Reflections on Leader Forum on the Voice to Parliament

Leader Forum Conference

"Growing up in Jordan, and as a business leader who has had the privilege of working internationally, I am acutely aware of the importance of diversity, equity and inclusion at work and in society. 


For us in Australia, this means supporting First Nations Peoples to have a stronger voice on the policy and legislation that directly impact them. To this end, I am proud that Bayer is actively supporting the Uluru Statement from the Heart and constitutional recognition of First Nations Australians through a Voice to Parliament. This is an opportunity for us to walk beside First Nations Peoples and to use our voice in support of a greater voice for them.


At Bayer we are continually striving ‘for better’. 


This culture of striving for better runs through our healthcare and agriculture businesses. Our scientists, doctors, agronomists and other colleagues across our business are proud to work for a company that is seeking to improve the lives and livelihoods of Australians – whether they live in the city or the bush, whether they identify as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islanders or non-indigenous. 


Today I had the great privilege to host a leader forum on the Voice to Parliament for business and industry leaders in the Australian healthcare and agriculture sectors. 


We heard powerful words from First Nations advocates on this crucial moment in Australia’s history, including a keynote from Kirstie Parker a remarkable Yuwallarai woman, and strategic adviser to the Uluru Dialogue.  In her role as Co-chair of the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples, she contributed to the regional and national process that resulted in the historic 2017 Uluru Statement from the Heart to the Australian people. 


Kirstie was joined by Marcus Stewart, the Co-Chair of the First People’s Assembly of Victoria, and he is a member of the First Nations Referendum Working Group; Natalie Sommerville, a farmer, grazier and business owner who lives in Ngadjuri Country in South Australia’s mid north and President of Australian Women in Agriculture; and, Diversity Council Australia’s CEO Lisa Annese. 


In the spirit of storytelling, these knowledgeable leaders shared their experience and perspectives with CEOs and business leaders, like me, to explain the journey to date and why a Yes Vote is integral to the future of a modern Australia.


Kirstie Parker reminded us that it is almost 6 years since the Uluru Statement from the Heart was issued to Parliament.  The anniversary is this Friday 26 May.  Since then, a significant amount of collaboration and work has been done to get to a majority consensus on the Voice to Parliament protected through constitutional recognition.  


All the speakers explained that a Voice and constitutional recognition has the potential to offer empowerment for First Nations Australians and contribute on critical issues affecting them in the longer term. This includes taking a step toward closing the gap in healthcare where First Nations Peoples experience a disease burden of 2.3 times the rate of non-Indigenous Australians.


I am pleased that Bayer is also supporting the Yes23! and Uluru Dialogue campaigns and providing forums and conversations for our employees, customers and stakeholders to engage in open and respectful discussions on the Voice to Parliament.


We acknowledge the role and expectation of Bayer as a contributor to supporting First Nations Peoples. As such, we are on our own journey of reconciliation after completing our ‘reflect’ Reconciliation Action Plan in 2021. Our First Nations Working Group are presently developing our Innovate RAP, which we hope to submit later this year. 


Finally, we heard that Australians may be feeling “a whispering in their hearts” when we come to decide on the Voice to Parliament and constitutional recognition.  We hope whatever we decide it will be based on having the facts.  With that, I am pleased to share the Uluru Statement from the Heart."

- Ashraf Al-Ouf, CEO Bayer Group Australia and New Zealand

Journey to the Uluru Statement from the Heart and Voice to Parliament