28 September 2023
My grandmother, a Wiradjuri woman, during her lifetime concealed her Aboriginal heritage out of fear of what it meant to be first Nations.
As landscape architects, we have the privilege of working and designing with Country, engaging with Aboriginal consultants and listening and acting on the advice sought from Aboriginal elders and community members. We actively advocate and champion for this in our work. In researching a project recently, I found this quote from Joe Anderson, ‘King Burraga’. Joe Anderson was one of the first Aboriginal men to use film and the cinema to demand recognition for his people. In 1933 standing on the banks of Salt Pan Creek, he was filmed delivering this message: "I am calling a Corroboree of the natives in New South Wales to send a petition to the King, in an endeavour to improve our conditions. All the black man wants is representation in Federal Parliament. There is also plenty of fish in the river for us all, and land to grow all we want. One hundred and fifty years ago, the Aboriginals owned Australia, and today, he demands more than the white man charity. He wants the right to live!"
90 years has passed since that powerful message was broadcasted across Australia, yet the dialogue remains largely unchanged. In just over two weeks, we will cast our votes in the upcoming referendum. I personally hold a strong belief that this is the time to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples in the constitution through a voice. Just as we listen to Aboriginal voices in our work, we should also listen to them in other areas. My thoughts often return to my grandmother, particularly in my professional work, and the knowledge and culture we lost as a family. I wonder how different her life would have been for her and her mob, if she had a voice and political representation.
These are my views, and I will be voting yes, to not only to honour my Nan and my Aboriginal lineage but more importantly because I believe it is time to allow Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander voices to assist in guiding and shaping the future of this nation.
Surprisingly to many, support for the Yes campaign by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples is not unanimous and varies considerably across the country. However, what has emerged is a strong desire from our cultural ambassadors that members undertake their own research, discuss the referendum widely and form their own opinions.
AILA has determined that this is the approach that we would like all members to adopt. Simply following the lead or ‘resolution’ of an organization – whether a business or an institute is not the approach the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are seeking.
If you are still unsure on how you intend on voting, I encourage you to explore the information below to make an informed decision.
In other news, we would like to thank everyone who attended the King Salman Park and Saudi Arabian soils and Skilled Migration webinars as well as the Benedict Quarry Tour. These events were highly successful thanks to everyone’s participation and engagement. AILA NSW also issued two submissions in recent weeks responding to the Building Bill 2023 – Licensing Proposals and Arts and Creative Industries. You can read these submissions here.
NSW Executive Member