Change is needed to give Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people a say in the laws and policies that impact on them.
Australia has seen over two centuries of failed policies directed towards Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people; policies created from government without enough engagement from the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who are directly affected by them.
These policies have often been formed from good intentions but they have not delivered better outcomes.
In 2008, the Commonwealth, State and Territory governments committed to achieving equality for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in health and life expectancy within a generation through the Closing the Gap strategy.
The annual Closing the Gap report tracks progress against seven targets to bridge the gap between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and the rest of Australia. These targets are:
In February 2020, the Prime Minister reported that only two targets – early childhood education enrolment and Year 12 attainment – are on track to be met.
The Uluru Statement’s call for a Voice to a Parliament enshrined in the constitution provides a practical path forward to finally address the issues that governments alone have been unable to resolve.
A Voice to Parliament provides the foundation for better outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. They are the ones that have the best understanding of the challenges facing their families and communities. They know the strengths of their communities and what can be achieved when they are involved in designing programs and services meant for them.
A Voice to Parliament will empower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, allowing them to take ownership and responsibility for the challenges that they face, and work constructively with governments from any political party to develop the laws and policies needed to Close the Gap.
No matter where we come from, we can all agree we need to listen when Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians speak from the heart. It’s time we make this change for our shared future.