“A Deafening Silence” — The National Reconciliation Week Speech Worth Chewing on

National Reconciliation Week: A brief window of time when First Nations voices are platformed. A brief window of time that asks, “Can we repair what colonisation has broken?” A brief window in time that encourages all Aussies to learn from First Nations histories, cultures, and achievements. 

As it stands, this window of time is too brief. ‘Cause these actions should be the norm. For reconciliation to take place, First Nations voices need to be heeded on the daily.

However, despite this being the case, National Reconciliation Week is incredibly valuable. It is still a time when First Nations voices shower the country with platformed wisdom. National Reconciliation Week brings with it a plethora of essays, speeches, and interviews worth chewing on.

For instance, Ken Wyatt’s National Reconciliation Week address was packed to the brim with lit advice. Wyatt is a Yamatji and Wongi man who was the Minister for Indigenous Australians. 

Here’s what Wyatt said for this year’s National Reconciliation Week.

Be a Voice for Generations: Ken Wyatt

The theme of 2023’s National Reconciliation Week is: “Be a Voice for Generations.” In Ken Wyatt’s National Reconciliation Week address, he unpacked what this theme means. 

According to Wyatt, the theme is: “Listening to the voices on the ground.”

“There is a deafening silence when it comes to responding to the needs of Indigenous people at the community level,” said Wyatt. “Who has talked about the things that they want to change and see within their community? I have seen communities where the water they have been drinking for ten years has been milky white. And it’s been tolerated.”

Ken Wyatt then went on to explain that when he was in power, this problem was fixed. By actually listening to these First Nations communities, he was able to get them clean drinking water.  

Wyatt stated that when we platform First Nation voices, this type of action can take place. What’s more, these actions can transform generations.

However, Wyatt’s speech didn’t stop there. This Yamatji and Wongi man also stressed that we need a First Nations Voice in Parliament. 

Voice to Parliament will be a group of First Nations peoples that advise the government on First Nations issues. Later this year, the public will be voting if such a Voice should be established.

Wyatt said, “In my lifetime, I have seen national body, after national body, been abolished. Because the advice they gave the government was too prickly, was not what governments wanted to hear.”

But a Voice to Parliament could never be erased in this manner. This is because the Voice would be enshrined in our Constitution.

“Don’t close your hearts,” said Ken Wyatt. “Don’t listen exclusively to the naysayers. Listen to the intent of the Uluru Statement of the Heart, and the reports that were written. The desire for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to have a seat at the table.”

If you want to listen to the whole of Ken Wyatt’s speech, click the link here.

Related: A First Nations Voice — What Does That Even Mean?

Related: Indigenous Leaders Celebrate the Wording of the Voice to Parliament Referendum

Read more stories from The Latch and subscribe to our email newsletter.