In a newly released joint policy statement, the Law Society of NSW and NSW Young Lawyers have fully supported the implementation of the Uluru Statement of the Heart and called on the Commonwealth Parliament to urgently set a timetable for a referendum that would ensure a First Nations Voice is enshrined in the constitution.
During a Law Society event celebrating NAIDOC Week, president Juliana Warner and NSW Young Lawyers president Simon Bruck have not only called on the federal government to implement a First Nations Voice in the constitution, but has also thrown their support behind the establishment of a Makarrata Commission.
“The Uluru Statement from the Heart is a powerful statement, addressed to all Australians, asking us to change our constitution and give First Nations People a voice in the laws and policies that are made about them,” Ms Warner said, adding it provides a practical way to work together to achieve constitutional reform.
The Uluru Statement of the Heart was issued in 2017 on the 25th anniversary of the High Court’s Mabu decision and after the largest consultation of First Nations People ever carried out in Australia. It calls for three reforms: Voice, Treaty and Truth.
“Entrenching a First Nations Voice in the constitution would be a form of recognition of the history and place of our First Nations People, consistent with the right to self-determination. We are now calling on the Commonwealth Parliament to set a timetable for a referendum on this issue as a matter of priority,” Ms Warner said.
The Law Society is also supporting the Makarrata Commission by way of legislation to “supervise a process of agreement-making between governments and First Nations and truth-telling about our history”, as called for in the Uluru Statement.
Mr Bruck added that it is vital the Uluru Statement from the Heart is seen as a “living document” that speaks to all Australians “every day of the year”.
“Implementation of the Uluru Statement will be the way to walk a different path with First Nations People [and] will assist in addressing the outstanding injustices which impact on the lives of First Nations People such as their over-representation in the criminal justice system and the gap in life outcomes between First Nations People and other Australians,” Mr Bruck commented.
“A Voice to Parliament will be an important step towards self-determination for First Nations People.”