This image of a ceremony was captured by Beverly Baker at the Yabun Festival. This festival is held annually in recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures in Australia. Yabun means ‘music to a beat’ in Gadigal language.
Let’s join together in support of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders by walking with them in the spirit of true reconciliation.
It is a privilege to be living in a country with the oldest continuous civilisation on earth, extending back over 65,000 years. When Australia was colonized by the British in 1788, it led to the displacement, oppression, and genocide of Indigenous peoples.
The Uluru Statement of the Heart is a powerful call to recognize and empower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in Australia. It is an invitation to all of us to recognize the sovereignty of First Nations peoples and engage in a process of truth-telling and treaty-making. OWN NSW joins other organizations across the country to say YES in the historic referendum as an important step towards reconciliation.
OWN NSW supports the Uluru Statement From the Heart, the call for a First Nation’s Voice enshrined in the Australian Constitution and a Makarrata Commission to oversee agreement-making and truth-telling.
We also acknowledge that sovereignty was never ceded.
Always Was, Always Will Be.
Enshrining a First Nations Voice to Parliament in the Australian Constitution is about enhancing the participation of First Nations people in the democratic life of the state.
It will mean that this country’s First Peoples will have a direct say on the laws and policies that affect us. Currently this does not occur and the change will compel the government to listen to communities.
VOICE, TREATY, TRUTH
OWN NSW supports a referendum to have a Voice to Parliament enshrined in the constitution and a YES vote at the upcoming referendum.
What is the Voice? Read “The Voice: what is it, where did it come from, and what can it achieve?” The Conversation by Appleby & Synot
A treaty is a signed, negotiated agreement that accepts our history and opens the door to a shared future. Australia doesn’t have a treaty with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples. OWN NSW believes a treaty would help secure sovereignty and self-determination.
What is a treaty? Read “What actually is a treaty? What could it mean for indigenous people? The Conversation by Hobbs, Norman & Walsh.
OWN NSW acknowledges the past injustices and we want all governments to create change to make a better future. Truth-telling involves working towards reconciliation by educating people about the true history of Australia, including the genocides, massacres, the Frontier Wars and ongoing discrimination and racism. OWN NSW is committed to supporting truth telling, educating ourselves and our community.
What is truth telling? Read “First Nations people have made a plea for ‘truth-telling’. By reckoning with its past, Australia can finally help improve our future”. The Conversation by Hurst & Maddison.
A Gadigal man performing a smoking ceremony at the Yabun festival. Photo by Beverly Baker.
What Action can you take?
Support an alteration to the constitution that establishes an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice – Vote ‘Yes’ at the referendum.
OWN NSW’s Aboriginal Support Circle
The Aboriginal Support Circle was formed in 1994 (during the decade of reconciliation) by a group of Aborignal and non-Aborignal women with the aim of studying our history, customs and culture and to spread this knowledge to the general population.
Resources to Familiarise ourselves With The issues
Watch Paul Keating’s 1992 Redfern Park Speech . In the speech, Keating became the first prime minister to acknowledge the impact of European settlement on the indigenous inhabitants of Australia, paving the way for a formal apology to Aboriginal Australians in 2007.
Watch Constitutional Clarion, short videos that answer common questions and concerns about the Voice to Parliament. Conducted by Anne Twomey, who is a Professor Emerita of the University of Sydney and has both taught and practised in constitutional law and policy for a long time.
First Nation peoples ARE 15 times more likely to be staying in improvised dwellings, tents or sleep rough & they make up 25% of the homeless population
5,820 First nations peoples make up 27% of the incarcerated population
8.6 years less for males
7.8 years less for females
AVERAGE LIFE EXPECTANCY FOR INDIGENOUS PEOPLES IS ON AVERAGE 8.6 YEARS LESS FOR MALES & 7.8 YEARS LESS FOR FEMALES THAN THE NON- INDIGENOUS POPULATION.
A conversation with
Lisa Jackson Pulver AM
Professor Lisa Jackson Pulver is a true trailblazer. She is a Professor of Public Health and Vice-Chancellor of Indigenous Strategy and Services at the University of Sydney. An educator, advocate, and sought-after commentator she has worked tirelessly to expand educational opportunities for Indigenous students.
Lisa is a proud Aboriginal woman with family connections in South Western NSW, South Australia and beyond. She was awarded an Order of Australia for services to medical education and support for Indigenous education. She is also a Group Captain in the Royal Australian Air Force Specialist Reserve.
To help better understand the Voice to Parliament and history behind the planned referendum, she shared her wisdom with OWN.
This is an edited version of the conversation:
I cannot understand why people just don’t say to themselves loudly and clearly ‘It’s about time’.
We’re calling the Camperdown campus of the University of Sydney nowadays the Gadigal campus, and I also lend my voice to respect to the people of this land, people of place and all those who have come before.
I first encountered the Older Women’s Network many years ago as part of the Women’s Reconciliation Network in the 90s. It was all part of the Australians for Reconciliation and we had some wonderful, magnificent older women. That’s something I really love, older women putting their voices for this.
