Final Report of the Referendum Council

2.2.3 Outcomes

The following analysis of the three propositions that subsequently emerged in the Uluru Statement of the Heart was presented to the National Constitutional Convention and approved.

Voice to Parliament

A constitutionally entrenched Voice to Parliament was a strongly supported option across the Dialogues. It was considered as a way by which the right to self-determination could be achieved. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples need to be involved in the design of any model for the Voice.


There was a concern that the proposed body would have insufficient power if its constitutional function was ‘advisory’ only, and there was support in many Dialogues for it to be given stronger powers so that it could be a mechanism for providing ‘free, prior and informed consent’.163 Any Voice to Parliament should be designed so that it could support and promote a treaty-making process.164 Any body must have authority from, be representative of, and have legitimacy in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities across Australia. It must represent communities in remote, rural and urban areas, and not be comprised of handpicked leaders.165 The body must be structured in a way that respects culture.166 Any body must also be supported by a sufficient and guaranteed budget, with access to its own independent secretariat, experts and lawyers.

 

It was also suggested that the body could represent Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples internationally.168 A number of Dialogues said the body’s representation could be drawn from an Assembly of First Nations, which could be established through a series of treaties among nations.

Treaty


The pursuit of Treaty and treaties was strongly supported across the Dialogues.170 Treaty was seen as a pathway to recognition of sovereignty and for achieving future meaningful reform for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples. Treaty would be the vehicle to achieve self- determination, autonomy and self-government.


The Dialogues discussed who would be the parties to Treaty, as well as the process, content and enforcement questions that pursuing Treaty raises. In relation to process, these questions included whether a Treaty should be negotiated first as a national framework agreement under which regional and local treaties are made. In relation to content, the Dialogues discussed that a Treaty could include a proper say in decision-making, the establishment of a truth commission, reparations, a settlement, the resolution of land, water and resources issues, recognition of authority and customary law, and guarantees of respect for the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. In relation to enforcement, the issues raised were about the legal force the Treaty should have, and particularly whether it should be backed by legislation or given constitutional force.


There were different views about the priority as between Treaty and constitutional reform. For some, Treaty should be pursued alongside, but separate from, constitutional reform. For others, constitutional reform that gives Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples a voice in the political process will be a way to achieve Treaty. For others, specific constitutional amendment could set out a negotiating framework, and give constitutional status to any concluded treaty.

Truth-telling


The need for the truth to be told as part of the process of reform emerged from many of the Dialogues. The Dialogues emphasised that the true history of colonisation must be told: the genocides, the massacres, the wars and the ongoing injustices and discrimination. This truth also needed to include the stories of how First Nations Peoples have contributed to protecting and building this country. A truth commission could be established as part of any reform, for example, prior to a constitutional reform or as part of a Treaty negotiation.

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