Reading 17. Statement from the Heart

"We, gathered at the 2017 National Constitutional Convention, coming from all points of the southern sky, make this statement from the heart:

Our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander tribes were the first sovereign Nations of the Australian continent and its adjacent islands, and possessed it under our own laws and customs. This our ancestors did, according to the reckoning of our culture, from the Creation, according to the common law from ‘time immemorial’, and according to science more than 60,000 years ago.

This sovereignty is a spiritual notion: the ancestral tie between the land, or ‘mother nature’, and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples who were born therefrom, remain attached thereto, and must one day return thither to be united with our ancestors. This link is the basis of the ownership of the soil, or better, of sovereignty. It has never been ceded or extinguished, and co-exists with the sovereignty of the Crown.

How could it be otherwise? That peoples possessed a land for sixty millennia and this sacred link disappears from world history in merely the last two hundred years?

With substantive constitutional change and structural reform, we believe this ancient sovereignty can shine through as a fuller expression of Australia’s nationhood.

Proportionally, we are the most incarcerated people on the planet. We are not an innately criminal people. Our children are aliened from their families at unprecedented rates. This cannot be because we have no love for them. And our youth languish in detention in obscene numbers. They should be our hope for the future.

These dimensions of our crisis tell plainly the structural nature of our problem. This is the torment of our powerlessness.

We seek constitutional reforms to empower our people and take a rightful place in our own country. When we have power over our destiny our children will flourish. They will walk in two worlds and their culture will be a gift to their country.

We call for the establishment of a First Nations Voice enshrined in the Constitution.

Makarrata is the culmination of our agenda: the coming together after a struggle. It captures our aspirations for a fair and truthful relationship with the people of Australia and a better future for our children based on justice and self-determination.

We seek a Makarrata Commission to supervise a process of agreement-making between governments and First Nations and truth-telling about our history.

In 1967 we were counted, in 2017 we seek to be heard. We leave base camp and start our trek across this vast country. We invite you to walk with us in a movement of the Australian people for a better future."




The official painted and signed canvas of the Statement was presented to the Australian Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, and the leader of the opposition, Bill Shorten, on 5 August 2017, at the Garma Festival in north-east Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory.[14]

The Statement was also on display alongside musician John Butler at the Woodford Folk Festival in Queensland.[15]

On 26 October 2017 the Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, issued a joint statement with the attorney general, George Brandis, and the Indigenous affairs minister, Nigel Scullion rejecting the statement.[16] The statement said "The government does not believe such a radical change to our constitution’s representative institutions has any realistic prospect of being supported by a majority of Australians in a majority of states.”[17][18][19].

Constitutional change advocate and Uluru delegate, Jesse John Fleay, said "This criticism came, apparently ignorant of the fact that most Commonwealth nations—including New Zealand and Canada—have enacted far less conservative treaties with their First People, and none of these democracies have collapsed. The criticism also came with apparent unawareness of the fact that Australia remains the only Commonwealth nation without a treaty with its First People." [20]

Referendum council

The 16-member Referendum Council was jointly appointed by the Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, and Leader of the Opposition, Bill Shorten, on 7 December 2015. The council was to advise the government on steps towards a referendum to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the Australian Constitution.[1][2]

The council was made up of Indigenous and non-Indigenous community leaders and co-chaired by Patrick Dodson,[3] and Mark Leibler AC.[4] Patrick Dodson resigned from the council on the 2nd of March 2016 after being endorsed by the Australian Labor Party for a vacant Western Australian Senate seat,[3] and was replaced by serving council member Pat Anderson AO.[5][6]

Over a six-month period the council travelled to 12 different locations around Australia and met with over 1,200 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representatives. The meetings resulted in a consensus document on constitutional recognition, the Uluru Statement from the Heart.[2]

First Nations National Constitutional Convention met over four days from 23 to 26 May 2017.[7]

Council member Megan Davis gave the first public reading of the statement at the conclusion of the 2017 First Nations National Constitutional Convention at Uluru.[2]

The convention was adopted by the 250 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander delegates.[8][9]


Artwork In keeping with the tradition of the Yirrkala bark petitions and the Barunga statement, the Uluru Statement was made in the form of a work of art. The statement is placed in the centre which is where the power resides. Surrounding the statement are signatures of over 250 delegates who attended the conference and reached consensus. 100 first nations are represented in the statement by signatories who included the name of their nation.[2]

The artwork tells the story of two Tjukurpa creation stories of the traditional owners of Uluru, the Aṉangu people. One tells how the Uluru landscape was shaped by a fight to the death at the Mutitjulu Rockhole between Kuniya, the woma python with eggs from the north east, at the top left, and Liru, the poisonous snake from the south west, at the bottom left. The other tells the story of the Mala people, represented by the Rufous hare-wallaby who, while holding a ceremony at the top of Uluru, became involved in a dispute with men who came from the west. The men left and created Kurpany, the devil dingo, represented by the dog prints.[2] Objections While not objecting to the content of the statement, Anangu elders Alison Hunt and Donald Fraser asked that the Reconciliation Council remove the word Uluru from the title, saying it was included without proper consultation. A representative of the Working Group said she was aware of the request and that the group is prepared to respect it, but that it is "not unusual" for statements to be named after the meeting place from where it was made.[10]