ACC Australia voices support for First Nations representation in the Constitution

The in-house lawyers’ network penned a letter to Prime Minister Scott Morrison regarding the initiative

ACC Australia voices support for First Nations representation in the Constitution

The Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC) Australia has voiced its support for Uluru Statement from the Heart, an education initiative that calls for greater First Nations representation in the Constitution.

The statement was first presented in May 2017 by delegates from the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Referendum Convention.

“The Uluru Statement is a call to enshrine the voice of Australia's Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the Constitution,” said Lori Middlehurst, president of ACC Australia’s NSW division. “The First Nations Voice is critical to resolving their ongoing disempowerment, and to allow for fair treaties and treatment.”

In addition to the First Nations Voice initiative, the statement calls for the establishment of a Makarrata Commission that will be tasked with overseeing agreements and transparency between all levels of government and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. Middlehurst pointed out that the proposal is in line with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

ACC Australia has launched its Diversity, Equality and Inclusion and Leading Environmental and Social Sustainability website, which contains tools and material to assist its members in providing guidance to their organisations regarding the Uluru Statement. The in-house lawyers’ network will also be conducting workshops. 

“On behalf of thousands of in-house lawyers across Australia, we will continue to voice our support and take appropriate actions to help ensure that the requests in the Uluru Statement are adopted,” said Tanya Khan, ACC Australia’s managing director and vice president.

To this end, ACC Australia also penned a letter to Prime Minister Scott Morrison earlier this month calling for his support of the initiative.

“Growing support for the Uluru Statement’s three tenets of Voice, Treaty, Truth is building across Australian society, from business leaders to the constituents of your

electorate,” Khan wrote in the letter. “Both the Labour Party and the Australian Greens have already demonstrated support for a First Nations’ Voice to be enshrined in the Constitution. Many corporations and organisations in the private sector have also expressed their support.”

Khan asked Morrison to back motions before Parliament that established referendums related to the Uluru Statement. The letter highlighted the political names that have already shown “strong support” for the initiative, including Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt, ex-Aboriginal Affairs Minister Mr Phillip Ruddock, Julian Leeser MP and former Deputy Liberal leader Mr Fred Chaney AO.

Khan outlined a process through which the First Nations Voice initiative could be passed into law.

“ACC respectfully suggests that the following process would achieve effective Constitutional recognition. Once a model is settled, then a referendum on the Voice should occur. Immediately following a ‘Yes’ vote in the referendum, Parliament would then formalise the design and procedures of the First Nations’ Voice with enabling legislation,” she wrote.

Khan said that the requests presented by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders in the Uluru Statement “provide an opportunity for Australia to acknowledge our difficult history and move forward together in a genuine process of reconciliation.”

“ACC further supports the requests put forth that the Voice allow for contribution and participation by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders from diverse backgrounds, and not just the voices of established leadership figures. This latter request will help ensure that the Voice is representative of the ever-evolving needs of all our Indigenous peoples,” Khan said.

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