words JULIA HEYWARD, ANNIE WARD-AMBLER AND MAX GRIFFIN edited by TEELA REID artwork LAUREN ROGERS
This year will see a referendum called for First Nations constitutional recognition through an Indigenous Voice to Parliament. In Issue 57, our team had the honour of working alongside Wiradjuri and Wailwan lawyer Teela Reid as she penned the feature ‘Voice, A New Vision’.
“The idea to enshrine a First Nations Voice is one of the systemic changes mandated in the Uluru Statement from the Heart: ‘We call for a First Nations Voice to Parliament enshrined in the Constitution.’ That is the invitation the Australian people have overwhelmingly accepted at the heart of the Uluru Statement – to enshrine a First Nations Voice,” Teela writes.
“It invites the Australian people to ‘walk with us’ towards a First Nations Voice and a Makarrata Commission. A Makarrata Commission would supervise a process of treaties and truth-telling. Makarrata is a Yolngu word meaning ‘coming together after a struggle’. This is the vision for a better future and the mandate formulated by a cross-section of the First Nations community.”
As part of Peppermint’s commitment to sharing valuable resources and amplifying First Nations’ voices, over the next few weeks, we will be publishing this feature online in full so it is free for all to access. For 30 years, Arnold Bloch Leibler, a leading Australian law firm, has worked with First Nations peoples, most often pro bono, on matters at the core of Indigenous self-determination resolve. Here, they speak to the power of solidarity in action.
ABL’s Indigenous Solidarity Network (AISN) is a group of lawyers and staff at all levels of the firm, who seek to ensure First Nations’ voices are heard and incorporated in all we do. Our statement of commitment captures these responsibilities and confirms our unequivocal acceptance of the invitation reflected in the Uluru Statement from the Heart to walk together in a movement towards a better future, with the First Nations Voice to Parliament leading the way.
Being a true ally means listening to, and learning from, Indigenous perspectives with humility and open minds; educating ourselves about Australia’s true history; engaging in real action; and self-reflecting.
In the lead-up to the Voice referendum this year, ABL is privileged to be invited by Peppermint to share some insights into our approach to actioning solidarity. For us, being a true ally means listening to, and learning from, Indigenous perspectives with humility and open minds; educating ourselves about Australia’s true history; engaging in real action; and self-reflecting.
Listen and learn
We’ve learned the importance of truly listening with humility to the experiences of First Nations peoples. Relationships of mutual trust cannot even begin to form unless non-Indigenous people are prepared to do that. For us at ABL, as First Nations allies, this means honouring the principles of “free, prior and informed consent” and “nothing about us, without us”.
It is essential we all take time to read the Uluru Statement from the Heart carefully and listen to the overwhelmingly positive perspectives of First Nations peoples on what the Voice means to them, empowering lives and giving agency in relation to decisions that may affect them, for the good of civil society.
In ABL’s work alongside First Nations peoples, we know the “more we learn, the less we know”. Nothing can be truer when it comes to the Voice. We all need to continue to educate ourselves and refine our understanding about this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
Non-Indigenous Australians, in various ways and by various means, are direct beneficiaries of colonisation.
There is a plethora of valuable resources on the rich history and cultures of First Nations peoples and the ongoing impacts of colonialism and racism. We all have a personal responsibility to undertake this task. In doing so, First Nations’ perspectives must be prioritised. It may lead to an understanding, as it has for us, that non-Indigenous Australians, in various ways and by various means, are direct beneficiaries of colonisation. Non-Indigenous opposition to the Voice must be critically analysed in this context.
True Indigenous solidarity requires focused and strategic action. We all have unique skills and networks to offer to the cause. Get involved. This is a peoples’ movement. As a law firm, in public and in private, our focus will continue to be directed towards advocacy and helping to debunk the false legal arguments being mounted in opposition to the Voice.
The pathway to self-determination is always developing, as are the ways non-Indigenous contributions can be made to supporting the Voice. ABL’s pivot in recent years towards the language and an approach of solidarity was the result of self-reflection and feedback.
The pathway to self-determination is always developing.
We’ve learned that for some First Nations peoples, the concept of reconciliation is complex. It is healthy to acknowledge and incorporate better ways of doing things, from the symbolic to the practical – which are inherently interconnected. It helps us to become better, more effective allies.