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AEU Federal Conference statement in support of a Yes vote in upcoming referendum

The Uluru Statement from the Heart and Yes to Voice

We urge all Australians to hear the voices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
peoples who call for support, for the Voice to Parliament in the Australian
Constitution.

Parliaments have made laws and continued to implement failed policies for
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Previous laws have often entrenched
discrimination and disadvantage such as forcing Aboriginal and Torres Strait
people to work for free or below legal minimum wages since colonisation.

A Voice enshrined in the Constitution will give Aboriginal and Torres Strait
Islander peoples a direct line to Parliament to provide advice on any laws and
policies that directly affect them.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people warrant their voice being respected
and listened to before laws and policies are made as a fundamental commitment of
government and community.

In 2017 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community representatives forged
an historic consensus around the Uluru Statement. The Uluru Statement from the
Heart is a profound call from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples for
constitutional change and structural reform in their relationship with Australia. A
relationship based on truth, justice, fairness and self-determination where
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures can flourish and Australia as a nation
can reach its full potential.

An invitation was issued to all Australians and at the AEU Annual Federal
Conference 2018, we accepted that invitation to walk together in a movement of
the Australian people for a better future. We have since repeated our acceptance
and today we stand with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in this
struggle.

The Uluru Statement from the Heart calls for three interconnected changes: Voice,
Treaty and Truth. The Voice is the first change, it calls for having Aboriginal and
Torres Strait Islander People voices enshrined in the constitution. This voice is to
be supported by a Makarrata commission to supervise a process for both
agreement making between Government and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
people (Treaty) and truth telling (Truth).

Achievement of Constitutional recognition will provide a clear and practical path
forward for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander self-determination in accordance
with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Article 3
of the Declaration recognises that before any new laws or policies affecting
Indigenous Peoples are adopted, ‘States shall consult and cooperate in good faith
with the Indigenous Peoples concerned through their own representative
institutions in order to obtain their free, prior and informed consent.’

Reform is needed for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in this country.
Since colonisation Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have fought
against discrimination and dispossession. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
people have been calling for representation in decision making about their own
affairs. Some examples include:

▪ In 1937 the Australian Aboriginal League petitioned King George V.
▪ 1938 the Day of Mourning.
▪ 1963 the Bark Petitions.
▪ 1967 the referendum.
▪ 1972 Larrakia Petition.
▪ 1988 Barunga Statement.
▪ 1992 Mabo decision.
▪ 1995 Social Justice Package by ATSIC.
▪ 2015 Kirribilli Statement, 2017 Uluru Statement of the Heart.

In 2023 the objectives of the Uluru statement of the Heart must be achieved via the Voice Referendum.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Sovereignty is asserted in the Uluru
Statement, it is recognised that Sovereignty is not undermined nor diminished by
this reform. Some states have already recognised Aboriginal and Torres Strait
Islanders in State constitutions. First Nations peoples around the world are already
acknowledged and recognised in some colonising countries. These countries have
constitution clauses to support and gain progress for their First Nations People.

Canada has the Assembly of First Nations.

New Zealand has the Māori Council.

Sweden, Finland, and Norway have Saami Parliaments which act as advisory
bodies to governments.

It is long overdue for Australia to reset its relationship with Aboriginal and Torres
Strait Islander peoples and Communities. Previous governments have shamefully
and severely diminished the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
With a diminution of human rights comes the subsequent diminution of living
standards, life chances, and access to adequate and appropriate services, including
education.

After over 65,000 years of continuous culture, it’s time Aboriginal and Torres
Strait Islander people are recognised in Australia’s 122-year-old Constitution.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people want recognition in a practical form
by having a say on issues and policies that impact their lives.

This year the union movement has the chance to make history by campaigning for
a “Yes” vote in the upcoming referendum.

Following active engagement with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander members
and Yalukit Yulendj as their voice in the AEU, the AEU Federal Conference has
acknowledged this entitlement and accepted the invitation extended in the Uluru
Statement of the Heart.

The AEU is committed to ensuring that the voices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait
Islander peoples are at the forefront of all decision making and that all preschools,
schools, TAFE and workplaces are Culturally Safe environments. This will also be
reflected through the AEU’s commitment to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
members providing the leadership required for the AEU’s campaign for a “Yes”
vote in the upcoming referendum.

The AEU affirms our commitment to achieve these outcomes. We will commit the
resources necessary to campaign for a Yes vote in the upcoming Referendum.

Moved: Russell Honnery
Seconded: Correna Haythorpe

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