A Nation’s Unfinished Business: Putting Power in the Hands of Its Indigenous People

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This year, Australians can vote concerning a potential amendment to enshrine an advisory group on Indigenous issues into our constitution.

Australians will vote in a referendum this upcoming year that requires them to respond with either an affirmative or negative reply concerning Indigenous people. Still, the nation faces numerous roadblocks on its path towards casting ballots.

Come October, and the Australian public will have their say in legislating an Indigenous voice to parliament within the constitution – a goal that Aboriginal activists have been striving for years.

As Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said, “It’s time we amend our nation’s ‘birth certificate'”. It is now up to voters to make this historical change and show appreciation for First Nations peoples by enshrining their recognition into law.

“This is a vote for all Australians,” Albanese said. “It is an opportunity to make progress and ensure that Indigenous people have the same rights, respect and recognition as everyone else.”

Imagined as a collective of elected Indigenous representatives, the Voice would provide invaluable advice and guidance to the Australian Parliament and Government concerning Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. This would stretch over areas such as jobs, health care, housing and justice, among many others.

To generate favourable results and beneficial policies for Indigenous people, involving them in decision-making at all levels is essential, from local communities to regional and national governments.

Parliament and government would have to consult with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people on matters that heavily involve their people. Still, no law could be overturned due to this consultation.

Significantly, the nation’s constitution must be amended to invoke change, necessitating a referendum.

The proposed Voice is the initial step in a series of reforms that activists claim will help close Australia’s “unfinished business” with its Indigenous peoples. Treaty-making and truth-telling are among the following steps towards this goal.

Voice, treaty and truth form the foundation of the Uluru statement from the heart. This momentous milestone in Australian history was generated due to extensive dialogues amongst thousands of Aboriginal individuals, culminating at a 2017 constitutional convention held at Uluru. Subsequently presented to all Australians, this Statement illustrated a unified desire for change and understanding among Indigenous people across Australia.

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