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Inquiry Into Indigenous Truth and Justice Begins

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Greens MPs say the move was a response to the failed Voice referendum in Australia.

The Joint Standing Committee on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs has begun its inquiry into the Truth and Justice Commission Bill 2024, introduced in the Senate by the Greens’ Yamatji-Noongar Senator Dorinda Cox.

The bill was introduced by the Greens as a reaction to the unsuccessful Voice to Parliament referendum, which sought to establish an Indigenous “Voice” to Australia’s government.

It proposes to establish a Federal Truth and Justice Commission, which would provide a national framework for “truth-telling” about the history and impacts of colonisation, dispossession, and systemic racism on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

The commission would also make recommendations on how to advance justice, healing, raise awareness and increase public understanding, and reconciliation for First Nations communities and the wider Australian society.

Chair of the committee Mutthi Mutthi and Wamba Wamba Senator Jana Stewart, said the inquiry was an opportunity to hear from stakeholders and experts on the merits and challenges of the provisions in the bill.

The committee will also take submissions from interested individuals and organisations on any or all aspects of the bill by Sept. 6.

The Greens’ First Nations spokeswoman Ms. Cox said the process would instigate healing among Australia’s Indigenous people.

“We have been waiting for the opportunity to not just tell our truths, but to have Australia deeply listen to our experiences, past, and present as the oldest living culture in the world, Australia’s first peoples,” she said.

“I know as a proud First Nations woman, with lineage to my Irish and French ancestry—we are a diverse and multicultural nation.

“We are now in the third chapter of our story but missed the opportunity to understand and enshrine the experiences of First Peoples and our shared and interconnected past.”

Some of the key factors in the bill will be to determine how historical injustice can be effectively and fairly acknowledged, how ongoing injustice can be addressed, and how to boost awareness and public understanding of Indigenous history.

“We want Australians to know that in this process, we will begin to heal as a nation. We will understand that the work that we do now must be grounded in our self-determination to chart our pathway forward to achieve better outcomes for First Nations people, communities, and our collective futures,” Ms. Cox said.

Greens leader Adam Bandt said Australians voting against an Indigenous voice created a need for the bill.

“Telling the truth is a critical first step to healing and bringing our country together,” he said.

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