The Uluru Statement from the Heart was created from the collective experiences of many First Nations people from across the continent.
The statement acknowledges that the first sovereign Nations of this continent and its adjacent islands have never ceded sovereignty — not when first invaded by the British and not when the Australian Constitution was enacted in 1901.
We have a sacred connection to Country that cannot be broken by colonisation (or anything else).
“Our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander tribes were the first sovereign Nations of the Australian continent and its adjacent islands, and possessed it under our own laws and customs. This our ancestors did, according to the reckoning of our culture, from the Creation, according to the common law from ‘time immemorial’, and according to science more than 60,000 years ago.
This sovereignty is a spiritual notion: the ancestral tie between the land, or ‘mother nature’, and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples who were born therefrom, remain attached thereto, and must one day return thither to be united with our ancestors. This link is the basis of the ownership of the soil, or better, of sovereignty. It has never been ceded or extinguished, and co-exists with the sovereignty of the Crown.
How could it be otherwise? That peoples possessed a land for sixty millennia and this sacred link disappears from world history in merely the last two hundred years?
With substantive constitutional change and structural reform, we believe this ancient sovereignty can shine through as a fuller expression of Australia’s nationhood.
Proportionally, we are the most incarcerated people on the planet. We are not an innately criminal people. Our children are aliened from their families at unprecedented rates. This cannot be because we have no love for them. And our youth languish in detention in obscene numbers. They should be our hope for the future.
These dimensions of our crisis tell plainly the structural nature of our problem. This is the torment of our powerlessness.
We seek constitutional reforms to empower our people and take a rightful place in our own country. When we have power over our destiny our children will flourish. They will walk in two worlds and their culture will be a gift to their country.
We call for the establishment of a First Nations Voice enshrined in the Constitution.
Makarrata is the culmination of our agenda: the coming together after a struggle. It captures our aspirations for a fair and truthful relationship with the people of Australia and a better future for our children based on justice and self-determination.
We seek a Makarrata Commission to supervise a process of agreement-making between governments and First Nations and truth-telling about our history.
In 1967 we were counted, in 2017 we seek to be heard. We leave base camp and start our trek across this vast country. We invite you to walk with us in a movement of the Australian people for a better future.”
The Uluru Statement was presented to the Australian people in May 2017 after almost two years of work and collaboration. Delivered on the 50th anniversary of the 1976 referendum, the statement calls for structural reform, including (but not only) changing the constitution. Structural reform means establishing a new relationship between the Australian nation and First Nations peoples, based on self-determination and justice.
There are three key elements of reform set out in the Uluru Statement:
This nation has unfinished business. Australia is still yet to recognise the ancient jurisdictions of First Nations Law. We have to address these differences through agreement-making or Treaty. A Treaty is like a contract between two sovereign parties. In this case, it would be a formal agreement between the Australian Government and First Nations peoples.
A Treaty could recognise First Nations people’s prior occupation of the land and the injustices we have endured. It could offer a platform for addressing those injustices and help establish a path forward based on mutual goals.
There is a potential for two sovereignties to co-exist in which both western and Indigenous values and identities are protected and given voice in policies and laws.
Treaty was seen as the best form of establishing an honest relationship with government.