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 June Oscar AO, Bunuba woman and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner. Oscar has advocated tirelessly for First Nations social justice and is a signatory of the Statement.
On the ancient lands of the Anangu, dust settled and ink dried on a document that marked an extraordinary moment in Australia’s history.
From all points of the southern sky, we gathered in the centre of the country we’ve called home for more than 60,000 years, to endorse a statement that would pave the way for First Nations Peoples to have a voice enshrined in the Constitution.
A voice for us to participate in all matters that affect us. Matters that for so long, have been decided by others who think they know our lives better than we do: they do not.
On 26 May 2017, I joined hundreds of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders to sign the Uluru Statement from the Heart. It was the culmination of months of dialogues in kitchens, footy stadiums, backyards and community halls.
We knew that such statement would not be a magic bullet that would overcome the stark contrast between the lives of those who are Indigenous, and those who are not.
But this collective voice provided promise: rather than orbiting the central space of government policy, it carved a path for us to participate in those policies.
I was as proud then, as I am now, to see my signature alongside hundreds of others. Which brings me to something else: milestones.
They are to be celebrated, but not for celebration’s sake.
We must do far more, than mark the passage of time between key events in our nation’s history.
We must do far more, than recognise the wrongs of the past.
We must do far more, than hold onto hopes and dreams, longing for a better life.
Because, we can do far, far more.
Today, I’m issuing a call to action. To every single Australian, in every corner of our country.
All of us have a responsibility to reconcile the past with our present and to share the assets that are so richly available in this great country.
All of us are worthy and deserving of living to our fullest potential.
All of us should have access to high quality education, medical care, services and resources that enable us—encourage even—to live our very best lives.
But for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island Peoples, this is simply not the case. The statistics paint a dire picture of disadvantage, incarceration, poor education, and poor economic, health and social outcomes.
The Statement is our chance to turn this around, to get a seat at the table, where we can make decisions about our own lives.
We know this would make a difference. We know it is fair. We know many Australians agree. And I can promise you, we won’t stop until we get it.
The genesis of change, is you.
By June Oscar AO