To celebrate three years since First Nations Peoples came together on May 26, 2017 to create the Uluru Statement from the Heart, National Indigenous Times has invited champions of the movement to write about what the Statement means to them.
Today’s champion is Teela Reid, a Wiradjuri and Wailwan lawyer who participated in the initial dialogue process that set the foundations for the Statement.
The old cliché, ‘time heals everything’, is an illusion. It might heal some things, but not everything.
When I think about healing our giiny, meaning heart in Wiradjuri language, we have waited 250 years. One thing is for sure—blackfullas don’t have the luxury of time on our side. The truth is our people are dying before their time.
The Uluru Statement from the Heart is an idea whose time has come. It’s been three years since it collectively called to action an entire nation that so desperately needs to heal the wounds of its past.
It is a call to ‘walk with us’ in solidarity and put power back into the hands of First Nations people by establishing a constitutionally enshrined First Nations Voice.
It is a call to create an enduring accountability mechanism for First Nations issues that operates beyond political cycles. It’s the most crucial issue of our time.
As a human rights advocate and activist for the Uluru Statement, I’ve campaigned for a referendum to put the question to the Australian people to elevate the many Voices of First Nations into the national narrative. My giiny is often confronted by political elites saying to me, ‘You gotta wait your time’, or worse still, ‘It takes time to change things in Australia!’
But the passage of time itself won’t stop our mob getting locked up, blak deaths in custody or our kids being stolen. Being passive participants in a colonial system that has proven it will readily oppress us if we leave it to its own devices won’t stop these injustices either.
I’ve seen our own mob challenge the idea of a First Nations Voice whilst at the same time call for another Royal Commission, put their hand up to run in the next election, or say it’ll take at least 25 years until a real Treaty is realised. It’s not that radical.
In order to disrupt the status quo, we must go against the orthodox.
Preaching abolition from the outside is one thing, showing up and dismantling colonial legacies from the inside is a whole different battlefield.
As a lawyer, I’ve been at the frontline of the criminal justice system during a global pandemic. It’s a polarising experience to observe the outside world slow down, while the tension rises inside prisons.
One of my clients witnessed the stabbing death of another inmate, some are making bail, and others don’t have homes to go to. Few avoid custodial sentences and while defended hearings are suspended, the police force is armed with more surveillance powers during this health crisis.
I’m not trying to suggest healing happens within the confines of the colony, but I have seen these institutions shatter hearts into pieces because of the power they hold over individual liberties.
Time itself doesn’t heal our hearts; people have the power to harness healing. The only time is now, and I refuse to sit back and let our Elders and old people pass on with broken giinys.
The time to action the Uluru Statement from the Heart is always now.
By Teela Reid