As many thousands of Australians take to the street this weekend in support of a constitutionally enshrined Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice to Parliament, more health and human rights organisations have expressed their support.
Below are statements by Change the Record and a coalition of nursing peak organisations.
(Details of walks and events around Australia can be seen here).
Statement by Change the Record
Change the Record, Australia’s first and only First Nations led coalition campaigning to end incarceration of, and violence against, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People supports a First Nations Voice to Parliament.
For more than 250 years, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People have endured the ongoing impacts of colonisation. Livelihoods have been stripped, families ripped apart, cultures, languages and lives have been lost and taken. To this day, our mob continues to suffer injustices from healthcare to education to incarceration to family violence.
Despite decades of commitments to Close the Gap, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People are one of the most incarcerated people in the world. Our children represent only six percent of the population but are 60 percent of the children behind bars. Our children are meant to be our future – instead they are locked away and set up for a lifetime of disadvantage.
We see huge numbers of First Nations women and children suffer through the family policing system, having families ripped apart and communities needing to heal. We see our people having to settle for unsuitable housing, whole communities without access to clean drinking water, and our families having to wait years and years for public housing.
The current approach, the current system, the current way of doing things simply isn’t working.
For far too long, First Nations voices have been silenced, grave injustices have been ignored, and policies that affect our everyday lives have been made without us- it’s time to make a change.
As a First Nations-led coalition of legal, health experts and family violence experts we unanimously support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander-led solutions to close the gap in life outcomes. We know what works and when we draw on the strength of our culture our communities thrive.
We recognise the diversity in opinion amongst our communities, and acknowledge the strength, resilience and power of our people at every level of our fights for justice, truth-telling, and accountability. Change the Record supports a yes vote in this referendum, and we know that recognising Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People as the First Peoples in Australia, enshrining a Voice to Parliament, is the first step to securing more just outcomes for our people.
Cheryl Axleby (Narungga Woman), co-chair Change the Record, said:
“The Voice to Parliament is about empowerment of our people, it gives us an equal seat at the table and a voice in the decisions that affect the lives of our communities.
“The Voice to Parliament presents all Australians with a once-in-a-generation opportunity to walk alongside First Nations people”.
Antoinette Braybrook (Kuku Yalanji), co-chair Change the Record, said:
“The Voice to Parliament is a mechanism to hold successive governments to account on the issues that continue to have a harmful impact on the livelihoods of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
“First Nations women experience family violence at vastly disproportionate rates. In my 20 years of working on the ground at the frontline of Aboriginal women’s safety, I have only seen the rates of violence against our women rise. Having a voice to parliament will mean the government must listen to our voices and ensure that our frontline expertise informs the policies and decisions that impact us. This will lead to change and save lives.”
Nursing Peaks Coalition support a Yes vote
A First Nations Voice to Parliament protected by the Constitution is a key element of the Uluru Statement from the Heart.
Respectful engagement with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and accepting the invitation extended in the Uluru Statement from the Heart is consistent with implementing the call for a Voice in Parliament, will strengthen Australian systems of Government and governance and mark a practical step towards meaningful reconciliation.
Embedding a Voice in the Constitution would recognise and rightfully acknowledge the special place of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in Australia’s history.
Nurses across the country understand that many well intentioned attempts to Close the Gap have not succeeded because Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have not been centrally involved in decisions about their own health and wellbeing.
A Voice to Parliament will give Indigenous communities a route to convey their concerns affecting their communities and provide key messaging to help inform policy and legal decisions that impact their lives. Giving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples the ability to advise in a formal and enshrined capacity will lead to a more culturally informed and effective approach to policy.
The Nursing Peaks Coalition supports a Yes vote for the upcoming referendum. We acknowledge the current state of health and health inequity in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and the potential for the power of the Voice to address these issues.
Supporting the Yes vote aligns with our values as nursing organisations to support human rights and our long-standing commitment to advocating for social justice and positive change in our communities.
Constitutional recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples will play an important role to address racism and influence the efforts of Closing the Gap to improved health outcomes for Indigenous Australians.
Annie Butler – Federal Secretary – Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation
Karen Booth – President – Australian Primary Health Care Nurses Association
Prof. Karen Strickland – Chair – Council of Deans of Nursing and Midwifery
Adj. Prof. Kylie Ward – CEO – Australian College of Nursing
Adrian Armitage – CEO – Australian College of Mental Health Nurses
Adam Searby – President – Drug and Alcohol Nurses of Australasia
Prof. Emeritus Mary Chiarella – The University of Sydney
Melanie Dunstan – President – Australian College of Nurse Practitioners
Amanda Butt – Vice President – Australian College of Nurse Practitioners
Leanne Boase – CEO – Australian College of Nurse Practitioners