Walking Together with our First Peoples

Walking Together with our First Peoples
28/04/2023 ASPA Group

Walking Together with our First Peoples

At a recent meeting, ASPA Board members unanimously agreed that we support the constitutional recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples through a Voice to Parliament.

We feel this decision is a significant step in our journey towards reconciliation – a commitment we formalised through a Reflect Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) in 2022, but a journey we embarked on long before at ASPA.

ASPA’s Reconciliation Journey

 15 years ago ASPA Directors founded Girls from Oz Ltd (g-oz) – a not-for-profit sister organisation to the Australian Girls Choir (AGC) with the goal of delivering high quality performing arts education to First Nations girls in remote communities. We’ve seen the powerful impact that g-oz has in these remote communities, with the performing arts acting as hook of engagement for girls to regularly attend school and experience the benefits of sustained educational activities.

 “It reaches right into my heart, when I think of what has been achieved. Each one of the girls will remember this experience and it will stand them in great stead in ways they couldn’t imagine. It’s so powerful…particularly at this time in our nation.” – Dame Quentin Bryce AD CVO – g-oz Patron and Former Governer-General

In turn, we’ve seen ASPA directors, staff and AGC choristers deepen their knowledge and understanding of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, and build relationships across five different communities in Western Australia and on Cape York in Queensland. According to Reconciliation Australia, this is what reconciliation is all about – “strengthening relationships between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and non-Indigenous peoples, for the benefit of all Australians.” 

To further understand what it takes to achieve reconciliation, in 2022 APSA launched its Reflect RAP with Reconciliation Australia. The deliverables outlined by Reconciliation Australia mean that as an organisation we remain accountable to our commitment to reconciliation. More specifically, our RAP outlines our commitment to the “development and expression of inclusivity, diversity and reconciliation within our community”. It also recognises that song, dance, storytelling and connection to Country is enriched in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, and that there is still a great deal for us to learn as a performing arts organisation.

By supporting a First Nations Voice to Parliament, we are continuing our commitment to learning more about our country’s longest living culture, and say yes to Indigenous voices having input into policy and legal decisions that impacts their lives and communities.

What is the Voice to Parliament and why is it important?

We have looked to trusted sources and professional contacts to compile this summary for those who are yet to investigate the issue.

The Voice to Parliament was first presented in the Uluru Statement from the Heart in 2017. The Uluru Statement from the Heart calls for, “… the establishment of a First Nations Voice enshrined in the Constitution and a Makarrata Commission to supervise a process of agreement-making and truth-telling about our history.”

In late 2023, a Referendum will be held asking all Australians whether they support “A Proposed Law: to alter the Constitution to recognise the First Peoples of Australia by establishing an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice.”

If the referendum is successful, there will always be a permanent body in Parliament with a First Nations Voice to advise on the policies and laws that affect their communities, regardless of successive governments. This also means that after 65,000 years of continuous culture, Australia’s First Peoples are recognised in our 122-year-old Constitution.

It is an acknowledgement that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people know how to manage their own affairs, as supported by g-oz Board Director and CEO of SNAICC – National Voice for our Children, Catherine Liddle.

Aboriginal communities and families have the solutions. We have more than 60,000 years experience in successfully raising children to be strong and thriving. Listen to our voices and expertise.” – Media Release: Statement from SNAIIC CEO Catherine Liddle in response to comment by Federal Opposition Leader Peter Dutton in Alice Springs, Apr 14

We are proud to take this next step “towards a better future” and ask our community to question:

“How can I – me myself – contribute to reconciliation, to the advancement, the protection, the promotion of human rights?” Dame Quentin Bryce AD CVO – g-oz Patron and Former Governer-General.