Sydney Peace Foundation Submission to support the Voice Referendum
INQUIRY INTO THE ABORIGINAL AND TORRES STRAIT ISLAND VOICE REFERENDUM
Constitution Alternation (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice) 2023
The Sydney Peace Foundation is a supporter of the Uluru Statement from the Heart in full. It supports the proposed amendment to the Constitution, and considers the wording delivers on the mandate of the Uluru Statement from the Heart.
Established in 1998, the Sydney Peace Foundation is a not-for-profit foundation of the University of Sydney. The Foundation is supported by the City of Sydney, and by additional organisations and individuals committed to peace with justice. The Foundation seeks to create dialogue and partnerships between business, media, community, government and the public service.
The Sydney Peace Foundation has an esteemed 25-year record of awarding the International Sydney Peace Prize to extraordinary and inspiring laureates and has deep and ongoing relationships with its laureates in the dialogue of peace with justice.
Our latest recipient of the SPP was the Uluru Statement from the Heart in 2022. Professor Megan Davis was awarded the prize with Pat Anderson and Noel Pearson. In her Peace Prize Lecture, delivered at the Town Hall in Sydney on 10th November 2022, Professor Davis told us:
“Aboriginal peoples know only too well: that the law can oppress, and the law can redeem. We know much about how the law can oppress. The law has played a role in the dispossession, oppression and subjugation of First Nations people from the Frontier Wars to Australia’s lengthy period of compulsory racial segregation benignly known as “the Protection era” to forced assimilation and stolen children and stolen wages.
As the Constitution and the federation and Australia’s nationhood came into being, our people were being forced from country and herded onto reserves and missions. Unbeknown to many Australians, from the late 1890s Aboriginal people were the subject of draconian protection (unfreedom) laws. Protection was required, in part, to prevent Aboriginal people from being indiscriminately murdered. It was the tail end of what we now know as Australia’s first Great Wars: the frontier wars. …
The brutality of the Australian state towards Aboriginal people imbues the constitutional system to this day. It is why I became a constitutional lawyer. Because Constitutions can create the material conditions for a dignified human life. Constitutions can provide the fundamental resources and material conditions that humans need to live a flourishing life and for Indigenous self-determination. This is what a constitutionally guaranteed seat at the table on decisions made about our lives looks like.“
We invite you to agree wholeheartedly.
The Sydney Peace Foundation supports the proposed constitutional amendment because it promotes peace with justice and delivers on the mandate of the Uluru Statement from the Heart.
The creation of the Voice would be a step towards the internationally recognised principle of self-determination as contained in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples – adopted by the UN General Assembly on 13th September 2007; see Article 42, below:
Indigenous peoples have the right to maintain and develop their political, economic and social systems or institutions, to be secure in the enjoyment of their own means of subsistence and development, and to engage freely in all their traditional and other economic activities.
The Voice, when implemented, will have a harmonizing effect, addressing racialised division and inequality, ensuring that Australian First Peoples will be empowered to engage in political debate more effectively at the parliamentary level, and significantly contribute to policy formulation and implementation at the executive level.
A constitutionally entrenched Voice, as in the proposed amendment, will allow Australian First Peoples to have confidence in the interconnected structure of national, regional and local Voices. Previous representative Australian First Nations’ bodies, such as the National Aboriginal Consultative Committee (NACC), the National Aboriginal Congress (NAC), and the Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC), have not had the status granted by constitutional protection/recognition. The proposed constitutional change will address this shortfall.
The Sydney Peace Foundation understands constitutional recognition, through an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice, is the form of recognition chosen by the Australian Indigenous community and it supports this self-determined position. The Sydney Peace Foundation agrees that the final amendment and referendum question are fit for purpose and are legally sound.
All the above are compelling reasons to vote “Yes”, and the Sydney Peace Foundation will continue to encourage others to do the same.
21 April, 2023