Associate Professor Alison Vivian addressed Urban Water Solutions staff at our June 2023 Lunch and Learn session. Alison, a lawyer, and researcher at the Indigenous Nations and Collaborative Futures research hubs within the Jumbunna Institute for Indigenous Education and Research, and the University of Technology Sydney, presented an overview of constitutional law in the context of the upcoming referendum on the First Nations Voice to Parliament.
The presentation covered how constitutions can take various forms and should be viewed as a ‘means to an end’ rather than an end in themselves. Dr. Vivian also provided the legal background as to why the original 1900 Act to constitute the Commonwealth of Australia was worded in such a way that did not recognise First Nations People as part of the Australian population. Although this was addressed in the 1967 amendment to the constitution, subsequent dialogues with First Nations people, culminating with the Uluru Statement in 2017, led to a call for a First Nations Voice to Parliament to be incorporated within Australia’s constitution and is the impetus for the Referendum to be held later this year.
Dr. Vivian explained how the Voice to Parliament should be seen in a similar light to our readiness to acknowledge First Nations people’s custodianship of land at public events and presentations. The inclusion of the Voice to Parliament in our constitution provides the means for Parliament to develop and introduce the rules and practices necessary for First Nations people to provide Parliament and the government with advice regarding the matters that affect their families and communities.
Urban Water Solutions is grateful to Assoc. Prof. Alison Vivian for expanding our knowledge on this important topic.