29 June 2023
On Saturday 27 May 2023, Australia’s first Aboriginal Legal Service, providing legal representation to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory, unanimously resolved to support and advocate in favour of the constitutional recognition of Australia’s First Nations and First Peoples and the constitutional protection of the proposed Voice.
Chairperson of the ALS NSW/ACT Mark Davies, a Dunghutti man said:
“53 years ago, the Aboriginal Legal Service was forged out of necessity. Our people were being subjected to gross and inhumane conduct by the police and were not being represented in the courts.
"Aboriginal leaders and non- Aboriginal lawyers came together to create a model of service that met the immediate need.
"It was an act of necessity. As the Aboriginal population has grown, the need has continued to grow and it is now greater than ever. We remain under-resourced and without the power we need to change our future.”
Aunty Lorraine Wright, Wiradjuri elder and Deputy Chair of the ALS NSW/ACT, added: “As a service that is on the absolute front line of First Nations disadvantage, we are uniquely placed to appreciate the inability of government to understand and consistently operate in a way that embraces and promotes our self determination.
"True self-determination means we design, develop and deliver the services through our structures and organisations. It means government and the community respects our entitlements to speak and act for ourselves.
"We know, through the deep experience of our board and administration, that the constitutional enshrinement of a Voice to Parliament and the Executive Government is a necessity if we are going to change our destiny.
“But it would be wrong to think that the creation of the ALS was simply an act of necessity. Its creation was an act of resistance and of love for our people and our future generations. The leaders and the community, in the shadow of the 1967 referendum, demanded a place in Australian society that was built on respect and love for all people but especially First Nations people as the owners of the lands and waters of this continent.”
Uncle Hewitt Whyman, Yorta Yorta/Wemba Wemba/Wiradjuri elder and director of ALS NSW/ACT, said: “I live in Wagga Wagga and the support for the Voice is strong. People come up to me all the time asking about the Voice and telling me of their support.
"I am feeling the love and respect and believe a “Yes” vote is a big step towards greater unity between the First People and the newcomers to this continent.”