Our newly elected Labor government has already made some promises about upholding the Uluru Statement from the Heart, let’s break it down.


The brand-new Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese opened his victory speech on Saturday by saying, ‘On behalf of the Australian Labor Party, I commit to the Uluru Statement from the Heart in full’. But what is the Uluru Statement from the Heart? And what does committing to the Statement actually mean?

What is The Uluru Statement From The Heart?

On the 26th of May 2017, 250 Indigenous Australian Elders came together to deliver a statement that broadly calls for meaningful constitutional reform and self-determination for First Nations People. This statement, known as The Uluru Statement from the Heart is essentially an invitation to the Australian people from First Nations Australians, to ‘walk together to build a better future’.

At its core, the Uluru Statement from the Heart has three key elements it wishes to see implemented:

1. A Voice to Parliament

The first step outlined in the Statement is the need for a First Nations Voice to Parliament, which would act as an official representative body which would allow Indigenous Australians to have a say in policies that affect them. For example, this Voice to Parliament would in theory, be consulted on any new laws or legislation passed regarding Aboriginal health, education, or housing.

The Uluru Statement specifically calls this First Nations Voice to Parliament to be enshrined in the Australian constitution, however, as this is a change to the Australian constitution it will require a referendum and to be put to a vote.


2. A Makarrata Commission

Once the First Nations Voice to Parliament is made constitutional, the Statement seeks to establish a Makarrata Commission to supervise a process of agreement-making between governments and First Nations.

This Makarrata Commission, meaning ‘coming together after a struggle’ in Yonglu, would primarily be used to establish a Treaty between the Australian government and Indigenous Australians.

Now, what might surprise you is that, despite significant pressure throughout Australia’s recent history, no treaty has ever been negotiated between an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander country and any Australian government at any level. In fact, we are the only commonwealth country that has not signed a treaty between colonisers and Indigenous populations. That’s right, New Zealand has one up on us (but really, when don’t they?).

3. Truth-Telling

The final element of the Uluru Statement from the Heart is Truth Telling, which would grant First Nations Australians greater opportunity to share their history and culture with the broader Australian community.

The truth-telling aspect of the Statement, would be overseen by the Makarrata Commission however, there are many ways that truth-telling could be implemented – such as adjusting the education curriculum to better educate students on Indigenous history.


Photo thanks to Destination NSW | Aboriginal educator Tim Gray leading guests on an Aboriginal Cultural Tour in Barangaroo, Sydney.

What does this mean for the environment?

Undoubtedly, seeing the Uluru Statement from the Heart realised would be monumental for recognising Indigenous rights in Australia, and allowing our First Nations people greater agency in a political system that has historically left them on the sidelines. But another really big question that has arisen in discussions of The Uluru Statement From The Heart, is climate change and the environment which was definitely a huge theme in this year’s election.

Let’s first look at the Uluru Statement from the Heart itself, which defines Indigenous sovereignty as,

‘a spiritual notion: the ancestral tie between the land, or ‘mother nature’, and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples who were born therefrom, remain attached thereto, and must one day return thither to be united with our ancestors’.

Indigenous sovereignty is very heavily geared toward environmental stewardship, however, this position hasn’t exactly been respected. From Rio Tinto destroying 46,000 year old sacred sites to expand an iron ore mine to gas companies misleading Beetaloo Basin Elders on the environmental impacts of fracking.


Photo thanks to Destination NSW | Guests learning about the rich Aboriginal culture of the Gadigal people on a guided tour in the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney.


While a step in the right direction, we don’t know for sure whether the Uluru Statement from the Heart will mean better environmental protections at the moment.

Nevertheless, it’ll be interesting to watch over this government’s term whether this commitment to the Uluru Statement from the Heart will allow for the greater Aboriginal agency when it comes to the environment, or whether the destruction of the country and threats to Indigenous culture and lore will continue. Unfortunately, at this point, only time will tell.


Feature photo thanks to Tourism NT