Njamal man Tyson Holloway-Clarke shares recommendations on where we can focus our efforts post-referendum.
So it’s a No. Maybe you’ve woken up, checked your phone and a push notification broke the news. Maybe you heard it called live on TV. Who knows. I’m hoping it was at least close. But enough of that, onto what is next.
You might want to hear what went wrong. To throw around some blame. To get down in the dumps or have a sook. Yep, that is normal. There will be a bit of it going around. I’ll be susceptible to it too. The first job during this rough patch is to look after yourselves and each other.
Then we look to the future. What is next? Where do we turn our eyes and how do we shift this momentum? There are a lot of heavy hearts, open minds and fuel to burn today and here are some fires that are already lit.
This is the bare minimum – keep kids out of jails and prisons. If you don’t understand why, take a gander at In My Blood It Runs (Netflix) and learn Dujuan’s Story. Our children are sacred and raising the age of criminal responsibility to 14 is a practical and evidence-based step we can take to protect children now. Let’s learn from the mistakes of our past.
In somewhat ironic fashion, the state governments may be the most important ally to First Nations communities. For the record, the states have an awful and genocidal history throughout colonisation. I won’t elaborate here, but we certainly have come a long way.
Today, in every state and in the Northern Territory there has been a significant commitment to treaty made by government in that jurisdiction. Even a state like Western Australia has walked the walk with the Noongar Agreement. The exact situation and form of Treaty is entirely different based on the jurisdiction, but that is actually great! Rather than a blanket approach for all mobs, this way the different governments can listen, consult, collaborate with and then eventually treat with the specific First Nations communities they share territory with. For my time’s worth, if you want a chance to negotiate directly with government in the next 10 years, get on board with your local state or territory treaty work.
If you have not read up on the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People then you have a little bit of homework to do. The first part I would skip to is Article 23 – the right to have a say over matters of health, housing and other social and economic programs. Then my favourite is Article 26, which could be the legal basis for significant and progressive land rights reform. Added bonus, treaties are foreign affairs matters and regluar business for executive government – no referendum needed.
Truth be told, I always thought that the first few years of the Voice would have an easy agenda. Tee up every Royal Commission, Senate Inquiry, law and justice report, or demand from the half century of research, advocacy and activism. We did not have or need a Voice to be heard on these matters. We know you heard, we said it out loud. It lives on in print and digital and we can all recall it. Speak the truth. There has just been no action.
Partly that is due to the vulnerability we are all feeling these days. Everything feels like it’s a little bit worse than it used to be, like there are no answers or paths forward. The truth is we are strong, knowledgeable and capable, we have just had to endure a lot to get here.
We are far from done. There are some real truths that we have to wake up to. A lot of people simply do not understand the past we share, but more and more do not care. Mob just have to keep telling our stories, celebrating and remembering those who came before us, and dream of the future. Attitudes are shifting and the world is changing. Our culture is growing. Our music is heard, our art seen, and stories felt. We change minds and win hearts with truth. We have always had a voice, let’s keep people listening.
One last word for mob. Never forget, existence is resistance. Be proud of who you are, what you have done and where you are going. The sun rises on another glorious day on Country.