The St Vincent de Paul Society in Australia is marking National Sorry Day (26 May) and Reconciliation Week (27 May to 3 June) by calling on Australians to support a National Indigenous Voice to Parliament enshrined in the Constitution and a Makarrata Commission to supervise a process of agreement-making and truth-telling.
‘As Australia marks its 24th National Sorry Day, it is timely to reflect on the history and continued effect of the forced removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from their land, families, communities and culture,’ National President Ms Claire Victory said.
‘It is shameful that in a country as wealthy as Australia, First Nations peoples continue to face entrenched inequality and poorer life outcomes in such key areas as health, education, economic development and justice,’ Ms Victory said.
The St Vincent de Paul Society has a long history of partnering with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities across Australia to support the provision of food relief, material assistance and social services.
‘While the Society is not a First Nations organisation and cannot speak on behalf of First Nations people, we stand in respectful solidarity,’ Ms Victory said.
‘We honour First Nations cultures, lands, waters, histories and rights to live in a society free of economic, social and cultural oppression.
‘As set out in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, improved outcomes will only be achieved when First Nations people are able to “live in dignity, to maintain and strengthen their own institutions, cultures and traditions and to pursue their self-determined development, in keeping with their own needs and aspirations”,’ Ms Victory said.
The theme for this year’s National Reconciliation Week, ‘Be Brave. Make Change’, is a challenge to all Australians to commit to ending injustice towards Indigenous Australians and to finish the work of reconciliation.
‘We welcome the commitment of the incoming Albanese Government to adopt the 2017 Uluru Statement from the Heart by supporting Constitutional Recognition of First Nations peoples and implementing a Voice to Parliament,’ Ms Victory said.
‘A National Voice must be enshrined in The Australian Constitution, followed by the passage of enabling legislation for the Voice through Parliament. Only this approach will optimise empowerment, self-determination, and subsidiarity.
‘We also restate our call for the federal parliament to increase funding and support for Aboriginal-controlled organisations to meet the 17 targets contained in the National Agreement on Closing the Gap,’ Ms Victory said.