Letter to the editor: He did not speak for me, nor thousands more

Our Prime Minister recently took it upon himself to speak for all Australians in summarily dismissing the recommendations of the Uluru Statement from the Heart. The recommendations in the Uluru Statement were the product of an extraordinarily sophisticated and civilized process involving consultations with the indigenous population across the whole country. It was a process of refinement and distillation to arrive at consensus on a magnificently elegant foundation for fair recognition and representation of our first nations people.

It was recommended that there should be a Makarrata Commission to supervise a process of agreement-making and truth-telling. Yes it was a great day when another Prime Minister, on behalf of all Australians, said “sorry” for the wrongs the newcomers inflicted on the indigenous people. Tears were shed, hearts filled with joy that at last this apology was made. But hey! Saying sorry without actually changing the fundamental assumptions that brought about the past wrongdoing is an empty gesture, and an apology becomes a mockery if the underlying false assumptions are perpetuated through the present and into the future by a failure to confront them and change. Turnbull’s dismissal of the proposal is arrogant because he does not represent the people of Australia on this matter. We have not been asked, but surveys indicate strong support for the proposals. It is arrogant too because he did not even bother to read the proposals closely enough to understand them, or deliberately chose to misrepresent them.

There was also a proposal in the Statement from the Heart, to establish an advisory body to the Parliament (not a third chamber of parliament) to advise on matters specifically affecting the indigenous population.  Turnbull dismissed this proposal as being against the principles of Australia of equality of all citizens. Does he really think that all citizens have an equal understanding of the effects of, for instance, the NT Intervention and its rebadged contemporary replacement, on the indigenous population and their culture? Who better to advise Parliament, than indigenous people, unless of course, we have a Makarrata Commission and the truth is available to all citizens, and there is a massive investment in education across the nation so that we are all brought up to speed, all develop an understanding of the same breadth and depth as the indigenous population has.  

Mr Turnbull did not speak for me. He did not speak for the thousands more who have already signed their support for the Uluru Statement at supportfirstnations.com.au I hope that number will be supplemented by your name and the names of those you know who celebrate the value of the proposals arrived at by the indigenous population as being a firm foundation for moving forward as a stronger, fairer Australia.

Meave Ramsay, Taralga