15 September 2023

'Like you, we want our kids and young people to see a future for themselves,' First Nations woman tells leaders

| Chris Johnson
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Bridget Cama, co-chair of the Uluru Youth Dialogue. Photo: Region.

As the Federal Parliament’s Voice debate grew increasingly acrimonious this week, barely a kilometre away a young First Nations woman delivered a simple and dignified speech to hundreds of people gathered from around Australia.

Bridget Cama, Wiradjuri woman, lawyer and co-chair of the Uluru Youth Dialogue, delivered a well-received address to the Regions Rising Summit in Canberra’s Hotel Realm.

Her speech was neither emotional or dramatic, but rather well-crafted and pragmatic – and stood in stark contrast to the heated discussion taking place at the despatch boxes on the Hill.

“I don’t want to be having these same conversations in 20 years that we have been having for over 50 years, if not longer,” she told the conference.

“To move forward and to start to heal as as nation, we need to deal with the unfinished business of the past.

“On the 14th of October Australians will be asked to vote on one question. That question is whether or not we recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the Australian Constitution through a Voice … Unfortunately, there are particular politicians and mischief makers on the No side who are saying there’s not enough detail out there for the Australian people to make an informed decision this question.

“But that is plainly not true. There is enough information out there to make an informed decision.

“Our challenge though is making sure Australians have access to accurate information, both for the democratic process and whatever the outcome is found.”

READ ALSO Regions summit focusses on housing problems, workforce shortages

Ms Cama was a last-minute guest speaker at the Regional Australia Institute’s two-day summit after one of the co-authors of the Uluru Statement from the Heart scheduled to speak had to pull out due to a family tragedy.

Her message was strongly endorsed by the audience of local councillors, entrepreneurs, policymakers and community leaders from around the country.

They had converged on Canberra from the regions, they were mostly not Indigenous, and they were expressing support for the Voice to Parliament.

“You may be confused about the question. There has been a lot of misinformation and a lot of scaremongering,” Ms Cama said.

“This kind of thing has regrettably defined this debate.”

She encouraged everyone to start conversations about the referendum and its question, to build more awareness of the facts before the nation votes.

“What we want is a better quality of life for mob in regional and remote Australia,” she said.

“That means good jobs and good quality housing. It means our kids graduate from school with a good education and have opportunities to lead productive lives … to have families that flourish and are able to contribute.

“Like you, we want our kids and young people to see a future for themselves, where they live – in community. Aboriginal people don’t want to have to move to Canberra or to a big city to have their voices heard. The status quo and the No vote says it’s OK that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders live lives of extreme disadvantage within a wealthy nation …

“If the Yes vote carries, it will be the beginning of a new more positive, more empowered and more equal chapter of this country.”

READ ALSO You’re a public servant with a view about the Voice? That’s great, let’s hear it

Meanwhile, up on the Hill shortly after Ms Cama’s speech completed, Indigenous Australians Minister Linda Burney attempted to cut through the interference during Question Time.

“Everyone in this debate should act respectfully and with care for one another,” Ms Burney said.

“This referendum is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in our Constitution. If we miss this moment it is gone forever.

“Recognition should be an issue that is above politics. There are no second chances here. The tone of the debate in this parliament matters. There must be a mutual respect here.

“We must be guided by love and by faith. Love for our fellow Australians and faith in a better future”.

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I thought Jacinta Price’s comments were an absolute breath of fresh air – of course there were negative results from British colonization – nobody denies that but what has to be kept in mind is that sooner or later every culture no matter how remote had to come to terms with modernity and modernity in the British guise is what came to Australia and without a doubt it had manifold benefits the fact that we are communicating in English and on a computer bears witness to that! Perhaps she should have dwelt on the negatives a bit more but there are legions out there who have done that!!! Jacinta’s remarks were actually quite radical and I would love to see so many more of this radical type of idea than the usual ones that for a long time now pass as being radical but are actually the same worn out old nostrums.

