Unpacking the Statement from the Heart

13 Dec

Statement From The Heart – Lifting the Lid a Little To Peek Inside.

In recent days the discussion about the inclusion of a Voice for the First Peoples in the Australian Constitution has captured the imagination of Australia. Polling by those involved suggests some 60% of Australians support the change.

While the Voice, as it is known, is necessary to embed First People’s sovereignty over matters relating to them in the Constitution, it is only the first step in the implementation of the Statement from the Heart signed at Uluru in 2017. The Statement is an invitation extended to all of Australia to join First Peoples to heal the heart of our country.

It was an invitation 12 months in the making, a truly democratic process that unpacked for Australia the key elements to be completed if we were to achieve restorative justice for past sins. But that is not all it is. It is a creative healing process that lays the foundations for a future Australia, more mature, robust, and whole than ever before – the type of Australia we wish to live in.

The Statement is a spiritual concept as much as the sovereignty it wishes to re-exist within the founding document of Australia. It is spiritual in the sense that it deals with the people’s broken spirit, the people who suffered dispossession, and the people who stole it from them. Both have a deep need to resolve the trauma experienced or witnessed and the Statement sets up a process that, if followed faithfully will begin the process for all.

The following is a thumbnail of the process I outline more fully in “Unpacking the Statement From the Heart” published by the Crawford School of Public Policy, ANU, Canberra. Click here to download:



Justice is the goal of the Statement from the Heart, not reconciliation. This involves the process or pathway towards justice –Makarrata.


If you are not heard, you do not exist. Voice was the most supported element of the four elements in the consultations for the Statement signed at Uluru. If enshrined in the constitution it recognizes a process of joint or shared sovereignty with power.


Once recognized, there is an opportunity to agree that as both are here, both are to work together to live respectfully in this place. This is conciliation – a process that has never occurred in Australia. We have leap-frogged Voice and Treaty to go straight to reconciliation.


Now together there is room to tell the truth – the truth about what happened, why it happened, how it impacted both parties, and why and how it continues today. We reflect on how we got to where we are and is the foundation to resolve what can be resolved, forgive what can be forgiven, and a commitment to work together. This is reconciliation, not relationship or nation-building but dealing with the hard stuff.


A Yolgnu word for “coming together after a dispute” means someone must do reparation and face the consequences of their actions. It may involve a spear in the thigh. The person will walk differently afterward, reminding them and others sorry is not enough.

If the Statement from the Heart process is followed it will mean that Australia as a country will walk with a limp – it will be a different country.

As a child, I would often help my father move sheep from paddock to paddock. He would count them through the gate to make sure we had mustered all. Often, he would ask, “Do you have somewhere else to be?’ “No”, I would reply.  “I think you do. You moved them too quickly. You made dust.”

This is a salutary warning for those of us who want to resolve this matter in the current parliamentary cycle. If we move too quick, we will make dust, and in doing so we may miss the important stuff and the opportunity to get this right. We have been here for some 65,000 years. You have been here some 250 years. Things take time, and we can wait, but we are to make a beginning.

If we start the journey and stay the distance, we will arrive. No dust!

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