When speaking of their victory in the Federal election on the night of 21 May 2022, the Foreign Minister-elect and Prime Minster-elect both gave an indication of how their Government would approach indigenous recognition and representation nationally, in just the 3rd sentences of their respective speeches – Penny Wong's,
"tonight we can take that step forward to fulfilling... to fulfilling the promise of the Uluru Statement From the Heart1.";
And Anthony Albanese's
"And on behalf of the Australian Labor party, I commit to the Uluru Statement from the Heart in full2".
The time that has passed between the Uluru Statement of the Heart being announced and the new Government's election is almost 5 years exactly. The Statement was released on 26 May 2017, as the result of the First Nations National Constitutional Convention, itself the culmination of the Referendum Council, which was jointly created by then Prime Minster Malcolm Turnbull, and then Opposition Leader, Bill Shorten.
Whilst the entire statement is just under 440 words3, the two key components are the call for the establishment of a First Nations Voice enshrined in the Constitution and a Makarrata Commission to supervise a process of agreement-making between governments and First Nations and truth-telling about the Indigenous history4.
The Turnbull Government rejected the statement, based on the belief that such an addition was neither desirable or would be successful in a referendum5. The door remained closed, until Ken Wyatt, became the first Indigenous Cabinet member, as the Minister for Indigenous Australians in May 2019. Five months later, Mr Wyatt announced the commencement of a co-design process to "develop models to enhance local and regional decision-making and provide a voice for Indigenous Australians to government6". A final report was released in November 2021 however did not receive Labor support, with Linda Burney MP, stating the new report and plan bore no resemblance to the Uluru Statement7.
Ms Burney, a Wiradjuri woman, who will be the new Minister for Indigenous Australians, will now have the responsibility of working to enact the Statement in full, as soon as possible.
As an indigenous person in parliament at least, she will not be alone – a record 10 people identifying as Indigenous have been elected8, across the House and the Senate. Of the total persons in both houses, Indigenous persons will now equate to 4.4%, which is actually higher than the total Indigenous Australian population of 3.3%9.
What this all means moving forward for Indigenous issues of recognition, justice, education, and other socio-economic considerations, is yet to been known. But at least, from the first day of the newly elected Government and Parliament, there is now a pathway of providing voices and representation for the First Nations peoples of this country.
1Australian News Live Blog, The Guardian, 21 May 2022, https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/live/2022/may/21/australian-election-2022-live-news-today-australia-federal-anthony-albanese-scott-morrison-who-won-winning-opinion-polls-polling-vote-labor-coalition-liberals-greens-independents-candidates-seats-odds-results-politics-latest-updates?page=with:block-6288ee3b8f08a8124b150771&filterKeyEvents=false
5 Grattan, M 'Turnbull government says no to Indigenous 'Voice to Parliament', The Conversation, 26 October 2017, https://theconversation.com/turnbull-government-says-no-to-indigenous-voice-to-parliament-86421
6 Media Release – A voice for Indigenous Australians, Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, 30 October 2019 https://ministers.pmc.gov.au/wyatt/2019/voice-indigenous-australians
7Wellington S and Wellauer K, Indigenous Voice to Parliament plan revealed after years of lobbying, but Labor gives it a 'fail', ABC News, 17 December 2021, https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-12-17/indigenous-voice-to-parliament/100708186
8Collard, S These First Nations politicians are headed for Canberra, NITV, 23 May 2022, https://www.sbs.com.au/nitv/article/2022/05/23/these-first-nations-politicians-are-headed-canberra-1
9Zaumayr, T Full List: Record Number of Indigenous MPs voted in to serve Australian people, National Indigenous Times, 23 May 2022, https://www.nit.com.au/full-list-record-number-of-indigenous-mps-voted-in-to-serve-the-australian-people/
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