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Walking together: the role of the Uluru Statement and a First Nations Voice in addressing Incarceration Rates

Speech delivered by Arthur Moses SC, Law Council President, at the National Indigenous Legal Conference, Darwin, 14 August 2019.

"Advocating for the adoption of the Uluru Statement from the Heart and a Voice for First Australians is one of my key priorities as President of the Law Council this year. I am grateful for the opportunity to speak with you today on a subject that is critical to our nation’s future. I want to examine how giving Indigenous people an effective voice can make a practical difference in addressing incarceration rates.

Australia’s recent path to reconciliation has been, at times, incredibly slow. Not because there is necessarily disagreement on where we need to head or why, but because we have often moved at different speeds, chartered different courses and tripped over best intentions. Two years ago, the Uluru Statement from the Heart was conceived from one of the most comprehensive consultations of Indigenous Australians in our nation’s history.

The Statement laid down a road map and issued an invitation – not to Canberra but to all Australians – “to walk with us in a movement of the Australian people for a better future”. That was an important invitation. It recognised that to achieve change requires all Australians – of all political persuasions – to walk together for a better future.

Unfortunately, the road map has not been properly understood. The legal profession and the Law Council have an important role in developing a better understanding of the Voice if we are to achieve the necessary bipartisan support. The Uluru Statement proposed a constitutionally enshrined Voice – not a controversial proposal but an indigenous advisory body to provide advice on how legislation will impact on indigenous Australians."

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