Professor Megan Davis, Pat Anderson AO and Treasrer Jim Chalmers took part in a forum at Gunya Meta in Logan on the weekend. (Image credit: The Uluru Dialogue)
Treasurer Jim Chalmers has been part of a panel discussion about the upcoming referendum on a First Nations Voice to Parliament in his home electorate of Rankin with the Co-Chairs of the Aboriginal-led “yes” campaign, The Uluru Dialogue.
Firstly, Professor Megan Davis and Pat Anderson AO met with local First Nations Elders at Gunya Meta Inc in Logan Central in southeast Queensland and took them through the constitutional recognition journey so far as well as the most important aspects of the upcoming referendum.
Gunya Meta, a non-profit Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisation, is run by a board of local Logan City community members and employs local Indigenous staff.
There are signs that history is calling, as the mob at Logan Central beamed. (Image credit: The Uluru Dialogue)
The forum discussion, in front of the local First Nations community, was moderated by “Mob23” campaigner and Uluṟu signatory, Baranggam and Barada Bada man Merv Riley.
The Uluru Dialogue in recent months has been travelling through regional Queensland and New South Wales hosting similar events to the one held at Logan Central while meeting with Aboriginal people and the wider community and sharing information with them about the upcoming referendum.
“It would be mad to think that we're going to get better outcomes without changing the way that we do it," Treasurer Chalmers said at the forum.
"And for everyone here who's cared for a long time about trying to get better outcomes for people in Logan city, in particular, for our First Nations people, we've got to do something different and we got to do it better. And by getting this constitutional recognition, that will mean that when governments change, we don't have to just go back to square one each time.
“That there‘s Constitutional recognition, and from that, follows the Voice, and that means that governments are forced to listen. And that's a good thing, because if you listen, you get better outcomes. That's true across the board, but I think it's particularly true in this area.
“We need to understand that most of the Australian community doesn’t think about this all day, every day like we can. And so we've got to boil it down to its simplest proposition. And the way that I think of it is if we listen better, we'll get better outcomes. And we'll listen better if we have a structure for that. And if there's a standing way that we can listen better, we'll get those better outcomes. So we need to be able to talk to people who are not yet convinced and we need to boil it down to its most simplest proposition.
“If this is going to be politics as usual, then it's going to be really hard. We need to break this out of the usual kind of two big political groups butting heads. We know that the ‘no’ campaign wants to make it about that. They know that the best way that they can prevent this change from happening is if they just make it about the usual stuff, the usual business of day to day politics.
“So we've got to kind of lift it above that and beyond that and the best way to do that is to engage with people without making assumptions about where they're coming from, but to boil it down to the simplest proposition, which is Constitutional recognition, which is long overdue. If we get that and then we'll listen better and if we listen better, we'll get better outcomes for people,” Mr Chalmers said.
During the forum, Professor Davis said the important thing about this particular entity is that it gives First Nations people a permanent seat at the table, so that they can be involved in laws and policies that are made about them.
“One of the really important things about it that's overlooked a lot is that it changes the culture,” she said.
“So we're not going down to Canberra when the bells are ringing, but rather, bureaucrats are thinking about us, when they're starting in the job, when they’re starting to work on a new law or amendment or policy and they have to have us at the table then. That's the culture shift - we’re there from point one; we're not the 30th person to be consulted after they've already decided what they want. And that's a really critical thing.
“Constitutions are different because they do create the material conditions for human beings to flourish. Constitutions do provide the material conditions for the threshold for humans to live a dignified human life. And that's what's so critical about our recognition going into the Constitution, that being the Voice, is that Logan communities, Logan Aboriginal organisations and Torres Strait Islander organisations, are recognised and their Voice will be heard in Canberra.
“We've got a couple of months to have these yarns right around the country face to face with Aussies, and with our own Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities,” Professor Davis said.
“The other thing is that when there's an election, we will sit and wait, so when an election result comes through, we’ll go to the new government and say ‘listen, this is where the last mob got up to and this is what needs to happen now, and here's how you do it,” Pat Anderson remarked during the forum.
“So let's have a talk about it.’ So we will continue to move forward rather than two steps back, then forward again, and 10 back. That’s pained us. The Productivity Commission was very vocal about this in their last report, basically giving the Australian public the reasons why this Constitutional amendment is so important,” she said.
Gunya Meta’s aim – over all programs – is to enhance the capacity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families and communities to: Engage with schools and education providers in order to support improved educational outcomes for Indigenous children; build strong leadership that supports high expectations of Indigenous students’ educational outcomes, target education and health-based programs to support self-determination, social and emotional well-being; support the establishment, implementation and/or ongoing progress of community-school partnerships and support and reinforce children’s learning at home.