Three minutes captured 60,000 years of connection

The tension is rippling through the room; you can almost see it shimmer as more than 250 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples pause for a heavy, silent moment.

Professor Megan Davis, an indomitable Cobble Cobble woman, pro-vice chancellor at the University of NSW and member of the Referendum Council, has just spoken into life the Uluru Statement from the Heart.

The Uluru statement takes only three minutes to read but you do not have to tell the people in the room how weighty these minutes are. It is right to pause, to draw breath, to consider what these words have captured:

The more than 60 millenniums of spiritual and physical connection to country. Sovereignty never ceded.


The generations of activism and advocacy by our ancestors who fought an existential battle so that we could take our rightful place in, and on our own country. We are still here, still striving.


Six months of intense dialogue with more than 1,200 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples across urban, regional and remote Australia. Hearts and minds, bound together in vision and hope.

Two days of robust exploration, challenge and debate at the constitutional convention, not knowing whether all this work would result in a consensus to drive the constitutional and structural reforms so badly needed by our people. And if we do deliver consensus, will it be heard?

Finally, these three minutes.

The beauty of these heartfelt words cannot hide the substance of the proposed reforms: Voice, Treaty, Truth. There should be no debate about the need for significant constitutional and structural reform but sadly that battle is still ahead of us. As Megan speaks, we are already resolved.

With love and hope, the Uluru Statement delivers a final, remarkable gift: an invitation to the people of Australia to walk with us on a path towards a more spiritually generous and inclusive nation that is truly at peace with itself and its history. A nation that has the richness and genius of its First Peoples and their heritage at the core of its identity.

All of this in three minutes as Megan quietly finishes her beautiful reading.

A pause, a breath.

Then more than 250 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples from all corners of the nation, stand as one and erupt into thunderous applause. People who had ferociously debated one another over the previous two days now grasp hands and embrace, bound together in unity.


But there is one last critical task that must be completed. There must be an endorsement of the Uluru statement to cement this spontaneous and emphatic response to that first reading.

We talk about leadership and how important it is to our people. This moment, right now, is where we need it most.

Up steps Uncle*, whose name is recognised from the streets of his beloved Redfern, across our nation, to the assembly halls of the UN.

A giant of a man, with a slightly stooped stance that bears the weight of his lifetime of service to his people, he quietly shuffles across the front of the room. He has recognised this moment and in his wise and gentle way, is leading us through it. He reaches the chairperson of the meeting, briefly whispers in his ear and then turns around and shuffles back to his seat.

The chairperson addresses the room and says that he’s received a suggestion from the floor that the Uluru statement, as read by Megan, should be put to the meeting and accepted. There is a resounding "yes" and when the motion is put, the sea of hands could not be more emphatic. There is no doubt that this is now a truly historic consensus and a compelling mandate for reform.

And yet only months later, this heartfelt, historic invitation to the people of Australia was abruptly rejected by former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull. History will pass its own judgment on this act.

Not long after, Uncle passed away like so many of our people, well before his time. The Uluru statement, bearing his bold signature, was carried down Redfern Street as part of the funeral procession. In honouring his life, we were also making a promise to continue to carry the vision of the Uluru statement to the people of Australia.

Momentum is building. Many organisations like the Australian Medical Association and the Australian Council of Social Service have expressed public support and the Australian business community in particular is leading the way, including the Business Council of Australia, BHP and Rio Tinto. In March, 18 of the country’s leading law firms signed a joint statement of support and last week 21 of the nation’s leading fund managers, investment banks, super funds and the top four advisory firms also issued a strong statement of support.

There is opportunity for Prime Minister Morrison to seize this moment and etch his name in history by backing a referendum to enshrine a First Nations Voice in the constitution.


Ultimately, it is for the people of Australia to accept the Uluru statement’s invitation and share in the promise of a fuller expression of Australia’s nationhood. There is great hope that you will.

Dean Parkin is from the Quandamooka People of Minjerribah (North Stradbroke Island) and is an investment analyst with Tanarra Capital. He was a facilitator for 12 regional dialogues and the Uluru Constitutional Convention.

* Name has been withheld to respect cultural protocol.

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