with Wyatt Revell-Cook
Ruby is a Lawyer in the Ashurst Pro Bono team. She is a proud descendant of the Bidjara and Iman peoples of Central Queensland. Ruby was born in Alice Springs and grew up in the Northern Territory and Melbourne. She has now lived in Sydney for over ten years. Holding a Juris Doctor degree from UNSW, Ruby was admitted as a lawyer in 2022. Prior to studying law, she worked as a professional stage and screen designer.
Wyatt is a Lawyer in the Ashurst Employment team, based in Brisbane. Wyatt has family connections to Birri Gubba, Gurang Gurang, Wangan Jagalingou and Wakka Wakka peoples, and was born and raised on Yugara Country. Holding a Bachelor of Laws (Honours) from QUT, he was admitted as a lawyer in 2022. In 2021, Wyatt was the Associate to the Honourable Justice Glenn Martin of the Supreme Court of Queensland.
Why the Voice Matters
First Nations peoples have long called for formal recognition and a voice at the highest levels of our country. As far back as Yorta Yorta elder William Cooper’s letter to King George VI (1937), the Yirrkala Bark Petitions (1963), the Larrakia Petition (1972) and the Barunga Statement (1988), First Peoples have fought for a fair place in our country.
In 2010, Prime Minister Gillard established the Expert Panel on the Recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples in the Constitution, which sparked a seven-year public policy debate on the topic. Finally, a series of regional First Nations dialogues were held across the country, culminating, in 2017, in a National Constitutional Convention at Uluru and the Uluru Statement from the Heart. This was a generous and powerful invitation to all Australians. The referendum represents an opportunity for us to come together as a nation to meet that invitation in the same spirit of generosity.
Enshrining a First Nations Voice to Parliament in the Constitution will start the process of recognition and truth-telling, and advance the principle of self-determination. Reasonable Australians would recognise that the best outcomes for First Nations communities are those outcomes that are driven by people in affected communities.
If the referendum is successful, we are hopeful that the recommendations set out in the “Indigenous Voice Co-design Process Final Report to the Australian Government” (Langton and Calma, 2021) will be implemented. This would provide the right mechanisms, working with and strengthening existing arrangements, for the voices of First Nations peoples to be heard on issues that affect us.
It would also, in our view, improve the provision of pro bono and commercial legal services to First Nations peoples. The advancement of our people occurs at junctions of discretionary decision making in both public and private institutions in Australian society. The legal profession is at the forefront of these junctions, since lawyers are the interpreters and communicators of laws and policies. The Voice to Parliament would create avenues for us to have a say in laws and policies which affect us, and change those which have historically been designed to disempower and disenfranchise us. It must be First Nations peoples who lead this because we are the only ones that know exactly how these laws and policies impact our lives every day.
This piece represents the author’s personal views and does not necessarily represent the views of the organisations with which they are associated.