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"Consistent with International Human Rights Law": Uluru Dialogue member Bridget Cama on the Voice

Jess Whaler -

A young girl from Lithgow has grown to become one of the two creators of the Uluru Youth Dialogue.

Wiradjuri Lawyer Bridget Cama knew in Year 9 that she wanted to study law, being the first in her family to pursue higher education.

Moving away from home to the University of New South Wales (UNSW) was difficult, however she soon found success through the support of peer groups, good leadership and role models.

In her first semester, a law lecturer made a positive and lasting impact.

"My teacher taught it from a very social justice perspective and that's when I really understood that the law isn't actually just black and white, there's a lot of grey involved, and that the law is made to change," Ms Cama said.

"We are really fortunate in Australia that we live in a democracy and that we elect our representatives to create those laws and they do change over time. Everything started falling into place and I started to understand that laws can positively or negatively affect particular different groups of people.

"In my own community, my own family, I started to understand we were disproportionately impacted and that's why some of those challenges and issues existed."

Ms Cama speaks positively of Nura Gili, the Indigenous student Centre at UNSW and the Director of the centre Professor Martin Nakata.

"He was an amazing leader, he really empowered students."

"When you see someone in that position and you see that they are like me and I can be like that."

Strong and powerful Indigenous women that have inspired Ms Cama throughout her university studies and ongoing efforts campaigning for a 'Voice to Parliament', include the likes of Professor Megan Davis and Professor Larissa Behrendt.

"I remember reading their work and recognising how fresh their ideas were and how strong their arguments are, who they are and how they were raised and brought up and that really shines through in their work," she said.

"They are driven by wanting to make a better place for our people. That comes through in their work whilst using western law and western mechanisms and processes to deliver that, so I think that's really powerful".

Through her studies Ms Cama realised she was drawn to the law profession to make positive, structural and systemic change.

Ms Cama said she was in her final years at university when she started paying attention to the conversations around the dialogue and was watching it from a distance.

"I felt optimistic whilst also thinking 'well, will this result in Voice, Treaty and Truth being implemented as was called for in the statement?'"

She felt disappointed when Malcolm Turnbull rejected the statement, but said through the fearless perseverance of "really strong, staunch and deadly female leaders" such as Aunty Pat Anderson AO and Professor Megan Davis, who at the time had said "well, no isn't good enough", that the Voice is where it is today.

ialogue Co-Chair Bridget Cama, Pat Anderson AO, Professor Megan Davis and Uluru Youth Dialogue Co-Chair Allira Davis during the launch of the Uluru Youth Dialogue Ambassador Program (AAP: supplied)

Uluru Dialogue Co-Chair Bridget Cama, Pat Anderson AO, Professor Megan Davis and Uluru Youth Dialogue Co-Chair Allira Davis during the launch of the Uluru Youth Dialogue Ambassador Program.

On the importance of a Youth Dialogue, Ms Cama said "Our young people are really integral to this movement and we see things differently, we have different perspectives and different lived experiences and we're really passionate and energised about it because we want to see some positive change in our lifetime."

"I just want to stress that it's not a scary thing, this proposal of the Voice is consistent with International Human Rights Law."

In addressing questions around sovereignty Ms Cama hoped to clarify for those who have concerns.

"When it comes to sovereignty, it is something that we as First Nations right across this country hold and it's only something that can be given up by us," she said.

"A referendum on the Voice or the 1967 referendum, which was the most successful in our shared history, never impacted on our sovereignty or ceded our sovereignty.

"It is something that only we can cede or give up or compromise and if we do go through a national Treaty negotiation process, it is something that we will have to consider then."

"When it comes to this proposal, the Voice, reform and referendum - if it is successful it will not in any way shape or form compromise or cede our sovereignty. That question still comes up in community and it's a genuine concern and that's why it's important to have the conversation so we can work through some of those things."

The Uluru Youth Dialogue will continue to provide community workshops and will be taking care of their mental health during this period. When asked about how they are managing negativity around the Voice, Ms Cama said "As young mob, we are definitely feeling it."

Ms Cama said the dialogue intended to engage in fact-based conversation with communities.

She said that there is information being passed around that "just aren't true" and that social media is playing a big role in this.

With the referendum to be held later this year, Ms Cama said she hoped to see further Indigenous rights developments in the future.

"In my lifetime I would love to see the Uluru Statement of the Heart implemented in full," she said.

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