Indigenous leaders from eight regions across Australia — from inner Sydney to the West Kimberley — have called on the Prime Minister and Opposition leader to act quickly on the Referendum Council’s recommendations.
Empowered Communities, an organisation that aims to work with government and corporate Australia to reform how Indigenous policies and programs are delivered, said in a statement its leaders want a better life for their children.
They have thrown their support behind the ‘Uluru Statement from the Heart’ and the Referendum Council’s final report.
The organisation’s high-profile leaders include Andrea Mason from the Ngaanyatjarra Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara lands, Chris Ingrey and Shane Phillips from inner Sydney, Denise Bowden from North East Arnhem Land, Fiona Jose and Noel Pearson from Cape York, Ian Trust from the East Kimberley, Marty Sibosado from the West Kimberley, Paul Briggs from Goulburn Murray and Sean Gordon from the Central Coast.
“Our goal is for our children to have the opportunity to prosper in mainstream Australia and be recognised as First Nations Australians — to succeed in both worlds,” Empowered Communities said.
“We work in our communities and regions, alongside Indigenous families and individuals disempowered by the very policies and programs designed to provide a hand-up and close the gap on social and economic disparity.
“New government policy and law with a significant impact on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples is frequently developed without input from those who will be most affected. The result is that a policy, developed in good faith and passed into law by Parliament, misses the mark.
“Successful implementation is impossible, money is wasted and those it is intended to benefit are left frustrated and angry. A First Nations voice to the Parliament with the power to advise on relevant new legislation as it is being developed has the potential to change flawed policy into good policy.”
The statement supported a referendum for a First Nations voice in the Constitution through an Indigenous advisory body to the Parliament, together with a declaration of recognition outside the Constitution.
The statement said that no matter how hard they worked in their regions to build self-reliance and opportunities, the “finish line” wouldn’t be crossed until structural change and real influence in decision-making had been achieved.
“A First Nations voice enshrined in the Constitution is the first crucial step,” it said. “At last the First Nations of this country will be guaranteed input into policies and laws that affect us.
“The Makarrata Commission, established in law outside the Constitution, to supervise a process of agreement-making between governments and First Nations, and truth-telling about our history, is vital to ensure that policies are implemented effectively — helping to empower our people to shoulder responsibility for their own affairs.
“We urge the Prime Minister and Opposition Leader to act quickly, in a spirit of bipartisanship, to implement the proposals of the Referendum Council. There is no time to waste.”