The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner June Oscar has urged Australians to write to the Prime Minister to reconsider the decision on an Indigenous voice to parliament.
Commissioner Oscar spoke at the Practical Justice Initiative Indigenous Lecture Series at the UNSW last night.
She said Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander issues have languished in the political landscape.
“We are at a crossroads where we need to focus on substance rather than symbolic gestures, which do very little to improve the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
“Over the past 25 years, various inquiries, commissions and reports have made more than 400 recommendations for both structural and practical changes. But most recommendations have been partially implemented or ignored all together,” she said.
Commissioner Oscar highlighted the fact that twenty years after the landmark Bringing them Home report, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are almost 10 times more likely than non-Indigenous children to be in out-of-home care, with numbers set to triple by 2035.
“This is a national tragedy,” she said.
Commissioner Oscar said the Federal Government’s rejection of the Referendum Council’s recommendation is a setback.
“There is a feeling that a commitment to addressing the many challenges that Indigenous Australians currently face requires the Government to listen to our voices and act on what our communities have said.
“Many of our people feel sad, angry, gutted and disappointed about the decision. But we cannot stay there.
“We take the moments of goodwill that are wrapped up in the 1967 Referendum, the walk over the Sydney Harbour Bridge in 2000; and the Prime Minister’s Apology in 2008 as evidence of the kind of Australia that makes us proud.
“An opportunity is upon our nation at the moment, and I hope that one day, our political leaders will have the courage to honour the voices of our peoples as captured in the Uluru Statement and seize that moment,” Commissioner Oscar said.
Photo: Commissioner June Oscar with Dr Darryl Cronin, Senior Indigenous Fellow with the Practical Justice Initiative, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, UNSW Australia.