Indigenous eye health, Local, News

Ophthalmic sector backs First Nations voice to parliament

The Fred Hollows Foundation, RANZCO and Australia’s first Aboriginal ophthalmologist Associate Professor Kris Rallah-Baker have formed an alliance to call for a First Nations Voice to Parliament to be enshrined in the Australian Constitution.

The call supports From the Heart’s Week of Action, which occurred form 25-31 January, to promote the Uluru Statement from the Heart and advocate for a constitutionally enshrined Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples’ Voice to Parliament.

“As a nation, Australia is far behind other former British colonies in addressing issues that remain as a consequence of the dispossession and occupation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, which began on 26 January 1788 and has not yet ended,” Rallah-Baker said.

The Fred Hollows Foundation CEO Mr Ian Wishart added: “Australia has seen a reckoning with racial injustice and it’s abundantly clear that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples still do not have ‘a fair go’. It’s time First Nations Peoples had their say when the parliament makes laws that affect them.”

Ian Wishart.

The Uluru Statement was delivered in 2017, following an unprecedented National Constitutional Convention held by, with, and for First Nations Peoples. It is said to be an invitation to all Australians to walk with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and support their calls for constitutional and structural reform.

“These issues affect us all today and are not a dark and distant memory – they affect the very fibre of who we are as a nation. Without appropriate address we can never truly decolonise and heal the scars that haunt our collective psyche,” Rallah-Baker said.

“The Uluru Statement from the Heart lays out a sensible and collaborative pathway required to move forwards and make Australia truly a place of the ‘fair go’.”

RANZCO president Professor Nitin Verma said the college supported the Uluru Statement from the Heart “as a key step towards reconciliation with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples”.

Nitin Verma.

The Week of Action was the first of many events over the next year to build a movement of the Australian people in support of a referendum on a Voice to Parliament.

In November, the Minister for Indigenous Australians Mr Ken Wyatt stated the Federal Government intends to legislate a Voice before the end of this term of Parliament without guaranteed pathway to a referendum.

“We are asking the Australian Government to honour their commitment to a referendum. A constitutionally enshrined Voice to Parliament is a fair, practical and unifying reform,” Wishart said.

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