Government’s rejection of Indigenous “Voice to Parliament” is a weak response

Government’s rejection of Indigenous “Voice to Parliament” is a weak response

The President of the Uniting Church, Stuart McMillan, has described the Federal Government’s failure to embrace greater national representation for First Peoples, as a weak response.

Last week, Prime Minister Malcom Turnbull rejected the idea of an Indigenous representative body that would be a “Voice to Parliament”.  Mr Turnbull called the proposed advisory body as neither “desirable or capable of winning acceptance” adding that a Constitutional amendment should not undermine the universal principles of unity, equality and “one person one vote”.

“I’m very disappointed that 50 years after Australia gave the First Australians a vote Malcolm Turnbull’s Government has refused them a voice,” said Mr McMillan.

The Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress (UAICC) National Chairperson, Rev. Dennis Corowa, said the government’s response was a missed opportunity.

“The Government had a historic opportunity to recognise and honour the sovereignty of First Peoples through the proposal coming from the Uluru Statement from the Heart,” said Rev. Corowa.

The proposal of the “Voice to Parliament” was a direct result from the three day Uluru meeting in May 2017.  At Uluru indigenous leaders from across the nation gathered to discuss their approach to recognition in the Australian Constitution.

“They asked us what we wanted. We told them and they just knocked us back. Why did they ask in the first place if they weren’t prepared to listen?

“We have a Government that is doing nothing and playing around with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples,” said Rev. Corowa.

Mr McMillan said that the government should take the lead into the future instead of “buckling pre-emptively to intolerance.”

“We don’t need a dead hand on the Uluru Statement from the Heart,” said Mr McMillan.

“We in the Uniting Church changed our own Constitution in 2009 to recognise prior ownership of First Peoples, and have regulated for Indigenous representation in the major deliberative meetings of our Church.

“While we are still challenged to honour our Covenant relationship with our Indigenous brothers and sisters, the Uniting Church has shown that progress on representation is possible, if you keep working at it.”

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