News and events News Uluru Statement From The Heart in Plain English ULURU STATEMENT FROM THE HEART We, gathered at the 2017 National Constitutional Convention, coming from all points of the southern sky, make this statement from the heart: We came together at a big meeting in 2017, called the National Constitutional Convention. We met at Uluru, but we came from all parts of Australia. We came from lots of different clans across this land, under our sky. We have something important to say. We call it the ‘Uluru Statement from the Heart’. Our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander tribes were the first sovereign Nations of theAustralian continent and its adjacent islands, and possessed it under our own laws and customs.This our ancestors did, according to the reckoning of our culture, from the Creation, according to the common law from ‘time immemorial’, and according to science more than 60,000 years ago. Our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander tribes were the first people to live in Australia. We lived on the mainland and we lived on the islands nearby. The land belonged to all our tribes. We had our own laws and customs and no one else was in charge of us. Our culture teaches us that our ancestors have lived on this land since Creation. Our people have been on this land since a time so long ago that no one can remember it. Sometimes the government law people call that ‘time immemorial’. It means a time so long ago that no one can remember it. The scientists say that we have been here for more than 60,000 years. This sovereignty is a spiritual notion: the ancestral tie between the land, or ‘mother nature’, and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples who were born therefrom, remain attached thereto, and must one day return thither to be united with our ancestors. This link is the basis of the ownership of the soil, or better, of sovereignty. It has never been ceded or extinguished, and co-exists with the sovereignty of the Crown. We look after our land. We follow our own laws and customs. This is called ‘sovereignty’. It is in our spirits. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were born on this land. We belong to the land, and one day we will go back to the land and to our ancestors. We have never stopped following our law or culture. Now we have other laws too, the government laws. But the Indigenous law is still there. We never gave away our land or stopped following our own laws. How could it be otherwise? That peoples possessed a land for sixty millennia and this sacred link disappears from world history in merely the last two hundred years? Our land is sacred to us. We have lived here for 60,000 years. White people have only been here for 200 years, a very short time. We haven’t forgotten that we belong to the land. How could we do that? With substantive constitutional change and structural reform, we believe this ancient sovereignty can shine through as a fuller expression of Australia’s nationhood. There needs to be big changes to Australia’s Constitution. The Constitution is the rules that the Australian government has to follow. We want to change those rules. Those rules have to show respect for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people too. If we change those rules, we think Australia will be a better country. Proportionally, we are the most incarcerated people on the planet. We are not an innately criminal people. Our children are aliened from their families at unprecedented rates. This cannot be because we have no love for them. And our youth languish in detention in obscene numbers. They should be our hope for the future. There are lots of different groups of people around the world, but Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people go to prison the most. This makes us sad. We are not born as bad people. Too many of our children are separated from their families. We love our children and this makes us sad too. Too many of our young people are in detention. We don’t want that for our young people. We want them to grow strong and be our hope for the future. These dimensions of our crisis tell plainly the structural nature of our problem. This is the torment of our powerlessness. These are very big problems. These problems show us that there is something wrong with the government rules and the things that happen in this country. It makes us feel like we can’t do anything. It makes us feel like we have no power. We seek constitutional reforms to empower our people and take a rightful place in our own country. When we have power over our destiny our children will flourish. They will walk in two worlds and their culture will be a gift to their country. We want to change the rules of the Australian Constitution. We want our people to have the power to decide things for themselves. We should be able to do this in our own country. When we can decide things for ourselves, our children will grow up healthy and proud. They will be able to walk in both worlds, black and white. They will be strong in their own culture. And our culture will be a good thing for all of Australia. We call for the establishment of a First Nations Voice enshrined in the Constitution. This is what we want. We want to change the rules of the Australian Constitution to have a special group of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. This group can give advice to the government when they are making laws for Australia. It will be called the First Nations Voice. Makarrata is the culmination of our agenda: the coming together after a struggle. It captures our aspirations for a fair and truthful relationship with the people of Australia and a better future for our children based on justice and self-determination. The Yolŋu people have word called Makarrata. It means when two groups of people come together after a struggle or fight. We want to have a Makarrata between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians, so that we can have a good relationship with each other. We want everyone to be fair and tell the truth about what has happened in our country. We want a good future for our children. We want things to be fair and just. We want to decide what happens in our future. We seek a Makarrata Commission to supervise a process of agreement-making between governments and First Nations and truth-telling about our history. We want this Makarrata so that the government and First Nations people can agree together. Everyone can tell the truth about the things that have happened in Australia’s history. In 1967 we were counted, in 2017 we seek to be heard. We leave base camp and start our trek across this vast country. We invite you to walk with us in a movement of the Australian people for a better future. In 1967 Australia had a big vote. It was called a referendum. Everyone decided that Aboriginal and Torrest Strait Islander people should be counted as Australians too. It was a good thing when people counted us. Now we want you to listen to us too. We are going to leave our camp here at Uluru and take this message all around Australia. We want you to help us. We want to make a better future for all the people in Australia.