Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice

(Support for the Voice, 23 May 2023, Legislative Assembly, NSW Parliament)

 I support this important public interest debate and thank the Minister for bringing it to this House and congratulate him on his appointment to his important role at this important time. Australia is fortunate to have one of the oldest living civilisations in the world, one that is rich in culture, with over 250 languages, unique traditions, magnificent art and an inspiring spiritual connection to country and nature. The Sydney electorate is within the Eora nation of the Gadigal people. We have strong communities of Aboriginal people throughout, but especially in Woolloomooloo and Pyrmont. As Australia matures and embraces its Aboriginal culture, closing the gap of Indigenous disadvantage caused by over two centuries of dispossession and racism must be a priority.

Health, mental health, education, justice, out‑of‑home care, housing and employment outcomes still fall short of a truly equal society. We urgently need culturally sensitive policies and strong investment. But we will only move forward if we work in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, communities and organisations. A shift to a more collaborative approach with self-determination at the forefront is vital to progress and is what Aboriginal people have said will eliminate disadvantage, through the Uluru Statement from the Heart. The May 2017 First Nations National Constitutional Convention established the Uluru Statement from the Heart. The statement affirms sovereignty and the longstanding connection Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have with land and sea, while calling for a representative Voice to Parliament, a treaty—or Makarrata—through a Makarrata commission and recognition of Indigenous people in our Constitution.

I welcome the Federal Government's process of initiating a referendum for an Indigenous Voice to Parliament. A constitutionally entrenched Indigenous voice will firmly redress the history of poor or non-existent consultation and dialogue with First Nations communities. All levels of government can take action. It is so important that this Parliament is sending this message so early on in this term. I also acknowledge the work of the Federal member for Wentworth, Allegra Spender, on her campaign "Wentworth for the Voice". The City of Sydney, under the leadership of Lord Mayor Clover Moore, will also show its support through a "yes" campaign, as it did during the marriage equality plebiscite.

I am confident that Australia will vote yes, but supportive community campaigns and a strong result will make it even more uniting. As someone who has led a campaign on a national vote, I know it can be difficult and challenging. But, ultimately, it can and will unite us and reaffirm our national values of respect, fairness and equality, which was what happened when the final legislation for marriage equality went through. Of course, the frustrating thing is that we did not need a public vote to achieve marriage equality, yet the former Federal Coalition imposed one on us. For many LGBTQI+ people, that makes the Federal Coalition's opposition to the referendum required to achieve constitutional recognition for a Voice to Parliament even more frustrating.

The Voice to Parliament is a vital step towards reconciliation. I have no doubt that the vote will be the most consequential vote I will make in my lifetime. Of course, more action is needed towards reconciliation. I also welcome the Minns Government's commitment to consulting on a treaty process, which is also long overdue. I commend the motion to the House.

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