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PODCAST: Sean Gordon reignites recognition

01:00pm June 26 2018

Uphold & Recognise think-tank chair Sean Gordon in conversation with Westpac’s Siobhan Toohill. (Emma Foster)

October 2017 isn’t a month Sean Gordon will remember that fondly.

It was when the government initially rejected the recommendations for Indigenous recognition agreed at an historic Referendum Council gathering at Uluru earlier in the year, captured in a centrepiece Uluru Statement from the Heart.

But Gordon is keen to press on, today putting forward an alternative pathway towards recognition through his role as chair of constitutional think-tank Uphold & Recognise, which he hopes will reignite discussions to take this important social issue forward.


“We're really trying to push to ensure that the decisions that governments are making for us shift to where they're making decisions with us,” says Gordon in an interview with Westpac Wire, referring to the first of three areas explored in Uphold & Recognise’s option paper around ensuring Indigenous voices are heard.

“We believe the best way to do things with us is through giving us a voice and a say in our own affairs.”

Gordon says the notion of “truth-telling” – another core area explored – makes some people uncomfortable, as it inevitably uncovers past actions that many would prefer to leave buried. But he doesn’t want people to see it as a negative.

“As Indigenous people, we want the truth of our history recognised – both good and bad – and we believe this will be a part of our healing. We also believe that it will bring the country together as a nation building exercise. The truth telling aspect shouldn't be something that people fear.”

Sean Gordon's think-tank has put forward an alternative pathway towards Indigenous recognition.


He says the third area is a declaration of Australia’s nationhood, outside the constitution, which sets out the significance of Australia’s Indigenous heritage and culture, its British institutions and multicultural society.

“The icing on the cake is getting through a fuller declaration of who we are and what makes us unique as a country and how we strengthen our identity and bring it together for all Australians.”  

While strong views have already been expressed about the three areas, Gordon believes the greater detail provided in the option paper will help to inform the work of the parliamentary committee on Indigenous recognition that is due to report in November, ultimately helping see Australia moving from reconciliation into a new phase of recognition.
 

Siobhan is the Group Head of Sustainability at Westpac. Her role covers sustainability governance which includes areas such as climate change and human rights policies, as well community partnerships, Indigenous engagement – as well as the Westpac Foundation, backing community organisations and social enterprises tackling social disadvantage, and the Westpac Bicentennial Foundation – awarding 100 scholarships every year, forever. A pioneer in corporate sustainability in Australia, Siobhan is passionate about capacity of business to create positive impact, building on her early career in design.

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