Walking together: migrants, the Uluṟu Statement, and our shared Australian journey
As a Lebanese Australian and a councillor at the City of Melbourne, I bear witness to the stunning tapestry of cultures that Australia prides itself on. Yet, beneath this rich weave lies a narrative of dispossession, longing, and resilience.
As representatives of migrant communities, we must acknowledge this story and take actionable steps to bridge the chasm between our First Peoples and the representation they rightly deserve.
Migrants in Australia, though proud of their adopted homeland, are no strangers to the occasional pang of alienation. The taunts of the high school playground are never far, even today.
These fleeting moments prompt reflection: if such feelings arise from our relatively recent settlement, how profound must be the sense of dispossession among those whose lineage on this land stretches back more than 65,000 years?
On Thursday, September 21 at Melbourne Town Hall, the eminent Noel Pearson provided a perspective that struck a chord deep within many of us. He poignantly remarked on how Australia had generously offered refuge, wealth, and privilege to countless migrants. This vast land has become home, allowing many to claim both an old country and a new home country.
Yet, for our Aboriginal brothers and sisters, it’s a singular bond – the same country underfoot, spanning past, present, and future.
The Uluru Statement and the Voice are emblematic of a hand extended in solidarity, from those who lost immeasurably due to a historical oversight in recognition.
The pressing question then becomes: who, in understanding this profound gesture, would dismiss this hand of recognition and peace?
Our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, with their deep-rooted connection to this land, have experienced not just dispossession but a silencing of their voice.
Reports like the Closing the Gap continually underscore the stark disparities Indigenous Australians face.
But beyond the statistics, it’s the narrative of lost community and suppressed voices that pierces the heart.
I had the privilege to hear Uncle Archie Roach on one of his last public performances before he passed and heard his story as a child of the stolen generation in person. There was not a dry eye at the Bowl.
The Uluru Statement from the Heart isn’t merely a declaration; it’s a poignant invitation.
First Nations people invite us all to walk with them in a movement of the Australian people for a better future.
The statement’s profound resonance captures their aspirations for recognition, for a voice, and most importantly, for the rightful place in their own country. It’s a call to journey together, to engage in a genuine partnership, and to craft a shared future.
Endorsing a Voice to Parliament is both a recognition and a rectification. This isn’t just about representation – it’s about community restoration, understanding, and an earnest commitment to inclusivity. It’s a promise to ensure that no voice, no matter how historically suppressed, remains unheard.
With the Uluru Statement as our guiding star, Australia’s multicultural communities can become formidable allies in this journey. Our unique histories and experiences can amplify the cause, forging a united narrative of hope and progress. We’ve seen the transformative power of Indigenous integration in nations like New Zealand and Canada. Now, it’s Australia’s turn to answer the call and champion its Indigenous heritage.
To every Australian, especially my fellow migrants: the “Yes” vote is more than a choice; it’s our answer to the heartfelt invitation extended by our First Peoples. By championing the Voice to Parliament, we not only start a journey to right historical wrongs but also shape a nation that truly honours and celebrates its diverse lineage.
The Uluru Statement from the Heart is a beacon, guiding us towards reconciliation and unity. It’s time we step into this journey, hand in hand, and create an Australia where every voice, every story, and every heart is acknowledged and valued. •
Jamal Hakim is a councillor at the City of Melbourne and a board member of Democracy in Colour.