NAIDOC Week: Voice, Treaty, Truth

By Jessy Renouf

My name is Jessy Renouf and I am a proud Gubbi Gubbi woman. I am in my third year for a Bachelor of Behavioural Science and Justice, majoring in policy and politics, at Queensland University of Technology. 

Recently, I had the opportunity to attend the Queensland Indigenous Youth Leadership Program, an incredible program aiming to teach and empower young Indigenous leaders from all over Queensland. This was my second year attending, this time as a mentor. During the program, I was surrounded by over 50 passionate youth, wanting to create change and are already aspiring role models and leaders in their own communities. 

A quote from one of the elders resonated with all of us. 

‘We are our ancestors’ wildest dreams!’ 

Take a second to think about that. We are living the lives our ancestors fought long and hard for. 

At the beginning of colonisation, Indigenous Australians were murdered, tortured, and forcibly taken away from their land because of their race. The stolen generation, stolen wages, and forced labour were each only part of their struggle for dignity. Our ancestors weren’t considered people, but native fauna. We were deprived of our basic human rights and traumatised in so many ways, is still felt today. 

Our ancestors fought to be counted in the census, to have the right to vote and now we even have 3 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander politicians in our parliament. They fought for these rights through decades of protests, advocacy movements and numerous strikes. 

Since then Australia has come such a long way in regards to Indigenous rights, but from my perspective at QIYLP, we have much further to go. We still don’t have a treaty, we still aren’t rightfully heard, and we still celebrate our nation on the day our ancestors began being massacred. As the new generation, it is now our responsibility to continue the fighting, continue the passion, and create further change. 

We live at a significant time in Australian history. Organisations and councils want to hear and amplify Indigenous voices, and want to help us succeed. The new government has stated they will ensure the Uluru Statement from the Heart will be enacted IN FULL. We now have our best chance to implement the Uluru Statement of the Heart, and begin reconciliation correctly. Now is the time to create change. 

The Uluru Statement of the Heart is Voice, Treaty, and Truth. 

Voice is a nationally enshrined Indigenous representative body in the government, to provide advice and guidance around decision making and truth telling in our history. The body would be similar to an advisory council, able to discuss things like the use of sacred burial areas for tourism, or education reform. The body would NOT able to veto or physically stop decisions, but could provide an Indigenous perspective. Our traditional custodians have lived on this land for tens of thousands of years maintaining culture, language, and the environment – would it not be beneficial to hear our perspective and allow for our mob to have a say on topics that impact us too? 

It is crucial that the body be established within our constitution, and would therefore need to be approved by a double majority referendum (approved by a majority of voters and a majority of states). Once constitutional, it cannot be reversed without another referendum, thus ensuring that a representative body cannot be abolished and that our voice can be heard and will not be silenced again. 

Voice is extremely important, because in the past we have been silenced. Being heard is a basic human right to be heard and everyone deserves to be heard. Our ancestors fought long and hard for a right to be seen and counted, now we fight for our voice to be heard. 

Treaty is a ratified agreement between states that establishes rights for Indigenous people. Did you know we are the only Commonwealth country that does not have a treaty with its traditional custodians? A treaty means that we acknowledge our Indigenous Australians, and promote sovereignty and self-determination. This is extremely important and has been a long-standing campaign since the 70s. By enforcing a treaty, as a nation we can progress further towards rightful reconciliation. 

Truth ensures storytelling, a significant part of our culture, is truthful. It ensures that our stories and our ancestors are heard truthfully, thereby imparting the recognition they deserve, and allowing us as a country to move forward together. 

Voice, Treaty, Truth works hand in hand with this year’s NAIDOC theme: Get up! Stand up! Show up!  

We need to keep on fighting for our ancestors and for the rights of Indigenous Australians. What has happened in Australia’s past and to our First Nations People was not fair and we need to continue fighting for justice through the implementation of the Uluru Statement of the Heart. Now is our time to create change; to keep the momentum going. It is time to Get up, Stand up and Show up to fight for what is right, no matter your colour, no matter your heritage. 

So, how do we do this? 

We need to take action! We need to continue educating ourselves and others about the Uluru Statement of the Heart. We need to start having these conversations to impact others and start getting people to think about a referendum. We need to start acknowledging and amplifying Indigenous voices. But lastly, we need to work together – black or not – to fight for our rights to walk the same path and become a united nation together. 

United together, we can create real, effective change and make things right between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. 

We are our ancestors’ wildest dreams, and we are nowhere near stopping. 

Get up! Stand up! Show up!

Jessy Renouf is a 20-year-old Gubbi Gubbi woman living in Meanjin (Brisbane), in her third year of a Bachelor of Behavioural Science and Justice at QUT. Majoring in policy and politics, Jessy is extremely passionate about mental health and wellbeing, Indigenous rights, and the overall advocacy of those in need. You can find more from Jessy, here.


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