Creating a powerful chorus, the Fred Hollows Foundation, the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists (RANZCO) and Australia’s first Aboriginal ophthalmologist Professor Kris Rallah-Baker are calling for serious action on the Uluru Statement from the Heart.
The group are calling for a First Nations Voice to Parliament to be enshrined in the Constitution, an action inspired by From the Heart’s Week of Action.
A Brisbane-born Yuggera and Biri-Gubba man, Professor Kris Rallah-Baker finds pride in the backing of both RANZCO and Fred Hollows.
“In terms of organisations Fred Hollows and RANZCO, it is amazing that they feel comfortable enough to make that statement,” he said.
“It’s also something that we can be proud of as a nation. That increasingly people are willing to speak out and support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander voices.”
“I could not have imagined that happening so many decades ago. Even 20 to 30 years ago, for significant organisations to support something like this would have been seen as much more controversial … that says something towards how far we have come.”
Professor Rallah-Baker independently stands in solidarity with the Uluru Statement from the Heart as well.
“The thing that resonates in the Uluru Statement for me is the fact that it was such a collaborative effort from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people right across our continent, sitting down and not only forming a consensus, but a consensus that benefits both Indigenous and non-Indigenous people,” he said.
“It’s not just us as people, it’s about us as a nation, as Australians.”
“Our non-Indigenous brethren are increasingly coming to understand issues that have led us to where we are, but the Uluru Statement from the Heart provides us that ongoing way forward toward that relationship to have that truth-telling. Truth-telling that happened in part but not totally.”
The Professor believes the Statement is one step closer to true Reconciliation.
“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have always played the long game,” he said.
“The long game is that there will be Treaty, there will be Constitutional Recognition.
“The Uluru Statement from the Heart lays out a sensible and collaborative pathway required to move forwards and make Australia truly a place of the ‘fair go’.”
Standing behind the Statement, Fred Hollows Foundation CEO Ian Wishart said the Foundation is asking the Federal Government to commit to change.
“Australia has seen a reckoning with racial injustice and it’s abundantly clear that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples still do not have ‘a fair go’. It’s time First Nations Peoples had their say when the Parliament makes laws that affect them,” Wishart said.
“Fred wasn’t just an ophthalmologist; he was a social justice activist who demanded that we do better.
“The Fred Hollows Foundation has always supported the calls of the Uluru Statement from the Heart.
“We are asking the Australian Government to honour their commitment to a referendum. A constitutionally enshrined Voice to Parliament is a fair, practical and unifying reform.”
RANZCO President Professor Nitin Verma resonated with Wishart’s sentiments.
“RANZCO supports the Uluru Statement from the Heart as a key step towards Reconciliation with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples,” Professor Verma said.
By Rachael Knowles