a staff of over 250 people, who work across Noongar Boodja.

We run preventative, therapeutic and accommodation services in important areas like Alcohol and other drug support; Homelessness; Child protection; Justice; and Family and domestic Violence.

Over the last five years, we have expanded rapidly to the point we were able to support nearly 10,000 people across our programs in the last financial year.

Today I am talking as the CEO of this organisation, as I enter my 13th year in this

role. But also in my own right as a father of two, who simply wants his children, and his grandchildren – when they arrive - to have it a little easier than he has.

I have thought long and hard about the main message I want to impress upon you today. In the end I fell back on what is most important to me. My Moort - Family. It is what I know. It is what drives me to do what I do.

I grew up spending weekends at barbecues surrounded by the likes of Uncle Rob Riley RIP, and Uncle Bryan Wyatt RIP and others. All fierce advocates, leaders, and role models within our community. My mother, Jackie Oakley, worked for ATSIC. She is a respected Elder of our community.

My father, Jim Morrison, has spent a lifetime advocating for our community. Including his current role supporting survivors of the stolen generations.

My Grandfather, Arthur, fought for this country in World War Two. He was held as a Prisoner of War for three years on the Burmese railway. He put his life on the line for this country.

When he returned home, he was still unable to vote, still excluded from stepping foot inside the Perth CBD, was not recognised as a human, and was barred from having a beer in the same pub with the men he fought alongside. He spoke about these experiences publicly. He never stopped fighting.

In 1928, a deputation of leaders selected by the community met with Premier Philip Collier, to voice their concerns about Aboriginal rights and, call for the repeal of the Aborigines Act 1905 (WA). My Great Uncle, Wilfred Morrison was part of this deputation.

The fight to simply have our voice heard goes back generations. This is not anything new for some of us.

Sadly, the current situation is not good enough for the people from my community.

Despite the investments from Government, and good intentions, far too many of my people continue to experience lower quality of life than non-Indigenous Australians.

The missing piece is clear to everyone I talk to from my community: We know what works best. For our children, our families, our communities. Doing things on our behalf doesn't work. We must see self-determination if we want to see change.

This is evident in a local context, where we have seen great results though the culturally informed programs we run at Wungening. Wungening Moort, an early intervention Child Protection program, has kept 92 per cent of children we have worked with out of the child protection system, when the parents were on a path to have their kids taken into care.

Boorloo Bidee Mia, our supported accommodation service, has provided over 30,000 nights of accommodation to rough sleepers who came to us straight off the pavements of Perth.

In some cases, they have been sleeping rough for over five years, and we have been able to support 100 people through that facility in under two years.

Imagine if these kinds of results could be replicated, across a range of programs, at a national level. I believe they can. The evidence and the data would suggest they can. But only if Aboriginal people are given a seat at the table. If we are able to have our voices heard. If we are able to be involved and heard in decision making processes that directly impact our communities, our families, and our lives.

So, the message I want to leave with you? This is personal. This transcends individuals. It has been a long time coming. We must see change. If not for us now, then for the children who won't have a say in this referendum, but who are heavily invested in it, and holding onto hope.

Thank you.

This statement was delivered by Daniel Morrison, chief executive officer of Wungening Aboriginal Corporation, at the Joint Select Committee for the Parliamentary Inquiry for the Voice Referendum.

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