I have long been supportive of the need for a Treaty between indigenous and non-indigenous Australia and those that know me know I am writing in what little spare time I have, a book about why I think so. The book is aimed at convincing non-Indigenous people as I know most Indigenous people want one.
Yet I’m pleased that the need for a Treaty is at the centre of the recommendations of the 2017 National Constitution Convention outlined in the “Uluru Statement from the Heart”.
The statement acknowledges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander tribes were the first sovereign nations of Australia who have lived here in legal terms from “time immemorial”. This was sovereignty in a sacred sense and speaks to an ancestral tie with the land which was never ceded and which co-exists “with the sovereignty of the Crown”.
How could it be otherwise, the statement asks, for people who lived here for 60 millennia which could not disappear from world history “in merely the last two hundred years”?
Changing mere words in the constitution won’t fix that, but substantive change and structural reform might.
Despite not being innately criminal, Indigenous people are the most incarcerated in Australia, showing the “torment of our powerlessness”, they said.
In order for Indigenous people to “take their rightful place” in this country, the Convention has asked for a “First Nations Voice” in the Constitution.
That would take the form of a Treaty, or “makarrata”, a Yolgnu (NT) word meaning “the end of a dispute and the resumption of normal relations” or in the convention’s words “the coming together after a struggle”.
The convention has called for a Makarrata Commission to supervise a process of agreement making and “truth telling about our history”.
Harking back to the Referendum, in 1967 Indigenous people were counted, “in 2017 we seek to be heard”.
“We invite you to walk with us in a movement of the Australian people for a better future,” the final sentence reads.
Agreement and truth sound like a better future to me. I’m walking.
Cross posted from my North West Star editorial, Tuesday May 30, 2017.