Parliament Updates

Zali Steggall speaks in support of the Uluru Statement

21 November 2022


It's a great honour to be speaking today in this place on the Uluru Statement from the Heart and concurring with the motion moved by the member for Robertson. I wear with pride the pin to say that I support the Uluru statement. Before I begin, I'd like to acknowledge the Ngunnawal and Ngambri people, the traditional custodians of this land on which parliament stands, and pay my respects to their elders past, present and emerging. I also acknowledge that the history of Warringah land, which I represent in this place, is complex and that there is a need for healing. I express my heartfelt thanks to our local communities, and I am committed to learning from and nurturing the world's oldest adapting culture and our First Peoples' connection to land, sea and sky.

Directly opposite the front steps to Old Parliament House, the Aboriginal Tent Embassy sits centrestage. It reminds us all that sovereignty over these lands was never ceded. Australia's first people have been here for over 60,000 years, and the 200 or so years since British arrival do nothing to extinguish their sacred link to the land. The unbroken and unmistakable strength of Indigenous culture across Australia, despite continued and relentless discrimination, serves as a testament to their cultural fortitude. It is those people who make up the oldest continuous culture on Earth that makes our nation so unique and so special, and there is much for us to learn from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people's close and unique relationship with these lands.

Yet there is a shocking and continuous history of mistreatment against this land's First People. Currently there are more Indigenous children being removed from their homes than at even the height of the Stolen Generation. In 2020 the Family matters report forecast that this number will double by 2029 if nothing is done. Yet we have seen only the most minimal effort put into making any meaningful change. Additionally, the Uluru Statement makes no mistake when it says that Indigenous Australians are proportionately the most incarcerated people on Earth. And while last year's census revealed that around one in 31 Australian citizens are of Indigenous heritage, the Australian Institute of Criminology reported that almost one in four deaths in custody in the most recent quarter of 2022 were Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people. These are shocking statistics.

The system has failed and continues to fail. It's time to act. To meaningfully change this system we must listen to those it fails. The Uluru Statement calls for a commission to supervise a process of agreement-making between governments and First Nations and truth-telling about our history. This commission is called the Makarrata, which means 'coming together after a struggle' in the Yolngu language. This name encapsulates what the commission would do: creating a voice for meaningful and constructive dialogue and agreement between Indigenous and non-indigenous Australians.

Australia remains the only Commonwealth country to not have a treaty with its Indigenous people. Yet, through the Makarrata commission, we can begin to change this. The Uluru Statement from the Heart provides great insight:

In 1967 we were counted, in 2017 we seek to be heard.

Five years after this statement, Australians are finally getting the opportunity to change the course of history for the better, just as we did 55 years ago. Here lies the opportunity to change the Constitution and enshrine an Indigenous Voice. In the words of Pat Anderson, one of the architects of the Uluru Statement:

There comes a time when you are at the ballot box and it's just you and your conscience.

This is probably one of the biggest things we are ever going to do. After five years were wasted ignoring the Uluru Statement, we are now finally seeing some meaningful progress. I welcome the government's commitment to implement the Uluru Statement in full. The Uluru Statement ends with an invitation to all Australians to walk together for a better future. I accept that invitation and urge everyone to do the same.

We know that the referendum is likely to be held during the course of next year, but there is one thing we must do in advance, and that is to legislate to stop misinformation in advertising relating to the referendum. Next week I will present Stop the Lies, a private member's bill to legislate against misleading and deceptive statements in political and referendum advertising. Under no circumstances should we allow the lack of legislation to have the naysayers misinform the Australian public as to what the Uluru Statement seeks to do. We must ensure that we have trust and confidence in the process. This is too big a moment in time to let fake advertising and misleading statements derail it. Thank you.