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Calls to enshrine a First Nations voice to Parliament

On today’s International Human Rights Day, the Law Council of Australia (LCA) has restated its support for a parliamentary First Nations voice to be enshrined in the Australian Constitution.

The LCA’s expression of support has previously been called for in recommendations from the Referendum Council and in the Uluru Statement from the Heart.

The LCA said a constitutionally-enshrined First Nations voice would be a manifestation of the right to self-determination which would allow First Nations peoples to be free to pursue their economic, social and cultural development, to be treated respectfully and to have control over their destiny.

The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) gave special consideration to the right to self-determination, which applies to all people. Australia formally announced its support for the UNDRIP, which represents an authoritative global understanding of how governments should respect and engage with Indigenous peoples’ rights, in 2009.

LCA President Dr Jacoba Brasch QC said constitutional recognition was vital to protect the rights and aspirations of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

“The human rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples continue to be undermined in this country through socio-economic disadvantage, poorer health and education outcomes, and alarming rates of incarceration and child removals, as well as the destruction of their cultural heritage,” Dr Brasch said.

“The discrimination and intergenerational trauma that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples face on a day-to-day basis cannot be alleviated unless and until their rightful place in this country is recognised and the legacy of colonialism confronted. The legal and justice system has played an undeniable part in this history of colonisation, discrimination and trauma.”

Dr Brasch said a First Nations voice enshrined in the Constitution would provide an effective representative body within Parliament for First Nations peoples.

“The Uluru Statement from the Heart was made four years ago,” she said. “It is time for governments to allow Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to take the lead on the issues that affect them.

“The Law Council recognises the considerable strength, endurance, dignity and leadership of Australia’s First Nations peoples in defending their human rights and putting constructive and achievable ways forward to the nation so that these can be better respected, protected and fulfilled into the future.”

 

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