The Guardian • Issue #2071

Time to Listen: An Indigenous Voice to Parliament

  • The Guardian
  • Issue #2071

A new book explores the need for the Voice, and the background of the ‘great Australian silence.’

Monash University researchers, Professor Melissa Castan and Professor Lynette Russell AM, explore the intricacies of human rights, social justice and the Indigenous Voice to Parliament as part of their new book, Time to Listen.

Australia is engaged in a historic debate about the Indigenous Voice to Parliament ahead of the 14th October referendum to amend the Constitution. The Voice to Parliament is proposed to be a representative body, enshrined in the Constitution, to advise federal parliament on laws and policies of significance to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

The concept of the Voice was famously raised in 2017, when Indigenous leaders drafted the Uluru Statement from the Heart. However, as Australia stands on the precipice of implementing this critical reform, the question remains: Will this Voice truly be heard?

Time to Listen takes readers on a journey through the history and significance of the Indigenous Voice to Parliament. Authors Professor Castan and Professor Russell, delve deep into the roots of the need for a Voice to Parliament, tracing it back to what anthropologist WEH Stanner referred to in the late 1960s as the ‘Great Australian Silence.’

Professor Castan, Monash Law Faculty and the Director of the Castan Centre for Human Rights Law, said this silence has perpetuated the ignorance of Indigenous Australian history and culture within wider society.

“This ‘forgetting’ was not accidental but rather an intentional colonial policy of erasure. As we stand on the cusp of change, within our book we question whether the tragedy of this national silence, the refusal to acknowledge Indigenous agency and cultural achievements, is finally drawing to a close,” Professor Castan said.

Monash University’s Indigenous Studies Centre Director Professor Russell said Time to Listen serves as a vital resource in fostering understanding, dialogue, and engagement.

“The Voice to Parliament represents a transformative legal and political institutional reform, but its success hinges on our willingness to truly listen to Indigenous voices and ensure they are heard loud and clear when they speak,” Professor Russell said.

Professor Castan and Professor Russell’s Time to Listen is a powerful testament to the need for meaningful dialogue and action on Indigenous rights and the Voice to Parliament.

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