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We strongly support the Uluru Statement from the Heart, and the 30 June 2017 recommendations of the Referendum Council.  We support a referendum to enshrine a First Nations voice in the Constitution through the establishment of a First Nations advisory body to the Parliament, together with a declaration of recognition outside the Constitution.

Our goal is for our children to have the opportunity to prosper in mainstream Australia and be recognised as First Nations Australians – to succeed in both worlds. We work in our communities and regions, alongside Indigenous families and individuals disempowered by the very policies and programs designed to provide a hand up and close the gap on social and economic disparity.

New government policy and law with a significant impact on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples is frequently developed without input from those who will be most affected. The result is that a policy, developed in good faith and passed into law by Parliament, misses the mark. Successful implementation is impossible, money is wasted and those it is intended to benefit are left frustrated and angry. A First Nations voice to the Parliament with the power to advise on relevant new legislation as it is being developed has the potential to change flawed policy into good policy.

When we started Empowered Communities we identified the need for our local work to be connected and cemented with supportive structural changes to government systems and practices. We know that however hard we work in our regions to build capacity, self-reliance, aspiration, opportunity, increased choice and ensure that identities, languages and cultures are not lost, we will never cross the finish line without complementary structural change and real influence in decision making about our lives and development.

A First Nations voice enshrined in the Constitution is the first crucial step. At last the First Nations of this country will be guaranteed input into policies and laws that affect us. The Makarrata Commission, established in law outside the Constitution, to supervise a process of agreement-making between governments and First Nations, and truth telling about our history, is vital to ensure that policies are implemented effectively – helping to empower our people to shoulder responsibility for their own affairs.

We urge the Prime Minister and Opposition Leader to act quickly, in a spirit of bipartisanship, to implement the proposals of the Referendum Council. There is no time to waste.

Empowered Communities website: www.empoweredcommunities.org.au

Contact: Sean Gordon (EC National Convener) phone: 0400890420