“I begin by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land on which we meet. I pay my respects to their elders past, present and emerging. And on behalf of the Australian Labor Party, I commit to the Uluru Statement from the heart in full,” said Albanese upon winning the 2022 Australian election.
Read on to learn what the Prime Minister referring to and what the commitment could mean for Australia’s First Nations people.
What is the Uluru Statement from the Heart?
The Uluru Statement from the Heart is a historic statement that was officially signed in 2017 by more than 250 delegates from First Nations communities.
Through months of discussion between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island representatives the Uluru Statement of the Heart was created.
It calls for a “constitutionally entrenched First Nations Voice to Parliament, and a Makarrata commission to oversee a process of treaty-making and truth-telling.”
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island peoples still have no mention in the Australian Consitution, which is considered the founding document of the nation.
In 2017, the statement was delivered to the government, which rejected the call for a Voice to Parliament, but since then a select committee has recommended the government “initiate a process of co-design [of the Voice] with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.”
What does it say?
The statement is “an invitation to the Australian people”, and calls for “the establishment of a First Nations Voice enshrined in the Constitution and a Makarrata Commission to supervise a process of agreement-making and truth-telling about our history.”
The full Uluru Statement from the Heart reads:
We, gathered at the 2017 National Constitutional Convention, coming from all points of the southern sky, make this statement from the heart:
Our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander tribes were the first sovereign Nations of the Australian continent and its adjacent islands, and possessed it under our own laws and customs.
This our ancestors did, according to the reckoning of our culture, from the Creation, according to the common law from ‘time immemorial’, and according to science more than 60,000 years ago.
This sovereignty is a spiritual notion: the ancestral tie between the land, or ‘mother nature’, and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples who were born therefrom, remain attached thereto, and must one day return thither to be united with our ancestors. This link is the basis of the ownership of the soil, or better, of sovereignty. It has never been ceded or extinguished, and co-exists with the sovereignty of the Crown.
How could it be otherwise? That peoples possessed a land for sixty millennia and this sacred link disappears from world history in merely the last two hundred years? With substantive constitutional change and structural reform, we believe this ancient sovereignty can shine through as a fuller expression of Australia’s nationhood.
Proportionally, we are the most incarcerated people on the planet. We are not an innately criminal people. Our children are aliened from their families at unprecedented rates. This cannot be because we have no love for them. And our youth languish in detention in obscene numbers. They should be our hope for the future.
These dimensions of our crisis tell plainly the structural nature of our problem. This is the torment of our powerlessness.
We seek constitutional reforms to empower our people and take a rightful place in our own country. When we have power over our destiny our children will flourish. They will walk in two worlds and their culture will be a gift to their country.
We call for the establishment of a First Nations Voice enshrined in the Constitution.
Makarrata is the culmination of our agenda: the coming together after a struggle. It captures our aspirations for a fair and truthful relationship with the people of Australia and a better future for our children based on justice and self-determination.
We seek a Makarrata Commission to supervise a process of agreement-making between governments and First Nations and truth-telling about our history.
In 1967 we were counted, in 2017 we seek to be heard. We leave base camp and start our trek across this vast country. We invite you to walk with us in a movement of the Australian people for a better future.
Will it be accepted by the new government?
By publicly committing to the statement, Prime Minister Albanese has initiated a major step forward, but it remains to be seen whether he will back up his words with actions.
Professor Megan Davis, a Cobble Cobble and South Sea Islander woman and Uluru Dialogue’s co-chair, says the first stage is to begin negotiations to get to a referendum.
“We are confident that under the leadership of Prime Minister Albanese, we will see a constitutionally enshrined voice, then treaty, then truth,” Davis said.
“We look forward to working alongside the new federal government in implementing the statement. We’re ready to go to work.”
To learn more about the Uluru Statement from the Heart, visit ulurustatement.org