Bridget Cama is a Wiradjuri and iTaukei Fijian woman who was born and raised in Lithgow NSW with connections to Wellington and the Cudgegong in NSW. Bridget graduated from UNSW in 2019 with a Bachelor of Laws/Arts (majoring in Indigenous Studies with distinction and a minor in politics) and worked as a paralegal and on secondments in legal teams throughout her degree. After graduating from law, Bridget worked as a graduate in the Pro Bono team at Gilbert + Tobin and with the Uluru Dialogue (UNSW) under Professor Megan Davis. Bridget is currently an associate of the Indigenous Law Centre and legal support to the Uluru Dialogue at the University of NSW. She is also the co-creator and co-chair of the Uluru Youth Dialogue, who work closely to provide a national platform for First Nations youth voices to be heard in the Uluru Statement movement.
Why the Voice Matters
The Voice matters because it is integral in addressing the systemic and structural issues that First Nations peoples face in our communities.
Both in my lived experience and in my work as a lawyer, I have seen the many legal issues faced by First Nations peoples which are a result of various systems, laws or policies which disproportionately affect First Nations peoples. The Uluru Statement says: “We are not an innately criminal people” despite being “the most incarcerated people on the planet” and that “Our children are aliened from their families at unprecedented rates…And…languish in detention in obscene numbers. They should be our hope for the future”.
The Voice will give First Nations peoples a seat at the table and a say on the laws and policies that affect us through our selected representatives that make up the Voice. It will provide a mechanism whereby grassroots First Nations voices and most importantly lived experience, expertise, knowledge and solutions are listened to and addressed through the core function of the Voice having the power to make representations to the federal parliament and government. The Voice proposal is a substantial and structural reform that provides for the Australian Constitution, Australia’s founding document, to legally recognise the First Peoples of this continent through establishing a Voice, whilst respecting democracy and the parliament. The Voice is the call to action from First Nations delegates to the thirteen Regional Dialogues that consulted over 1,200 First Nations peoples and the Constitutional Convention at Uluru in May 2017 that delivered Australians the Uluru Statement from the Heart.
Liberal democracies around the world with a colonial history have mechanisms which allow Indigenous peoples to participate in democratic processes and have input into decisions, laws and policies made by parliaments and governments that affect them as Indigenous peoples. Here in Australia, calls for representation of Aboriginal peoples and our views in the federal parliament is not a new concept. In fact, it stems back to William Cooper in 1937 when he petitioned King George V, the Australian Government and MPs with over 1800 signatures of Aboriginal peoples from across the country, demanding representation in Parliament by a federal MP who would be chosen by Aboriginal peoples to represent their views. That ask went unanswered and here we are almost nine decades later going to a national referendum to establish a First Nations Voice to Parliament in the Constitution.
The First Nations delegates to the Regional Dialogues wanted a pragmatic and practical solution to the powerlessness and voicelessness that they expressed experiencing in their communities. They wanted a reform that would lead to better outcomes for their young people and future generations to come. So, the Voice proposal itself is about addressing disadvantage in our communities. It’s about giving First Nations peoples some political power and self-determination over their own destinies.
This piece represents the author’s personal views and does not necessarily represent the views of the organisations with which they are associated.