Uluru Statement from the Heart

02 August 2022

I am proud to acknowledge, as this parliament does every morning, that I am speaking on the land of the Ngunnawal and Ngambri people; to pay my respects to their elders past, present and emerging; and to thank them for the incredible contribution they make to our city and our region, as they have done for tens of thousands of years. I would also like to acknowledge the next generations of First Nations Australians, who will carry forward the incredible diversity of culture and language of the oldest continuous civilisation long into the future. I sincerely hope that our future, and the future of First Nations peoples, is one defined by successful reconciliation, a fully closed gap and a fully implemented Uluru Statement from the Heart, including a constitutionally enshrined voice to this parliament, the successful signing of treaty and treaties, and the undertaking of the important truth-telling process.

I'm proud to be a member of a government that is committed to this future and committed to righting the wrongs of the past. I'm proud to be a member of a government that in this term of parliament will put to the Australian people a referendum to change the Constitution, to recognise First Nations Australians in the nation's birth certificate and to establish the voice to parliament. We're doing this—we're pursuing this important reform—because the Uluru Statement from the Heart was a gift from First Nations people to the people of Australia. It was a clear, consensus-driven statement that does not ask for much, from a community that could have asked for so much more. As the Prime Minister said at the Garma Festival on the weekend:

The Uluru Statement is a hand outstretched, a moving show of faith in Australian decency and Australian fairness from people who have been given every reason to forsake their hope in both.

I'm proud that the government is getting on with implementing the Uluru Statement from the Heart, as we have been committed to since it was given in 2017. The Prime Minister also outlined at Garma what the likely question put to the Australian people will be, namely and simply:

Do you support an alteration to the Constitution that establishes an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice?

I believe that Australians will wholeheartedly embrace this proposal because, in the words of the Prime Minister:

I believe there is room in Australian hearts for the Statement from the Heart.

Uluru is vitally important to reconciliation and to give First Nations Australians a voice on matters that affect them. But this is not an either-or. It's not about addressing closing the gap or the voice to parliament. We need to do both, and they are important in supporting each other.

This is not the only thing that the Albanese government is doing to improve outcomes for First Nations peoples. The Albanese government is completely committed to the doubling of the Indigenous rangers program and to boosting funding to the Indigenous Protected Areas by $10 million a year. We will deliver the promised cultural flows of water in the Murray-Darling Basin Plan. We're doing this because we know that First Nations land and water management leads to better environmental, social and economic outcomes. The Labor government will invest in justice reinvestment to turn the tide on incarceration and deaths in custody. Australia has seen the tragic deaths of over 500 First Nations Australians while in custody since the royal commission more than 30 years ago, and we are committed to ending this crisis. We're going to scrap the punitive and failing Community Development Program, and, right now in this House, we're in the process of getting rid of the cashless debit card.

The process of reconciliation is a long one, but Labor is completely committed to ensuring it is done and done right. Whether it be the full implementation of the Uluru statement or the numerous policies we committed to before the election, it's incumbent upon us to do the work, and that's exactly what we will do.