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Independent Member for Clark, Andrew Wilkie, spoke in the Federal Parliament in support of the Constitution Alteration (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice) 2023. Please see above video for full speech

“It is impossible to overstate just how inherently important First Nations people are. For at least 65,000 years they have lived on this land, nurtured families, taken care of country and developed a rich and deep culture. They are of global significance.

“But when the British occupied Australia in 1788 everything changed. Land was stolen, First Nations people were murdered, children were taken away from their family and community, and since then all First Nations people have been subjected to a paternalistic system which has endured for 235 years. Yes, countless non-indigenous Australians laboured tirelessly to do the right thing by First Nations people. But many didn’t, and systemically the whole approach consistently and horridly failed Indigenous communities.

“Eleven of the 15 Closing the Gap targets are not on track, and shamefully some are actually going backwards. First Nations people continue to have lower life expectancies, lower educational outcomes and higher suicide rates than non-Indigenous Australians. They continue to be overwhelmingly overrepresented within the criminal justice system in particular.

“But we must not forget that the Voice is but one pillar of the Uluru Statement from the Heart and that, to achieve real, meaningful reform, we must continue to listen to First Nations people, including by establishing a Makaratta Commission and legislating a treaty. That is what First Nations people want, and we cannot fall back into the trap of thinking that we old white men know better. Because we don’t.

“I support a constitutionally-enshrined Voice to Parliament and look forward to voting yes in the Referendum later this year. It’s way beyond time for us to listen to First Nations people, and it’s way beyond time for them to have an effective say in the thinking, policies and laws that affect them.”