Since First Nations leaders called for a post-Referendum week of silence on 15 October, we, along with many like-minded organisations and individuals around Australia, have heeded this call and felt the pain and disappointment of our Indigenous brothers and sisters who fought so hard for a Yes outcome. As we emerge from this week of reflection and lamentation we have a responsibility to stand in solidarity with, and support, them.
In many respects, the greatest loss on 14 October was for our Australian nation and its ongoing struggle to grapple with the challenging history of the last 250 years. The Voice Referendum offered a first step to Constitutional recognition, truth-telling (Makaratta) and Treaty - a once-in-a-generation opportunity to draw a line in the festering wound that has been our colonial and settler past and the mistreatment of countless generations of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. The Voice was not to be but the journey is certainly not over and the fight towards justice continues.
As Australians, we are truly blessed to walk on the same country and share its beauty and vastness with our First Nations who have cared for it for more than sixty thousand years. This land was never ceded by First Nations people and their sovereignty, as so eloquently described in the Uluru Statement from the Heart, is a:
‘spiritual notion: the ancestral tie between the land, or ‘mother nature’, and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples who were born therefrom, remain attached thereto, and must one day return thither to be united with our ancestors. This link is the basis of the ownership of the soil, or better, of sovereignty. It has never been ceded or extinguished, and co-exists with the sovereignty of the Crown.’
We are acutely aware of the ongoing challenges faced by our First Nations, particularly in health, education and justice. Post-Referendum, we continue to walk alongside our First Nations brothers and sisters, ensuring that their voice is heard and amplified, supporting the called-for reforms that will lead to change for the better, maintaining a laser-like focus on progress towards social justice. We also commit to take every opportunity we can to build hope in the aftermath of the Referendum – not just for our First Nations family but for us all as Australians.
In solidarity and hope,