I’ve been involved with Reconciliation for a long time and part of it for me is about the unfinished business of this land. It’s about being courageous enough to have a cold hard look at the Constitution and say ‘is this fit for purpose?’, “who was this thing made for?”. When you think about the Constitution, written in 1901, it was designed by White Anglo Saxon, primarily Protestant men.
There was not a person of colour, not an Aboriginal person and there certainly wasn’t a woman. And if we look at the demographic of Australia today, I think common sense would say “well, we’ve changed, we’re a very different nation”.
For a very, very long time, the unfinished business of this land is being like a festering wound, and this is a small step towards having recognition and the Constitution. It is so critically important.
On the Voice specifically, though, we have to be cautious. I’m seeing a lot of good people putting their hand up saying, ‘I don’t quite understand what this is about’ or ‘I don’t quite understand why they made the question like this’ or ‘do we really need to change it up for things to happen?’ and, “how will that change people’s lives on the ground?’. And a lot of the time I’m seeing people respectfully answering those questions.
So, I’m asking people to be very careful about their judgments of others who are asking questions, which 99% of the time is in all innocence of their desire to want to know more. I’m not seeing as much respect and love that should be expressed to people who are responding differently. I think as a nation we’re better than that.
We can have respectful discussions, we can have respectful disagreements and there will be some people whose minds will never be able to change either for or against, but there is a swathe of people in the middle who are asking the questions because they want to understand it better.
When you look at some of the debate that’s out there now, I don’t see that as being a bad thing. What I see as a bad thing is some misinformation that is informing some of the debate.
You know, I think it’s important that we try to take the hyperbole out of this argument. It is a deeply impassioned argument and it’s one of those arguments where for a very, very long time, Aboriginal people have not been recognised as the true sovereigns of this nation. And so for a very, very long time, the unfinished business of this land is like a festering wound, and this is a small step towards having recognition in the Constitution.
The other part of it is about the Voice to Parliament with structure to be confirmed. So, I don’t know why people would then put all this hyperbole around that, when it’s very simply about recognition in the Constitution and a mechanism to have a say in what happens to Aboriginal people, for Aboriginal people and by Aboriginal people.
I’m a research scientist, that’s my background. One of the things that we learned a very long time ago, is that if you’re doing research, or service delivery to Aboriginal people, then creating that service, or that policy, or that programme devised in the central multistorey buildings, then applying it the same way across all communities you’ll get nowhere fast. Why? Well, number one, Aboriginal people have not been a part of that process.
The whole idea of one size fits all won’t work either and we have learned that for decades and decades. So, why on earth is there a discussion about how authorities can still make decisions about Aboriginal policy, practice and services and stuff that affects Aboriginal people without having Aboriginal people there. We know that all the evidence tells us that doesn’t work.
You can’t make decisions that affect people without some of those same stakeholders being a part of that decision making process.
Being challenged and challenging with respect and love is the way we get the discussion happening and if people are upset about OWN’s position on The Voice, then it’s OK express that. Come to the meetings and allow yourself to be challenged on your opinion, as you challenge others on theirs. It’s not about being in solid agreement with each other. OWN has a real role of mentorship and yes, there’s always going to be people that feel disempowered and I’m really sorry, but let’s empower you, let’s hear you, let’s listen to you and let’s heal the things that drive us apart because this should not be driving us apart.
I was up at the Myall Creek massacre site some years ago and I had the privilege of doing a talk on the anniversary of the commemoration of the Myall Creek massacre (on June 1838, at least 28 Aboriginal people were massacred by a group of 12 Europeans at Myall Creek Station in Northern NSW). The people that brought the event together were a set of faith groups, as well as the people whose families were murdered, and people whose families were the people who committed the atrocities.
They all love and respect each other, they all care for each other and they come together annually to pay respects to a beautiful memorial that’s being built at Myall Creek to commemorate the achievement of peace, of healing, to never forget what happened on that land, in the hope that it will never happen again. And I have never been to anything more powerful because in that audience were other people who had learned that their families were part of that massacre as well, and came for the first time.
There is a tremendous power in healing and there are voices that feel disaffected, there are voices that have not been heard and those voices are on all sides and I think it’s a real shame in Australia that we can’t sit down and say, ‘let’s find a way so we can all be heard’.
That’s what this is really all about if we try and stop making it complicated. Going back to the Uluru Statement, reading it out loud. Standing in front of the mirror, download it and read it out loud to yourself. Hear it with your own voice, that’s what this thing is about.
I think Australians have got a really good opportunity by opening their ears to this and having a voice, to be able to say, “hey, here’s some new knowledge’ and be reciprocal about this, and respectful about that and not just close the door because of a narrow mindedness and fear about what that could mean.
It’s way overdue, let’s get it done and move on to the next part – how we as Australians all come together on this ancient land and learn from Australia’s First peoples because there is a lot there to share.