The Uluru Statement from the Heart has been awarded the Sydney Peace Prize for 2021 four years after its inception, renewing the call for constitutional recognition of Australia’s First Peoples.
The prize was awarded on May 26, coinciding with National Sorry Day and the day the Statement was first released in 2017.
The Uluru Statement is described as an invitation from First Nations people for Australia to walk together for a better future. It calls for structural reform such as justice and self-determination for Indigenous people and, importantly, includes calls for constitutional change.
The two major recommendations from the Statement were to have a constitutionally recognised Indigenous Voice to Parliament, and a Makarrata process to investigate truth-telling and Treaty-making.
Four years on and these recommendations are yet to be implemented or put to a national referendum.
The Sydney Peace Prize judging panel acknowledged that the recommendations weren’t acted on and described the Statement as a “powerful and historic offering of peace” that was crucial to “healing within our nation”.
Accepting the award on behalf of all who worked on the Statement, First Nations leaders Professor Megan Davis, Pat Anderson AO, and Noel Pearson said the award was for the group and not the individuals.
“It’s a fantastic, amazingly wonderful thing to receive,” Ms Anderson said.
“Noel, Megan and I are receiving it on behalf of all of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples who attended the regional dialogues four years ago. It’s all their thinking. It’s all their work.”
Ms Anderson said she hoped the award would bring more awareness to the Statement. She urged the public to read it so they can help encourage the Government to act on the recommendations.
“We knew this before we left the centre of Australia that the only way to win this really was to appeal to the Australian public,” she said.
“After all, it’s the people who change constitutions.”
Ms Anderson also said the Statement has been translated into 63 languages through a partnership with SBS so that everyone can read the 439-word statement in their own language.
“I think people have this misconception that it’s a very long statement. But it’s not. It’s very emotional, it’s beautiful. And it’s very short. Everyone should read it,” she said.
Mr Pearson emphasised the need for the Australian people to urge the government to come together and to move towards healing and peace.
“As long as First Nations peoples remain unrecognised, then Australia is missing its most vital heart,” Mr Pearson said.
The Lowitja Institute, the national institute for Indigenous health research of which Ms Anderson is the long-standing chair, also commended the acknowledgement of the Uluru Statement at the awards.
“We congratulate all who were involved in the Uluru Statement and who have kept its call strong over the past four years, despite the dreadful failure of the Federal Government to embrace this gift for the nation,” chief executive Dr Janine Mohamed said.
“It is important to recognise that Reconciliation is a journey, not a destination, and it requires both courage and humility from leaders in all sectors.”
Some of the past winners of the Sydney Peace Prize include the Black Lives Matter movement, the #MeToo movement and Patrick Dodson.
By Teisha Cloos