Truth-Telling: History, sovereignty and the Uluru Statement by Henry Reynolds

 ‘In 1967 we were counted, in 2017 we seek to be heard.’

The book starts with the full ‘Uluru Statement from the Heart’. I have read it before, am moved by it, and wish the Australian government would pay it the respect it deserves. Yes, as Mr Reynolds acknowledges in his foreword, there was not universal Indigenous support for the statement. But surely it is a starting point? But, as Mr Reynolds also points out, most of the discussion has been about the Voice to Parliament, which the Australian government has dismissed.

For me, these are the key questions:

What if the sovereignty of the First Nations was recognised by European international law in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries? What if the audacious British annexation of a whole continent was not seen as acceptable at the time and the colonial office in Britain understood that ‘peaceful settlement’ was a fiction?

As I understand it, sovereignty is a spiritual notion for Indigenous people: an ancestral connection between the land and the people. This is not ‘ownership’ in the way most non-Indigenous Australians perceive it but a guardianship. This guardianship has existed for thousands of years and surely did not cease simply because a statement was made, and a flag raised a couple of hundred years ago?

And surely, until we acknowledge the past, we cannot move beyond it. I may not share all of Mr Reynolds’s views, but I absolutely agree that a Treaty is needed, together with the nomination of different national day.

I would recommend this book to anyone who seeks to understand our history, and the importance of the Uluru Statement from the Heart.

‘Truth telling has consequences. So too does reinterpretation of history.’

Jennifer Cameron-Smith