NAIDOC started as a day of protest. In 1938, our old people marched to fight for the rights of First Nations people in this country. It was one of the first major civil rights gatherings in the world.
Our people called for it to be Day of Mourning, because whether you like it or not, ships came here and they murdered our people. That's an act of war and that war has not ended.
I know people find that hard to understand. But when you have the rates of incarceration, suicide, child removal, deaths in custody, and desecration of sacred sites that continue today, that's an ongoing war against us. It's just more sophisticated.
First Nations people are strong and capable. We have the solutions. One of the founders of NAIDOC, William Cooper, challenged the Federal Parliament and the Commonwealth Government to put decision-making about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people back in the hands of the First People of this country.
In 1935, Cooper petitioned King George V for Aboriginal electorates in our Federal Parliament. This would put us in the driver's seat, so we could be in charge of our own destinies.
Everyone is better off when we're free to steer our own course, but colonisation violates that human right. The Australian Government rejected Cooper's petition.
After the first NAIDOC march in 1938, Cooper presented then prime minister Joseph Lyons with a national policy for First Nations people. We know that community controlled services and decision-making deliver better outcomes for the communities they're a part of. Cooper's proposition was rejected by the Australian Government. Again.
Today, we continue to show up and speak out for what we've always believed in: self determination and sovereignty. This year's NAIDOC Week coincides with the 15th session of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Aboriginal people from around the world make up this Mechanism and give their expertise to the United Nations Human Rights Council.
This is a good reminder that our fight for justice doesn't exist in a vacuum. Every day, all around the world, First Nations people are advocating for the rights of our communities and our country.
When domestic laws fail us, we can look to international human rights frameworks to fix the racist systems that make decisions about us, without us.
In the last sitting week of the Senate, I successfully introduced a Private Senators Bill to ensure this country complies with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
When correctly implemented the UN declaration will stop state and federal governments from locking First Nations people out of decisions, cutting services, and driving inequality in the places where billions of dollars are being extracted by mining corporations.
This bill requires the government develop a national action plan to implement the declaration and to audit our existing laws, policies and practice so that they are compliant.
The Senate also passed a motion, introduced by Senator Dorinda Cox and I, that established an inquiry into the application of the Declaration. The Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee is due to report on this later this year.
The declaration lays the foundation for truth and Treaty in this country. Truth-telling is when we hold up a mirror to this nation and ask: who are we? Where do we come from? Where are we going? It explores and reckons with our past to understand the impact it continues to have today.
A Treaty, or Treaties, is a peace-making instrument. It's an end to the war and an opportunity to mature as a nation. To create a unified national identity that celebrates what unites us. We're one of the only Commonwealth countries that doesn't have a Treaty with First Nations people. It's time to Treaty.
This isn't about who you are as an individual, this is about who we are as a nation. Whether we've been here for five years, five generations or five thousand generations, we need to work together and redesign things so it's fair for everyone.
Together, we can create a nation that reflects the values we all share so everyone can be treated equally and experience the same respect and dignity.
Come with us on this journey of truth telling and Treaty.
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