‘A Voice for the Future’: Dungala Kaiela Oration welcomes Professor Megan Davis

Professor Megan Davis
Professor Megan Davis, an architect of the Uluru Statement from the Heart, speaking at the 15th anniversary Dungala Kaiela Oration in Shepparton.

Professor Megan Davis, an architect of the Uluru Statement from the Heart and champion of the Indigenous Voice to Parliament joined the 15th anniversary Dungala Kaiela Oration on Yorta Yorta Country in Shepparton last week, alongside local Yorta Yorta and other First Nations communities, and Goulburn Valley community members.

Held at the Rumbalara Football Netball Club on Thursday, August 24, and co-hosted by the Kaiela Institute and the University of Melbourne, the annual Dungala Kaiela Oration examines the broad issues and themes for the Yorta Yorta people, to build bridges, promote Aboriginal social and economic development and create a shared vision for the people of the greater Goulburn Murray region.

Professor Davis is a Cobble Cobble woman of the Barunggam Nation and a renowned constitutional lawyer and public law expert, and Pro Vice-Chancellor at the University of New South Wales. An advocate integral to the Uluru Statement from the Heart, her work also extends internationally, through roles at the United Nations, focusing on global Indigenous rights.

In her address, Professor Davis explored future promise and possibilities for Australia that an Indigenous Voice to Parliament offers, as citizens are called to take part in the referendum in the coming months.

In her address last night, Professor Davis said: “An Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice to Parliament, which is enshrined in the Constitution, is about a more effective and efficient participation of our peoples in the democratic life of the state. A Voice that enhances Australian democracy. It's positive for all Australians, it's positive for our people.

“[The Voice] is the product of a consultation process which was unprecedented in Australian history… It was the result of a robust sampling of our mobs from across the country. It's the product of a carefully designed process that marries practical principles of modern democracy with an understanding of how our cultures connect to each other.”

Speaking of the future possibilities the Voice offers Australia, Professor Davis said: “The potential of the Voice is to unite, for it to drive positive and lasting change in our communities, for it to cut through inefficient red tape, for it to speak directly to government and the parliament, for it to promote and bring into view the inherent rights of mob as the first peoples of this country, for it to brighten our future.”

Kaiela Institute Executive Director Paul Briggs OAM said it was timely that the 2023 Oration focused on the Voice to Parliament.

“For fifteen years we have gathered together, in our place, on our Country, talking about issues of vital importance to our people and the greater Goulburn Murray region. The Dungala Kaiela Oration inspires us to be ambitious and optimistic by the Invincible Spirit of our ancestors and the emergence of our talented young leadership group to create a shared prosperous future,” Mr Briggs said.

“It was fitting to have Professor Davis here on Yorta Yorta Country during this significant time for the nation, and for us all to reflect on the instrumental role that regional voices have to play in major national conversations.”

University of Melbourne Vice-Chancellor Professor Duncan Maskell said this important annual event recognised the University’s long-standing commitment and partnership with the Kaiela Institute and the Goulburn Valley region.

“This year’s Dungala Kaiela Oration on Yorta Yorta Country offers a significant opportunity for our community to hear and learn from Professor Megan Davis, with her profound knowledge and experience of Indigenous peoples’ rights and constitutional law,” Professor Maskell said.

“Indigenous constitutional recognition is the single most important policy discussion for Australia because it affects the soul of the nation.”

A video recording of the Oration can be accessed here, Professor Davis’ address begins at 1:17:14.

The Kaiela Institute is a First Nations-led analysis and policy think tank, providing a place and a process to encourage and support leaders and institutions to collaborate, and take a more strategic approach to building the future of the Goulburn Murray community.

The University of Melbourne Council and Executive has affirmed their support for the Uluru Statement from the Heart and the ‘yes’ position in the referendum. The University of Melbourne Academic Board has passed a resolution to support the current government proposal for an Indigenous Voice to Parliament.