President of the Law Society of NSW Joanne van der Plaat
Each year NAIDOC Week celebrates 60 thousand years of continual Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history, culture and survival on the lands and waters of this continent.
I offer the warm best wishes of the Law Society of NSW to all First Nations peoples for an enjoyable and successful celebration. In doing so, I acknowledge the central role played by the legal profession in the dispossession of Australia’s Indigenous people, their persecution and incarceration.
The theme of this year’s NAIDOC Week is Get Up! Stand Up! Show Up! – a powerful reminder of the importance of united action to bring change, self-determination and justice to our First Nations peoples.
The Law Society of NSW and NSW Young Lawyers support the full implementation of the Uluru Statement From The Heart, including enshrining in the Constitution the First Nations Voice to Parliament. We are heartened by growing political goodwill around support for the Statement.
During NAIDOC Week last year, my predecessor Juliana Warner called for a timetable towards a referendum on the Voice. Today, I echo that call. We accept that bringing a referendum is a complex political and logistical undertaking, but we urge everyone working on this project to do so expeditiously.
More than two centuries is too long to wait for this most important step in building our nation to take place. We urge the Commonwealth Government to work with First Nations representatives in establishing a timetable for the referendum as quickly as possible.
I also encourage Law Society members to do what they can to build public confidence in the need for a constitutionally recognised Voice to Parliament. As Professor Megan Davis UNSW Balnaves Chair in Constitutional Law and Co-chair of the Uluru Dialogue at UNSW Indigenous Law Centre has said,
Our role as lawyers is to translate what’s going on with the constitution to the broader public. … every single Australian lawyer has a role to play here.
It’s also important to recognise, as our statement in support of the Uluru Statement declares, the paramount voices in respect of issues concerning First Nations People are the voices of First Nations People themselves.