Australian indigenous leaders call for formal ‘voice’, path to treaty

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Dancers from East Arnhem Land at the summit’s opening ceremony

A historic summit in Australia has called for a new formal body to represent the nation’s indigenous peoples in parliament.

More than 250 indigenous leaders met in Uluru to discuss how to best recognise Australia’s first inhabitants.

Crucially, they rejected the idea of constitutional recognition – an idea that was criticised as merely symbolic.

Instead the delegates called for a constitutionally enshrined “voice” in parliament and a path to a treaty.

The statement – called the Uluru Statement from the Heart – came after three days of talks at the First Nations Convention.

“Proportionally, we are the most incarcerated people on the planet. We are not an innately criminal people,” it said.

“Our children are aliened from their families at unprecedented rates. This cannot be because we have no love for them. And our youth languish in detention in obscene numbers. They should be our hope for the future,” it said.

“We seek constitutional reforms to empower our people and take a rightful place in our own country. When we have power over our destiny our children will flourish.”

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The summit at Uluru in central Australia has spanned three days

The convention said it would only accept “substantive constitutional change and structural reform” that was not simply a statement of acknowledgment.

“It will have a more practical impact on Aboriginal people’s place in the democracy,” Cape York leader Noel Pearson told the…

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