Dodson calls for voice at Rumba

By James Bennett

"Our task is to weave the garment and not let the government dictate what it is we want to have; that's all of us for a better nation."

That was part of Federal politician and Aboriginal leader Pat Dodson's powerful speech on Friday night.

Senator Dodson was the key note speaker of the 11th Dungala Kaiela Oration in front of a packed house at the Rumbalara Football and Netball Club.

He used his speech to talk about the contemporary issues Aboriginal people faced across the country including the voice around constitutional entrenchment, treaty and agreement making.

Some of the contemporary issues included the hardships faced by Yorta Yotra leaders and people over land rights.

"I still struggle to understand that judgement of the High Court in 2002 against members of the Yorta Yorta Aboriginal Community," the Labor Senator said.

"How can it be that the essence of their Aboriginality, their relationship with their land, could be so denied?

"I have met and enjoyed the company of many Yorta Yorta people over my lifetime.

"I just cannot accept that their connection to their land is any less powerful than is mine to my land in Broome where the Yawuru people have been granted native title.

"My heart goes out to the Yorta Yorta people whose ancestors have a long and proud history of agitating for the rights of First Nations people  –  rights that continue to be denied."

Pat Dodson, Paul Briggs OAM and Professor Duncan Maskell at the event.

Senator Dodson spoke in length about the reconciliation process he shared prior to being elected to the upper house in 2016.

Senator Dodson also spoke about the failings of previous governments in their weak attempts to lift Aboriginal identity.

He concluded with his thoughts on the future of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people.

He said "the voice must be enshrined in the constitution" and not merely recognising the first people in the constitution.

"The voice wants security. Not just security that legislation can't provide but political security, so the agenda of the first nations peoples isn't just a change when there's of government.

"They are capable of representing those views of the first nations people to whomever is the government of the day in parliament.

"And to those people, who want to scare people, and who continue to peddle falsehood that a voice will stand as a third chamber...let me say this: the voice would be non-justiciable – that is, courts will not be able to interfere, parliament’s supremacy will always be there beyond challenge.

"It will legislate the form of substance for the voice and we must ask ourselves why is there fear about that."

Guest Speakers: MC Karyn Ferguson, Kaiela Institute executive director Paul Briggs OAM, state Minister for Aboriginal Affairs Gavin Jennings, Federal Labor Senator Pat Dodson, Regional Aboriginal Justice Advisory Committee chair Lois Peeler AM, Melbourne University vice-chancellor Professor Duncan Maskell and local board member of Shepparton Aboriginal Arts Centre Belinda Briggs.

The News asked the Senator if the Yorta Yorta leaders could propel the Shepparton region into becoming a major epicentre for the required change.

He said: "I hope so, they have very good attitude of collaboration with the broader community and the other institutions including local government, chamber of commerce and universities.

"The openness to dialogue, discussion and learning is really an essential part and I think their leaders are very much a tuned to that.

"The search for greater equity and opportunity is where I think they really want to be."

The Dungala Kaiela Oration is a collaboration between the Kaiela Institute and Melbourne University.

Other guest speakers included Kaiela Institute executive director Paul Briggs OAM, Melbourne University vice-chancellor professor Duncan Maskell, Victorian Aboriginal Minister Affairs Gavin Jennings, Regional Aboriginal Justice Advisory Committee chair Lois Peeler AM and local board member of Shepparton Aboriginal Arts Centre Belinda Briggs. 

Professor Duncan Maskell, Senator Pat Dodson, Nikita Marshall, Gavin Handy and Jamie Atkinson.Professor Duncan Maskell, Senator Pat Dodson, Nikita Marshall, Gavin Handy and Jamie Atkinson.

The near 300-strong audience was also treated to three songs by the Kaiela Institute Children's Choir.

Mr Briggs said the Dungala Kaiela Oration had been designed to challenge.

"To challenge the Goulburn Murray and to challenge to way Aboriginal people have been living on country in isolation to the general trust of the economy in the Goulburn Murray," Mr Briggs said.

"After 11 years of the oration and 14 year partnership with Melbourne University... it feels like we're on the cusp of change and the inspiration we might be able to seek out a treaty relationship with the Victorian Government.

"We value the opportunity the partnerships that have played instilling confidence in the state government in taking this path."