U&R speaks at Gilbert + Tobin
Gilbert + Tobin staff were invited to a lunchtime seminar with Uphold & Recognise (U&R) to discuss recent calls for the constitutional recognition of Indigenous peoples. U&R Chair, Sean Gordon, was scheduled to speak, but could not attend at the last minute. David Allinson, U&R’s CEO spoke in his place.
The Uluru Statement from the Heart was presented to the Australian people on May 2017. It calls for a 'Voice to Parliament', a representative body to advise Parliament on Indigenous affairs. The Constitution would be amended to recognise Indigenous people by giving them a voice to Parliament, and thereby recognising them in a substantive, rather than purely symbolic, change. The Uluru Statement also calls for a Commission of Makarrata to oversee truth-telling and treaties, something Indigenous people have been calling for over decades of advocacy.
The Uluru Statement was the product of consultation with over 1300 Indigenous people, including 60% traditional owners, 20% community organisations and 20% of key individuals. It was the most comprehensive government consultation with Indigenous peoples in colonial history.
“Constitutional reform is not the solution to all the problems facing Indigenous peoples in Australia,” said David, “but if a guaranteed say in the laws and policies that affect them would help, there are a variety of ways that could happen”. “Some people have suggested that this is legally risky: a ‘third chamber of parliament’, or that it introduces a ‘racial qualification to sit in Parliament’,” said David, “these documents show how you could make this happen without raising those issues”.
Uphold & Recognise has worked with Allens lawyers and a large advisory council to produce policy options for progressing the Uluru Statement. This was to answer suggestions that the Uluru Statement is full of “big ideas, but light on detail”. The policy challenge has been to recognise Indigenous peoples in a way that accommodates our existing democratic arrangements and upholds our valuable constitutional traditions.
Late last year a Parliamentary committee recommended a co-design process for the voice to parliament be undertaken between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and the Australian Government.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has told Parliament he supports constitutional reform, but that he has concerns about how the voice might work. Labor, also supportive of constitutional recognition, has committed to holding a referendum to change the constitution within its first term if it wins the federal election in May 2019. David said that, “it will be up to all Australians of good will to make it clear that meaningful recognition and reconciliation is something all Australians want to see happen.”
If you are interested in the contribution Uphold & Recognise has made to the public conversation you can find its policy documents, Upholding the Big Ideas, by clicking here.
Sean Gordon is the Chair of U&R. He is the Managing Partner of Gidgee Group, the chair of the National Empowered Communities Leadership Group, the chair of the Commonwealth Bank’s Indigenous Advisory Council, and has previously served as the CEO of the Darkinjung Aboriginal Land Council on the Central Coast.
David Allinson is the CEO of U&R. He has taught philosophy at the University of Sydney and Notre Dame and has lectured on law at Exeter College, Oxford. He has served at Yawooroong Miriuwung Gajerrong Yirrgeb Noong Dawang Aboriginal Corporation in Western Australia and at the Department of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships, Queensland.