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Do First Nations People really know what the Uluru Statement From the Heart is?

[by Wayne Connop]


Wayne Connop with Daly River locals. Image: supplied

Former Indigenous Barrister from the Northern Territory, Wayne Connop, warns the new Labor government to be aware of what Indigenous Australians seek from them when talking about a Treaty.


The Uluru statement was classic example of disengagement, and most indigenous people I have spoken to wonder why the grass roots don’t understand what the Uluru statement from the Heart is about. They weren’t consulted, remain confused about what it is, what a treaty is (or might comprise of), and what a Makarrata Truth Telling Commission is and how this can be of benefit to them. Most people in remote regions have never heard of this debate, and language and cultural issues have not been addressed. Across the age and gender spectrum, there has been a lack of consultation.  


One could argue that the Federal election outcome was very successful in electing Indigenous people, in particular our Indigenous women, as they have made history. The Indigenous voice needs to take us seriously from the grass roots and not political lines, and whether First nations’ people have a Treaty, Makarrata or a voice for our people enshrined in the Australian Constitution should be addressed immediately. The government have provisions to implement interim legislation immediately by using parliamentary processes and execute the immediate structure for a Makarrata Commission.


The elected government need to understand very clearly that Indigenous people have various languages, cultures, identities, and Indigenous world views, and should not be taken for granted, as treaty processes are a very serious investment for our country in the eyes of foreign countries and entities. Governments need to explore express and implied powers and exceptions, to see what powers can be and cannot be used to create better laws for our people.


Constitutional powers need to be used as a driver to make better laws and policies for Indigenous Affairs and our Indigenous community standards, which are at the forefront of public policy reform for the improvement of Indigenous affairs. Indigenous people must be consulted, and this process should incorporate an economic development and social welfare plan that is tailored to specific regions and communities.


Indigenous people need the government to go back to the basics, renew consultation, and negotiation methods and processes, and include talks with elders on the ground and ask young people what they want, not tell us what’s best for us because it suits government audit reports and accountability requirements. Such practice conduces failed and perpetual statistics. Indigenous Affairs needs to be immediately revitalized, with development of new invigorating policies and policy directions that need to be redesigned to meet our community standards.


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