Michael Mulvaney8:48 pm 17 Sep 23

Please Hiddendragon and Waggamick – read the Uluru Statement of the Heart, which clearly sets the context of why First Nations people are asking to be recognised and listened to. The statement also invites us to walk together and be reconciled, which is a coming together of separated parties. Our part of the reconciliation process is to put in the past silo decision making based on mis-taken feelings of superiority and recognise that decisions about indigenous people are best made with their input. The referendum is simply about whether or not we think that indigenous people deserve a say to Parliament on the laws and policies that affect their communities. I’m voting YES as it is a simple request that First nations people have put to me and you and they have identified it as a key plank for a reconciled Australia. This is not a time for “I know best” thinking.

HiddenDragon6:36 pm 15 Sep 23

“But that is plainly not true. There is enough information out there to make an informed decision.”

Not so – anyone whose decision on how they will vote turns on being persuaded that a constitutionally enshrined consultative process will find solutions to problems which have eluded all the current and former consultative and power-sharing processes will still be looking for answers, even if they have read the reports and carefully followed the public discourse on this issue.

‘Good jobs and good quality housing. It means our kids graduate from school with a good education and have opportunities to lead productive lives,’ BUT ‘Aboriginal people don’t want to have to move to Canberra or to a big city’.
Remote and rural Australia is in decline and has been for the last 30 years. barraba lost it’s last GP today. Mt. Isa shut down child care centres being unable to recruit trained workers. Victoria is 900 teachers short. The ACT has a teacher shortage and waiting times for specialists are months long. Tradies especially builders are in short supply everywhere. But Ms. Cama and The Voice want and promise the myth of remote employment, housing and education that will close The Gap but ‘Aboriginal people don’t want to have to move to Canberra or to a big city’. Many indigenous have realised that this is nothing but a selfish dream. They have realised that indigenous people have a responsibility as well. That they have to take steps to improve their and their children’s situations as well. Those steps should be towards decent sized population centres that can offer vital services and opportunities.

Balance needed2:51 pm 15 Sep 23

Well said waggamick, as usual.
In contrast to the outrageous slur in this article that: “the No vote says it’s OK that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders live lives of extreme disadvantage within a wealthy nation …”

Talk about disinformation. The No case has repeatedly said that this is not OK. When did Jacinta Price or Warren Mundine or indeed any Australian ever say” it’s OK they live lives of extreme disadvantage “?

This is the sort of comment that makes it so hard to vote Yes.

@Balance needed
It was only yesterday that opposition Indigenous Affairs and No campaign spokesperson Jacinta Price gave a widely reported address at the National Press Club in Canberra. In reply to a question from a journalist she made the startling comment that there were no lasting negative impacts of British colonisation on Indigenous communities. This comment has been widely reported and condemned by the public, media and our parliamentarians. Indigenous leaders have described it as offensive and a betrayal to the many families that have experienced, and continue to experience intergenerational trauma from the impacts of colonisation, including the stolen generations. Even Peter Dutton refused to endorse her comments.

Then there were the offensive comments by Gary Johns, president of the anti-voice group Recognise a Better Way (founded and chaired by Indigenous spokesperson Warren Mundine). In a speech at the CPAC conservative conference, which was chaired by Mundine, Johns asserted that some Indigenous communites lived in a stupor and, claiming to quote from Jacinta Price’s foreign born husband, “should learn English”. These comments were followed up with a so-called comedian making racist jokes and mocking traditional owners as “violent black men” and “woman bashers”. It was reported that these comments were met with applause and laughter from the audience.

Warren Mundine and Jacinta Price were the headline speakers at this CPAC event. Both have refused to condemn the comments and Mundine has defended the comedian. Other headline speakers included Tony Abbott, Bronwyn Bishop and several sitting National MPs.

Struggling to see in any of you misrepresented and out of context comments where anyone said that it’s OK for Indigenuous Australians to live lives in extreme disadvantage?

In fact each one of them has said its not OK and given ways to address that disadvantage, focusing on need and not race.

They just aren’t buying into the identity politics and victim hood industry being pushed by so called progressives, whose policies have thoroughly failed over many decades to make any difference.

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