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#AceNewsRoom With ‘Kindness & Wisdom’ July.30, 2022 @acebreakingnews
#AceBreakingNews – Uluru Statement in focus at Garma Festival
It is difficult to articulate the level of collective frustration and anxiety that has built up in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australia as government after government has kicked the can down the road — talking big but delivering little to empower First Australians in the Constitution.
Report after report, consultation after consultation, more talks, empty rhetoric, and policy paralysis has been the hallmark of Canberra. There’s been a cognitive dissonance — a lot of talk about the plight of the world’s oldest surviving culture but little, materially, to rectify it.
The last prime minister to come to the Garma Festival before Anthony Albanese’s arrival this weekend was Malcolm Turnbull, who broke hearts when he described a as a so-called “third chamber”. As a moderate Liberal prime minister, there was great hope that he would deliver.
There was also great hope that his successor, Scott Morrison, might have a change of heart — but that never came. He adopted rhetoric that sounded like something had changed; he wanted to do things “with” Indigenous people not “to” them. But he snubbed the most significant meeting of Black Australia, failing to show up to Garma and listen to Aboriginal voices on their existential angst about their culture, languages and law.
And it is existential. The Yolngu people worry about the maintenance of their culture, language and laws. Without a voice, they are worried that they will continue to go voiceless on their own country.
And so Indigenous leaders and communities have waited, enduring the pain of the pandemic and waiting — always waiting — to take their rightful place in the nation we call Australia. Their patience is unparalleled, their resilience remarkable.
A renewed hope
With Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s attendance at Garma, a great sense of elation that maybe, perhaps, something might be about to change has taken hold.
Hope is a powerful feeling. Respect from the highest elected office in the land has been left wanting.
Albanese, in his speech on Saturday, talked of more than 200 years of broken promises and betrayals, failures and false starts.
We have heard over and over from those fresh to the Opposition benches that the referendum lacks “detail”. And so the Prime Minister came to Garma seeking to partly answer that criticism and build momentum for a cause generations in the making.
The starting point, he says, is a recommendation to add three sentences to the Constitution:
1. There shall be a body, to be called the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice.
2. The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice may make representations to Parliament and the Executive Government on matters relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples.
3. The Parliament shall, subject to this Constitution, have power to make laws with respect to the composition, functions, powers and procedures of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice.
He argues we should consider asking our fellow Australians something as simple as in a referendum:
“Do you support an alteration to the Constitution that establishes an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice?”
He calls it a straightforward proposition, a simple principle. He says it is a question from the heart. He says there could be negotiation now about those words.
Supporters of the Uluru Statement have been agitating for a referendum date. On that, the Prime Minister has not delivered — yet.
The government is still hoping to receive bipartisanship on this, although there is growing anxiety and concern that perhaps the Peter Dutton Opposition may not deliver it. There is division that appears to be solidifying.
The Prime Minister invited the new shadow minister for Indigenous Australians Julian Leeser on the trip with him. The Garma Festival also invited the Opposition Leader, but he did not take up the invitation. Leeser is a well-known supporter of the change, but to succeed he needs to bring his partyroom with him. That task is enormous.
The Prime Minister says he hopes the opposition and the crossbench will support the proposal, join the campaign for a ‘yes’ vote and bring their supporters to the cause.
“We will seek out every ally and every advocate from ‘every point under the southern sky’,” he says.
The truth is that without bipartisanship the risk of failure at the ballot box becomes more real. And failure on a question as fundamental as this would be dangerous for a country that has struggled to right the wrongs of its past. What message would that send about how we regard First Nations people? Labor Ministers also worry that a ‘no’ vote would shame our country around the world.
So how can we contemplate the tyranny of voicelessness? How do we even consider the pain of fighting for survival in a nation that has been so unwilling to listen?
The storm clouds may be lifting
The road to change is never easy but for the first time in many years the pathway seems to be clearing — the storm clouds may be lifting.
The Prime Minister says he recognises the risks of failure but “we choose not to dwell on them because we see this referendum as a magnificent opportunity for Australia”.
Describing it as a long-overdue embrace of truth and justice and decency and respect for First Nations people, he has used the power of his office and political capital to spearhead this change.
In years to come, Albanese’s speech to Garma will be another of the key moments reflected on and taught in our long march towards reconciliation and justice.
Just like Paul Keating’s Redfern speech — quoted in Albanese’s speech at Garma — and Kevin Rudd’s apology to the Stolen Generations, the words will echo through the classrooms of Australia.
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