The need for accountability and a meaningful voice to parliament – NAIDOC Week address by Professor Megan Davis

The need for accountability and a meaningful voice to parliament – NAIDOC Week address by Professor Megan Davis

Wednesday, 7 July 2021

NAIDOC Week artwork with the text Heal Country!

We were privileged to hear from constitutional and human rights lawyer, Professor Megan Davis, at an online event for our staff to celebrate NAIDOC Week.

Professor Davis, Pro Vice-Chancellor Indigenous at the University of New South Wales, is a Cobble Cobble woman from from the Barrungam Nation in Queensland.

She has been instrumental in the development of the Uluru Statement from the Heart in 2017 and the ongoing campaign to enshrine First Nations voices in the Australian constitution.

‘We say the voice to parliament, enshrined in the constitution is a game changer, because it’s not an advisory body, it would be a constitutional body that has the force of law of all Australian people voting at a referendum.’

Professor Davis updated staff on the history and progress of the campaign for constitutional reform, and how a voice to parliament could help to bring accountability to systems and structures, including the justice and child protection systems, which continue to disempower First Nations people in Australia.

‘We don't talk about race very well if at all… unlike the US where there's a much more sophisticated race discourse, there’s still this very strong sentiment of [Australia] not being a racist country despite all the evidence to the contrary,’ Professor Davis said.

‘We do think that the voice to parliament, because it is compelled by law to have us at the table, we do think that it will make a huge difference to the way in which our issues are dealt with,’ she told our staff.

The 2021 theme for NAIDOC Week is Heal Country! It calls for stronger measures to recognise, protect, and maintain all aspects of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture and heritage.

‘When you get to the core of what the NAIDOC committee is talking about it’s not just some kind of ethereal acknowledgement of culture and country…it speaks to the lack of legal recognition and protection in Australia,’ Professor Davis said.

‘We’ve been calling for strong measures and protections for decades and decades and we're still waiting.’

Victoria Legal Aid CEO Louise Glanville thanked Professor Davis for her address, noting NAIDOC Week is an important opportunity to reflect on the substantive actions required to truly embrace and recognise First Nations culture and history.

More information

Read more about NAIDOC Week and the 2021 theme of Heal Country!

Read more about the Uluru Statement from the Heart.

Read about our Reconciliation Action Plan.

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