The national leaders of the Uniting Church in Australia and the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress (UAICC) have lamented the Federal Government’s failure to embrace greater national representation for First Peoples.
In May 2017, Indigenous leaders from across the country met for three days at Uluru to discuss their approach to recognition in the Australian Constitution. The meeting rejected the idea of Constitutional Recognition, instead calling for a representative body that would be a “Voice to Parliament”.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has now ruled out the idea, calling a new Indigenous advisory body, neither “desirable [nor] capable of winning acceptance” adding that a Constitutional amendment should not undermine the universal principles of unity, equality and “one person, one vote”.
“The Government had a historic opportunity to recognise and honour the sovereignty of First Peoples through the proposal coming from the Uluru Statement from the Heart,” says Rev Dennis Corowa, the UAICC National Chairperson (pictured right).
“They asked us what we wanted. We told them and they just knocked us back. Why did they ask in the first place if they weren’t prepared to listen?
“We have a Government that is doing nothing and playing around with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.”
The President of the Uniting Church in Australia, Stuart McMillan (pictured left) describes the Government’s response as weak.
“I’m very disappointed that 50 years after Australia gave the First Australians a vote Malcolm Turnbull’s Government has refused them a voice,” says Stuart.
“We in the Uniting Church changed our own Constitution in 2009 to recognise prior ownership of First Peoples, and have regulated for Indigenous representation in the major deliberative meetings of our Church.
“While we are still challenged to honour our Covenant relationship with our Indigenous brothers and sisters, the Uniting Church has shown that progress on representation is possible, if you keep working at it,” he continues.
“Instead of buckling preemptively to intolerance, the Government should be leading for the future. We don’t need a dead hand on the Uluru Statement from the Heart.”