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Submission Number
Advocates for Social Justice
Submission date
Main Submission Automated Transcript

25 March 2021

Dear Prime Minister,

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the Interim Co-­‐Design Report on the
Indigenous Voice co-­‐authored by Professor Marcia Langton AO and Professor Tom
Calma AO on behalf of your government. We acknowledge the significant contribution
made by the 52 members of the three Co-­‐design Advisory Committees who prepared
this exceptional document. We commend the extensive research and community
consultation undertaken to produce this comprehensive report, especially within the
context of the COVID-­‐19 pandemic.

We note that the main focus of this co-­‐design task was to develop proposals for an
Indigenous voice to government. As such, the report clearly outlines a range of options
and models to enable First Nations peoples to advise all levels of government on
significant matters that affect their wellbeing and how these can be addressed.

As a group of more than 80 non-­‐Indigenous people from a wide range of personal and
professional backgrounds, many of whom have had the privilege of working alongside
First Nations communities over many decades, we know that Aboriginal and Torres
Strait Islander peoples are best placed to comment and select between these options,
and to determine the best way forward. This is not our role. Having said that we
strongly support a model that includes representation from previously unheard
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Instead our submission makes the following points.

a) The interim co-­‐design report builds on the work of several previous reviews that
considered options to enable First Nations peoples to have a greater say in the laws,
policies and government decisions that affect their lives. The most recent being the
2018 Inquiry of the Joint Select Committee (JSC) on Constitutional Recognition
relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples. The JSC was established b
Parliament following the rejection by the then Prime Minister of the historic ‘Uluru
Statement from the Heart’ that proposed the constitutional enshrinement of a First
Nations Voice.

The current report responds to the first recommendation of the JSC Inquiry: i.e.
That the Australian Government initiate a co-­‐design process for a ‘Voice that best
suits the needs and aspirations of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’1. As
requested, Advisory Committee members have proposed a series of options for a
National Indigenous voice to government and how this could operate in all
jurisdictions, at all levels. These possible models are now subject to public

b) But decision about the parameters of the legislated voice is only one step towards
establishing a framework that will ensure that First Nations peoples have ‘a
permanent avenue for input into the policy and legislation governing their affairs’2.
The significant concerns that have been expressed about how easily a legislated

1 Final Report of the Joint Standing Committee on Constitutional Recognition relating to Aboriginal and
Torres Strait Islander Peoples (Nov 2018). Commonwealth of Australia, ACT. Section 2.314.
2 Ibid. Section 3.7.
voice can be abolished are well founded. The work done so far towards establishing
an Indigenous Voice must be seen within context.

The second recommendation of Joint Select Committee is that: ‘Following a process
of co-­‐design, the Australian Government consider, in a deliberate and timely
manner, legislative, executive and constitutional options to establish The Voice’3.
For Australia to progress as a nation it is imperative that each of these components
be addressed.

c) In narrowing the Terms of Reference for the co-­‐design task to the legislative
component, Advisory Committees were explicitly precluded from making any
recommendations about constitutional recognition of an Indigenous Voice. Treaty-­‐
making between governments and First Nations peoples and truth-­‐telling about our
nation’s history were also ‘out of scope’. These limitations are at odds with the key
tenets of the Uluru Statement from the Heart that was gifted to all Australians by
First Nations people in May 2017.

Australia lags behind the rest of the world by not yet formally recognising its
Indigenous people in the form of a treaty or to acknowledge the sovereignty and
constitutional rights of their First Peoples in their founding documents. As
evidenced by several polls4, this limited scope is also at odds with the strong and
increasing support being shown by both Indigenous and non-­‐Indigenous
Australians for the Constitutional Enshrinement of an Indigenous Voice to
Parliament. Moreover, respected Indigenous Leaders have publicly stated that just
legislating a voice is not enough to achieve the structural changes required to
ensure a better future for all Australians5.

d) Decisions about the legislative, executive and constitutional parameters of the
National Voice cannot be made in isolation. These components are integrally
entwined. Therefore, before any decisions are made to implement a legislated voice
a further structured process must be undertaken to consider how each of these
aspects should operate and how they will interact with each other.

