The Labor-initiated Joint Select Committee on Constitutional Recognition has today released its interim report, putting calls for a Voice for First Nations people back on the national agenda.
More than a year after the Uluru Statement from the Heart and the Final Report of the Referendum Council, the overwhelming evidence to this Committee is that First Nation’s people want a Voice, and a more meaningful say in the issues that impact their lives.
Nine months ago the Prime Minister rejected the Uluru Statement and the proposal for a Voice to Parliament through the Referendum Council, labelling it ‘undesirable’ and ‘unwinnable’ – characterising the Voice as a ‘third chamber of Parliament’.
Despite this, Labor fought to establish the Committee to keep the issue of constitutional recognition on the agenda of the Parliament.
Labor has worked hard through the committee to get cross party support for an Indigenous Voice to Parliament. Labor is pleased the interim report puts all options back on the table, including constitutional change and the establishment of regional Voices.
The Committee is an opportunity for the Parliament to work together to give First Nations people a Voice to Parliament and push forward a Makarrata commission to oversee truth-telling and agreement-making.
Labor remains committed to working with First Nations people, the broader community and the Parliament on this task.
Labor has always supported the Uluru Statement and remains committed to working with First Nations people to ensure their voices are heard – including through a voice to Parliament. It is time for the Prime Minister to reverse his position and back these calls.
Over the next few months the committee will be undertaking further consultations, traveling to other parts of Australia to speak with both First Nations and the broader community before delivering a final report in November.
In the absence of cross party support necessary to achieve constitutional change Labor has promised in government to legislate for a voice to honour the aspirations held in the Uluru statement, whilst not losing sight of the need for constitutional guarantee. We will work to build support for a referendum.
For the honour of our Nation, for the respect of all Australians, for the sake of equality and fair treatment – constitutional recognition of First Nations people must happen.
It will happen.