We are, right now, silently ignoring an historically shocking moment in our nation’s long history of dispossession.

The  journey from dispossession to recovery requires leadership. This has been proven time and again, around the world and across the centuries: the oppressed lead themselves out of oppression. The only way you can stop that happening is to undermine the leadership. And we have undermined the Aboriginal leadership, systematically, since 1788. But in case anyone thinks that we stopped doing that last century, look at what our national leaders have done in 2017. In our name.  Look at it. Listen to it. Don’t turn away. This is our nation; yours and mine. Don’t turn away.

In 2017 hundreds of Aboriginal leaders from across Australia worked together to create a foundation for constitutional recognition. They did this at the request of the government. They did it in good faith. Think about that: in the wake of repeated betrayals, they did it in good faith. Gathered together at Uluru, they agreed to a simple ‘Statement from the Heart’, a starting point for negotiations with our government and with their fellow Australians; with you and me. It was an inspiring demonstration of patience, collaboration and leadership.

Through this simple Statement (which is, by international standards, profoundly moderate), they addressed our national leaders.  And our national leaders, effectively, spat in their face.  They didn’t accept the Statement with humility and dignity. They didn’t call us together as a nation to talk about this. They didn’t even say ‘we will give this careful thought, even though we don’t yet understand it.’ They simply rejected it. Behind closed doors.  In so doing, they broke the heart of all but the most resigned Aboriginal leaders. They did this in our name. So don’t turn away.

Some will say to you “well … these symbolic or political acts wouldn’t address the health problems, or incarceration or unemployment”. They are wrong. They are un-thinking devotees of the latest form of dispossession –welfarism:  the idea that money and services will ‘solve the problem’.  Any politician who ignores or undermines Aboriginal leadership is feeding welfarism even when, as John Howard did, they rebrand it as ‘practical reconciliation’. Money and services can do nothing when human spirit, human heart, is broken. If you want to break the spirit of a people, undermine their leadership. This is what our national leaders have done. They have cruelly undermined Aboriginal leaders; and thereby undermined Aboriginal recovery.  They have done this in our name.  Don’t turn away.

We need to raise our voices, if we want to stand proud as Australians.   We need to find a way to meet this dignified Statement from the Heart with a heartfelt dignity and pride of our own. We need to ask more of our leaders—Labor, Coalition, Independents.  Ask them to lead. Ask them to honour and support Aboriginal leadership. Ask them to help us all in striving to understand this Statement from the Heart, and to begin negotiations in good faith, so that we might learn how to live well, together, in this nation. Please, join this call. Don’t turn away. For God’s sake; for your nation’s sake, for dignity’s sake, don’t turn away.

What seems impossible can change.  The Berlin wall fell. Apartheid collapsed.  All Australians can now marry their loved one. Change will come if enough of us insist on it.

Don’t turn away. Listen. Understand.  Speak.

And, at the very least, sign this petition… https://www.acoss.org.au/supportfirstnations/