• The sixth of twelve dialoge meetings on Constitutional Recognition at Sydney's Rooty Hill RSL (Supplied)Source: Supplied
First Nations mobs in New South Wales are calling for a voice to Parliament after gathering in Sydney's west for the sixth national dialogue on Constitutional Recognition
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NITV News
14 Mar 2017 - 10:43 AM  UPDATED 14 Mar 2017 - 10:43 AM

A Voice to Parliament was identified as a strong priority by delegates from across NSW who attended the First Nations Regional Dialogue in Sydney's west over the weekend. 

Co-Chair of the Referendum Council, Pat Anderson, says Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people want change. 

"There is no doubt about it. We are just sick and tired of how things are going," she told NITV. 

“A Voice to Parliament, that gives First Nations people a true say in laws that affect them, continues to be viewed as important by Dialogue participants," she said. 

NSW Aboriginal Land Council Chairperson, Roy Ah-ee, says the meeting was challenging but resulted in a shared sense of unity and optimism. 

“We've been having this conversation about basic human rights, truth and social justice for decades. There were differing opinions on what recognition means for delegates, their families and communities, but we got through it and came to a consensus. People in the room felt it was important we stand united, not divided, and that this process delivers a voice for First Nations people across NSW and the country," he said. 

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Mr Ah-See said the group also called for a representative body to be established and enshrined in the Constitution, to enable First Nations people to have influence over policy and keep parliamentarians accountable.

Around 100 delegates from Sydney, the far north coast, mid north coast, central coast, Newcastle, south coast and far south coast attended the Dialogue, the sixth in a series of 12 that are being held across the nation.

Newly-elected delegate, Suzanne Naden, says it's clear it is time for change. 

"We've actually got the support for change and think we have an opportunity now to move that," she told NITV. 

"As a generation that was born after the 67 Referendum I also owe it to my grandchildren to show that there is some real strong ties to the Consitution and to this land legally."

But many others criticised the way members of the meeting have been selected. 

Anti-Recognise Campainger, Alice Haines, says the process is flawed. 

"There doesn't seem to be representation of all our communities. In fact, my elders from community from Toomelah, and the whole Euraba bloodline, don't seem to be represented at all," she told NITV. 

"There hasn't been any communication to my elders at all in regards to what is happening. So we're considering the whole process flawed. There's no transparency in regards to what the discussions are up there." 

She is calling for greater discussion on treaty and sovereignty at a grass-roots level. 

"Sit down with our community elders and leaders and family representation so we can discuss our future and ask us what we want, ask our people what we want." 

Pat Anderson admits the process is not perfect. 

"We're urging Aboriginal people to jump into this busted commodore and drive it wherever we want to drive it. That's the analogy I've been using because that's all we've got," she said. 

Mr Ah-See says the consultations should be bringing all ideas together. 

"We need to bring all them people with us regardless of where you are or what you believe in," he told NITV. 

The 10 delegates from each region across Australia will meet at a national convention at Uluru in May to come to a consensus position which will be put to the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition.

Referendum Council 

The Referendum Council was jointly appointed by the Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Leader of the Opposition, Bill Shorten on 7 December 2015.

The Council's job is to advise both leaders on progress and next steps towards constitutional reform.

The Regional Dialogues are designed to ensure the views of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are heard through this process.

A discussion paper has been released that outlines the main questions for Australians to consider.

The next dialogue meeting will be held in Melbourne from 17-19 April. 

Related reading
The long-awaited consultation with Indigenous peoples on constitutional recognition has begun
Three major meetings have been held in the Torres Strait, Broome and this week in Melbourne. I attended the Melbourne meeting and if that is anything to go by, the consultations are credible and uniting.
Referendum Council prepares for regional forums to consult with the public
The Referendum Council have had their final leadership meeting and are now ready to talk with wider Australia
Malcolm Turnbull: Constitution referendum in 2017 'feasible'
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