Aboriginal leader urges referendum no later than 2024: We want to be recognized

Suara.com – Aboriginal community leaders are urging the Australian Government as a result of the 2022 elections to hold a referendum within two years for the recognition of the constitutional rights of indigenous peoples.

The push for a referendum entitled First Nations Voice to Parliament has been running since 2017 after the Uluru Meeting which agreed on the need to establish a people’s representative institution for indigenous people in Australia.

The agency will be renamed the Voice to Parliament, and will have jurisdiction over Australian Government laws and policies that affect all indigenous peoples.

Five years later, the compilers of the Uluru Declaration gathered again in the City of Cairns, Queensland, on 10 April 2022, and agreed on a date for the referendum: 27 May 2023 or 27 January 2024.

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May 27 next year marks the 56th anniversary of the success of the 1967 Referendum, and the sixth anniversary of the Uluru Declaration.

“Preparations are complete and now it’s time to hold a referendum,” said Professor Megan Davis, co-chair of the Uluru Summit.

“Politicians were not ready to implement the Uluru Statement in 2017, but now the Australian people are ready,” he said.

In 2017, in Uluru in the middle of the Australian continent, hundreds of indigenous community leaders called for constitutional change, as Aboriginal people were not given a say in the laws that affect their lives.

Legal experts argue that the constitution should be amended so that Voice to Parliament becomes a permanent provision in Australia.

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Prime minister at the time, Malcolm Turnbull, rejecting the idea, on the pretext of not being able to win broad support from the Australian public.

But Pat Anderson, an Alyawarre woman and former Chair of the Referendum Council, said the federal government should carry out campaigning and outreach about the referendum.

“That is our goal, which is how to educate the general public so that we can get a voice that is enshrined in the (Australian) constitution,” he said.

Professor Megan Davis added that so far the push for a referendum has received support from various parties including trade unions and employers’ groups.

“We are very confident that the majority of Australians will vote YES in the referendum,” he said.

Related to the 1967 Referendum

The date for the proposed referendum was agreed last weekend in the cities of Cairns and Yarrabah, following the largest gathering of indigenous leaders in support of the Uluru Statement in 2017.

One of the figures, Alfred Neal (97), was also present and provided input at the meeting.

This figure who is familiarly called Pop is one of the Aboriginal activists who helped formulate the strategy for the 1967 Referendum.

“We want to be recognized,” Pop said.

The referendum will be the culmination of decades of work and campaigning for constitutional recognition of indigenous peoples.

PM Scott Morrison’s government has pledged AU$31.8 million to set up a new agency for representation of indigenous peoples through the 2022/23 Budget. The program will establish 35 institutions at the “local and regional” level across Australia.

“For an Indigenous representative body to work, it must have a strong foundation from the ground up,” said Australia’s Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Ken Wyatt.

However, the Coalition Government said that while it was committed to constitutional amendments and set aside $160 million for the referendum, it had not committed to a deadline for implementation.

“The Morrison government has consistently said that we will have a referendum once a consensus has been reached and at which point the referendum has the best chance of success,” Minister Wyatt said.

The opposition Labor Party has approved the Voice to Parliament referendum and has pledged to set up a “Makarrata Commission” to oversee the national process for the Australian government’s treaties with indigenous peoples and truth-telling of past events.

“The Labor government of Anthony Albanese will work closely with indigenous peoples to hold a referendum in our first term,” said Labor lawmaker Linda Burney.

“We want to maximize the chances of the referendum’s success and in a way that has broad support from indigenous peoples,” he added.

‘We need to try it’

Professor Megan Davis said the Voice to Parliament institution would help bridge the gap because it provides an opportunity for indigenous people to be involved in the formation of laws and policies that affect their lives.

“We haven’t tried this before. We need to try it, because most Australians have seen the previous attempts of Close the Gap, not closing the gap at all,” he said.

Bardi leader Nolan Hunter, who was present in Uluru in 2017, said the new campaign for the Voice to Parliament referendum was a continuation of indigenous peoples’ efforts “to be heard”.

“This institution is nothing new, it just continues the journey and messages from everyone before us,” he said.

Professor Davis hopes that the campaign for the establishment of the Voice to Parliament institution will be as successful as the 1967 Rereendum which created lasting change for indigenous people.

“We will change our nation as they once did [di tahun 1967]”he said.

Produced by Farid Ibrahim from article ABC News for Indonesian ABC.

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