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  • Peter Francis Fenwick

Why Not Take All of Me?


Uluru Statement from the Heart
Uluru Statement from the Heart

My title comes from one of my favourite Billie Holiday songs – All of Me.


You took the part That once was my heart So why not take all of me?




Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has promised to implement The Uluru Statement from the Heart in full. But the referendum question focuses solely on The Voice and omits the primary claims of the Uluru Statement for Sovereignty and Makarrata.


If you examine the Uluru Statement you will find it has three components.


Firstly sovereignty. It claims that "sovereignty has never been ceded or extinguished and co-exists with the sovereignty of the Crown". It seeks "constitutional reforms to empower our people to take their rightful place in our country" and to "have power over our destiny".

Secondly, it seeks "a Makarrata Commission to supervise a process of agreement-making between governments and First Nations and truth-telling about our history". In effect, it calls for Treaties to recognise the adverse effects of British colonialism and to provide reparations. It wants Australian history to be taught in our schools from an aboriginal perspective.


Thirdly, it calls for "the establishment of a First Nations Voice enshrined in the Constitution", a permanent lobby group to influence government decisions on matters that affect aboriginal people.


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The Uluru Statement from the Heart is primarily about sovereignty and power, treaties and truth telling. Yet the referendum question is solely about the Voice:


"A Proposed Law: to alter the Constitution to recognise the First Peoples of Australia by establishing an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice. Do you approve this proposed alteration?"


If we vote “Yes” the government can claim a mandate to implement The Uluru Statement from the Heart in full. After all, that is what the Prime Minister has promised.


Yet, the referendum question does not mention sovereignty or makarrata.


The referendum question is disingenuous. It should be modified to include references to sovereignty and power, treaties and reparations, and truth telling.


Or as Billie Holiday put it:

Why not take all of me? Can't you see I'm no good without you?


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Addendum August 26, 2023


The following was published in Letters, The Age on Friday, August 18, 2023.

Alert readers may detect satire.

The editor's title Keeping It Succinct missed the point.



Albanese Defers Uluru


There has been much debate in parliament, on TV, and radio about whether the Uluru Statement from the Heart is a one-page or an eighteen-page document.


Speaking at the acceptance of the Sydney Peace Prize in late 2022, Megan Davis urged Australians to read the whole 18-page document. She now recommends we read just the one-page summary.


So what? It is irrelevant.


As the Prime Minister has made clear, the referendum is solely about The Voice.


"A Proposed Law: to alter the Constitution to recognise the First Peoples of Australia by establishing an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice. Do you approve this proposed alteration?"


The referendum is not about the Uluru Statement. The referendum proposal does not mention sovereignty or makarrata. It is not about treaties, or reparations, or truth telling.


All of that is for another day.



Meanwhile let's listen to Jane Monheit:

If I cried a little bit

When first I learned the truth

Don't blame it on my heart

Blame it on my youth.


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PS The 18-page document referred to above was released by the Australian Indigenous Australians Agency under FOI. It is, with references and PowerPoint slides, 26-pages.

The quotes are from the one-page version of the Uluru Statement from the Heart.


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