- The Guardian
- Issue #2052
Maritime workers around Australia are hearing from the Union’s National Indigenous Officer, Thomas Mayo, at meetings around the country, about the union’s long-term support for justice, equality and representation for Australia’s First Peoples.
Thomas Mayo is an MUA officer, a wharfie, and an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leader who for many years has played a significant, national leadership role in the constitutional recognition campaign.
He is a signatory to the Uluru Statement from the Heart and the author of the bestselling book, Finding the Heart of the Nation, which shares the long history of the MUA’s solidarity with indigenous peoples, with the authorship royalties being returned to the Union and the campaign for constitutional recognition.
Thomas’s presentations to MUA members are an opportunity for maritime workers to hear from one of their own about the ways a Voice to Parliament will align with their collective union values.
To break down barriers between different groups of people, Mayo, who is MUA Indigenous Officer and a signatory to the Uluru Statement, often explains the principle of the Voice through the language of trade unionism. “In order to make an agreement, first you need a voice. Workers shouldn’t sign an agreement with an employer without being consulted, but for consultation first you need a structure and a mechanism for people to be properly and legitimately heard. That’s the Voice to Parliament,” he said.
To build support and consensus within the Maritime Union’s rank and file, Mr Mayo has been travelling to worksites and branches around the country to address the membership at meetings on the aims and principles of the Voice, as well as answer any questions they have.
“Like all of the major social justice reforms throughout history, the MUA rank and file is supporting the Voice campaign because as unionists we approach these questions from that position of solidarity and camaraderie which underpins everything we do,” Mr Mayo said.
“The Maritime Union of Australia has a long and proud history of working alongside and in solidarity with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders to advance their interests, pursue equality and fight to reverse the injustices of colonisation. The obvious and logical next step is to support the grassroots, nationwide campaign by Australian First Nations people to deliver Constitutional recognition and deliver a Voice to Parliament that can advise the government of the day on legislative matters that affect them,” said David Ball, Deputy Branch Secretary of the MUA’s Victorian Branch.