CAIRNS was host to a premier NAIDOC panel discussion of young changemakers on the road to treaty and constitutional recognition of indigenous Australians, at the launch of Cairns NAIDOC Week 2019.
Two years ago, over 250 indigenous leaders gathered in the heart of the nation, at Uluru in the Northern Territory for First Nations National Constitutional Convention, to discuss the best way forward for the country’s future - that resulted in the Statement from the Heart.
The national discussion continued with a live panel at Where to from Uluru? Statements from the Heart in Cairns, at the Pullman International on 4 July, featuring leading next-generation indigenous changemakers, including panellists Thomas Mayor, Carla McGrath, Dean Parkin and MC Kenny Bedford who represented their regions and peoples at the Uluru convention in 2017.
What does a voice to Parliament for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders look like? What is this truth-telling business about? Why is the Uluru Statement from the Heart important to all Australians and to the future of the nation?
Thomas Mayor, a Torres Strait Islander who grew up on Larrakia land is Northern Territory Branch Secretary for the Maritime Union of Australia - and represented Darwin at the Uluru forum - discussed how the Uluru Statement was made and how to act to make the historic consensus from Uluru a reality.
“The NAIDOC Week theme this year is Voice Treaty Truth and it comes from the Uluru Statement. The theme this year is not just words, it's not just our aspirations. It's a call to action. Get out there and fight for it," Mayor told the Cairns audience, who also announced the completion of his book Finding the Heart of the Nation – available from 1 October.
“It’s a collective narrative, the stories of First Nations mob I’ve met along the way. They are just some of the voices behind the Uluru Statement.”
Quandamooka Man, Dean Parkin, a financial analyst from Southeast Queensland – who has worked across the public, corporate, not-for-profit and political sectors at national, regional, and local levels – drew on his work with the Referendum Council as a facilitator on all the 13 regional dialogues that resulted in the Uluru Statement From The Heart.
"The only thing to change is Parliament will make better laws - to benefit Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander people," Parkin explained about the Voice to Parliament, and coming Referendum and Treaty.
Young changemaker Carla McGrath, a Sydney-based strategist and fellow of Social Equity, Chair of Blakdance, Deputy Chair of GetUp! and a Delegate to the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples spoke about her passion for wellbeing and fairness for indigenous communities.
The Uluru Statement was issued to the Australian people, rather than to politicians, that invited all Australians to “walk with us in a movement of the Australian people for a better future”.
Initially rejected by the then Prime Minister, Malcom Turnbull, the Coalition Government has since budgeted for a design process to establish a model of the First Nations voice to parliament before going to referendum.
“In this particular case, we've got a chance to come up with a proposal to the Australian government and the Australian people that assists us to work more effectively, strategically and wisely in our own regions and in our own community settings,” said Kenny Bedford, NAIDOC Board Member and Director of My Pathway acting as Master of Ceremony at ‘Where to from Uluru?’, in a previous statement to SBS, at the Uluru convention.
“All that work is finally coming to a head – after a lifetime of dedication, sacrifice, service to the nation, with the determination of weaving the ancient and modern identities of Australia into a more complete whole,” Dean Parkin said.
Organised by My Pathway, a social and economic enterprise based in Cairns, in collaboration with James Cook University, The Cairns Institute and Accor Hotels, ‘Where to from Uluru?’ was a free community event. Watch full video discussion on @MyPathway facebook page. My Pathway is a social and economic enterprise, based in Cairns, operating in communities from Central Queensland to the Torres Strait Islands, and in regional Tasmania.