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'Time to take control': Kimberley First Nations leaders pledge Voice support

David Prestipino -

First Nations representative bodies in the Kimberley have pledged their support for a Voice to Parliament after a three-day gathering in the region.

The Kimberley Land Council, Kimberley Aboriginal Law and Culture Centre, Kimberley Language Resource Centre, Aarnja and Empowered Young Leaders held their 2023 AGMs last week at Home Valley Station, in the east Kimberley, where they discussed their support for the referendum, which will be held on Saturday October 14.

More than 400 First Nations people from the Kimberley attended the AGMs, which will held over three days and lead to members drafting the 'Home Valley Statement'.

The statement was read to Indigenous Australians minister Linda Burney via zoom during the KLC AGM last Thursday and formally sent to her office this week.

"We, the members of the five representative organisations of the Kimberley pledge our full support to an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice in the Constitution and the Uluru Statement from the Heart in full," the Home Valley Statement said.

"As leaders from across the country gathered at Uluru in 2017, inviting the Australian people to make simple but significant change, we issue this karn-karn, asking for constitutional recognition, and a healing of our nation.

"We make this statement in acknowledgment of our Elders, the giants on whose shoulders we stand, and the for the next generation, the young people whose futures are in Australia's hands."

The organisations go on to acknowledge the significant steps Indigenous leaders, elders and native title holders have taken since the late 1970s to create a better Australia for First Nations people.

"At Noonkanbah in 1978, our leaders took an important first step in the history of reconciliation in Australia, fighting for land rights," they said.

"At Crocodile Hole in 1991, we called for regional representation, a voice and a seat at the table.

"At Broome in 2017, Kimberley people resolved that meaningful and practical recognition was the only way forward.

"And today, at Home Valley Station, we urge you, the Australian people, to vote 'yes' in the forthcoming referendum."

The joint statement noted that the Uluru Statement from the Heart was "grown and shaped by Indigenous people as the conversation travelled across the nation" and "asks Australians to listen, to create a new path forward and a better Australia for all".

"Not a path designed by bureaucrats or politicians, or those vulnerable to the electoral cycle, but a path shaped by the lived experience of Indigenous people across the nation," they said.

The alliance of Kimberley organisations noted that Indigenous people had been forced to work within a system that had failed generation after generation, and it was time all Australians were prepared to say no to the continued perseverance of the same approach and give the "first people of Australia" a say in the laws that affect them.

"Now we ask for the opportunity to speak truth to that system so that we can take control of our lives," the statement said.

"Australians see the gap – the incarceration rates and education outcomes, the life expectancy and poor health.

"And they overwhelmingly want practical and effective action – a voice direct from the people, improving lives in communities on the ground.

"We have a once in a generation opportunity before us. To vote yes is to stand beside us, to give our people the seat at the table, a voice that can affect real and long-lasting change."

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