The Australian achievement is a free and prosperous society that works for its people and gives them a decent life. Despite a deep reservoir of goodwill, however, Indigenous Australians remain unequal sharers in this achievement.
When Indigenous leaders met at Uluru in May 2017, they sought to address the “torment of powerlessness” that continues to plague Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and which prevents them from sharing fully in the Australian achievement.
The Statement from the Heart and the Referendum Council’s final report recommended a constitutionally enshrined First Nations Voice to Parliament, adopting a Declaration of Recognition, and establishing a Makarrata Commission to facilitate truth-telling and agreement-making.
Neither the Indigenous leaders nor the Referendum Council provided the detail for their proposals. Each monograph in this series provides a set of options for different ways in which these proposals could be addressed.
These proposals are intended to empower Indigenous people to take responsibility for their futures. They acknowledge Indigenous peoples as equals with the capacity and the agency to address the problems facing their communities. They give them the space to explain and advocate for the different needs of different communities, and shift the relationship between Indigenous peoples and other Australians to one of greater listening, mutual respect and reciprocity.
Empirical economic data, academic literature and experience in local communities all suggest that there is a strong link between effective engagement with disadvantaged people and improved policy outcomes for them. A constitutionally-enshrined voice will ensure engagement with Indigenous peoples on matters affecting them and their communities.
Australian experience suggests that when governments and Indigenous peoples commit to making agreements relating to Indigenous history, culture, language and sacred sites, they can strike a balance which empowers communities and Indigenous entrepreneurs to increase commercial opportunities. Makarrata will build on this experience and establish it as foundation for moving forward together.
A statement of Australia’s Indigenous heritage and culture, British institutions, and multicultural diversity will affirm the significance of each of these for modern Australia and help unify all Australians by recognising the rightful place of each in the Australian achievement.