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Letter a must-read for all Australians

On behalf of our volunteer contributors and distributors, the South Sydney Uniting Church, partner organisations and community groups, the South Sydney Herald offers heartfelt thanks to the delegates and authors of the Uluru Statement from the Heart (2017).

We acknowledge the invitation to listen and respect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander experience and wisdom – to recognise 65,000 years of care and co-creativity on Country, as well as the violence and pain of colonisation and settlement – to recognise sovereignty and to support a constitutional means of advising government on matters affecting Indigenous peoples. It was and remains a gracious invitation.

We acknowledge the resounding Yes vote in discrete and remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. We acknowledge the high level of support for Yes in South Sydney.

And we thank First Nations Elders and activists – many local leaders and Aboriginal organisations – who have led a national conversation that will change our country’s future for the better.

With all who cast a vote for the Voice we share a deep sorrow. With all who cast a vote for the Voice we hold to deep hopefulness – sentiments expressed strongly amid cultural and political analysis in a three-page letter by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders who supported Yes, circulated to the Australian public and media on October 22.

The Statement for Our People and Country recommits to the Uluru Statement – to Voice, Treaty and Truth: “We will continue to uphold the outcomes of the Uluru Dialogues to which more than 1,200 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from across the country contributed – culminating in the Uluru Statement signed by 250 people on May 26, 2017. It is evident that many Australians are unaware of our cultures, our histories, or the racism imbued in the Australian Constitution.”

Across 12 paragraphs, the Statement for Our People and Country addresses a number of key issues. The tone is broken-hearted and resolute.

“We thank the 5.51 million Australians who voted Yes to recognition. This represents approximately 39.2 per cent of Australian voters on October 14, 2023 …

“The support for the referendum collapsed from the moment Liberal and National Party leaders, Mr Dutton and Mr Littleproud, chose to oppose the Voice to Parliament proposal after more than a decade of bipartisan support …

“Lies in political advertising and communication were a primary feature of this campaign. We know that the No campaign was funded and resourced by conservative and international interests who have no stake or genuine interest in the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. We know this funding supported multiple No campaigns that intentionally argued in varying directions to create doubt and fear in both non-Indigenous and Indigenous communities. This included resurrecting scare campaigns seen during the 1990s against land rights, but the scale of deliberate disinformation and misinformation was unprecedented …

“There has always been racism against First Nations people in Australia. It increased with multiple daily instances during the campaign and was a powerful driver for the No campaign. But this campaign went beyond just racism. ‘If you don’t know – Vote No’ gave expression to ignorance and licensed the abandonment of civic responsibility on the part of many voters who voted No. This shameful victory belongs to the Institute of Public Affairs, the Centre for Independent Studies and mainstream media …

“Post-referendum commentaries that exculpate those who voted No were expected as the usual kind of post-election approbation of the electorate. The truth is that the majority of Australians have committed a shameful act whether knowingly or not, and there is nothing positive to be interpreted from it. We needed truth to be told to the Australian people.”

The process now, as Aboriginal people determine, is about healing, working through the issues and discerning the way forward.

With respect for the process, our sixth in a series of six First Peoples profiles curated by Aunty Norma Ingram will not be published this month. The profile on Aunty Joyce Wymarra will be published in the December SSH.

Please read the open letter in full.

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