3 Ibid. Section 3.152.
4 95% of Australians say ‘it is important for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to have a say in
matters that affect them’ (Reconciliation Australia Barometer, 2018).
Almost two thirds of voters (64%) support Constitutional change to enshrine an Indigenous Voice to
Parliament, while 22% reject it. (‘Federal Election Vote Compass’ ABC News, May, 2019). The ‘Essential
Poll' reports: a strong majority of Australian voters across partisan lines support constitutional
recognition of a Voice to Parliament (The Guardian July 2019).
A survey of 2000 people commissioned by ‘From the Heart Campaign’ found a majority would support a
constitutionally enshrined Aboriginal advisory body to Parliament if a referendum were held today
(NITV, July 2020).
5 Pat Turner, a distinguished member of the Senior Advisory Group of the Indigenous voice co-­‐design process and Lead Convener of the Coalition of Peaks (NACCO), expressed strong concern that the Federal
Government was pursuing a ‘convoluted and flawed process’ ‘to advise on a voice that speaks to
government… not a Voice to Parliament’. A second eminent Senior Advisory Group member, Cape York
Aboriginal Elder, Noel Pearson said that group members rejected a reduced model and wanted a ‘Voice to
Parliament, not just a voice to government’ (Croakey, 28 October 2020. Also see Pat Turner’s address to
the National Press Club, reported in The Age 3/10/20 & Sydney Morning Herald 30/9/20).
Based on the above we propose that:

1. Following a decision about the most suitable, representative model for an
Indigenous Voice and before it is legislated, the government honour its election
commitment to hold a Referendum on the constitutional enshrinement of an
Indigenous Voice.
2. The Referendum design and information campaign be by bi-­‐partisan committee
led by First Nations representatives, ensuring that the Australian people have
access to clear and comprehensive information about the Indigenous Voice.
3. The issue of constitutional amendment for a new provision for an Indigenous
Voice that operates independently of Government and Parliament be put to the
Australian people for a vote in the next term of Parliament.

Advocates for Social Justice

Pat Anderson 3070
Fiona Andrews 3121
Bill Armstrong 3207
Margaret Atchison 3071
Christina Baldwin 3032
Catherine Bell 3231
Jeffrey Bender 3194
Beryl Blake 3070
Peter Britton 3032
Heather Brown 3012
Peter Brown 3070
Sarah Brown 3070
Mary Dowling 3046
Christopher Dureau 3355
Mary Dykes 3071
David Farrow 3450
David Feith 3207
Kerry Gartland 3181
Gary Grace 2515
Marie Grace 2515
Sarina Greco 3142
Margaret Hanrahan 3071
Sue Helme 3071
Liz Hogan 3016
Geof Hopkins 3054
Kerryn Howe 3016
Pat Jessen 3184
Marion Lambert 3006
Cornelia M. Lenneberg 3055
Nicky Lo Bianco 3205
Jill Loveland 3056
Susan Majid 3146
Jyan Mayfield 3079
Diane McDonald 3930
Ellie McDonald 3054
Fiona McIntosh 3079
Colin R. McLean 3040
C. Ralph Metzeling 4879
Jenni Mitchell 3016
Barry Mitchell 3016
Andrew Morse 3931
John Murphy 3996
Monica Murphy 3996
Mary Mutsaers 3996
Alison Nankervis 3054
Brian Noone 5015
Alannah O’Brien 3121
Bernie O’Brien 3930
Heather O’Brien 3930
Helen O'Connor 3072
Gabriel Oxley, 3079
Patricia Parker 3054
Desley J. Parkinson 7000
Doug J. Parkinson 7000
Carmel Pearson 3564
Christine Perkins 3355
Isabella Peryman 3011
Janet Pruden 3144
Julian Punch 7150
Frank Purcell 3630
Margaret Purcell 3630
Deborah Rhodes 3437
Kate Ring 3079
Kalinda Ruvier 2902
Jose Ruvier 2902
Ruth Seidler 3095
Joan Sexton 3073
Jose Simpsa 3206
Brian Smiddy 3088
Ellen Smiddy 3088
R.L. Smith 3113
Bronwyn Stephenson 2293
Jenny Trethewey 3130
Julia Twohig 5015
Jean Ker Walsh 3442
Heather Wearne 3073
Gayle White 3194
Marie Williams 2291
Phil Williams 2291
Diana Woodruff 3918
Peter Woodruff 3040
Tim Woodruff 3121