1967

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Submission Number
1967
Participant
NSW Aboriginal Land Council
Submission date
Main Submission Automated Transcript

New South Wales Aboriginal Land Council initial response to the Indigenous Voice
Co-Design process interim report 2020.

Please find the attached submission from the New South Wales Aboriginal Land Council (NSWALC) in
response to the Indigenous Voice Co-design process Interim Report 2020 (Report) and the
Commonwealth proposals for “an Indigenous Voice” intended to “provide a way for Indigenous
Australians to provide advice and input on matters that are important to improve their lives” National
Indigenous Australians Agency (NIAA).

The NSWALC provides this submission in our capacity as the peak body representing Aboriginal peoples
in NSW and as the largest Aboriginal member-based organisation in Australia.

The NSWALC requests that our submission is published as soon as it is received by NIAA on the website
established for the consultations on the Commonwealth’s Voice proposals: www.voice.niaa.gov.au. The
NSWALC will also be publishing the submission on our own website: www.alc.org.au.

If you have further questions regarding the content of this submission, please contact me on
james.christian@alc.org.au.

Sincerely,

James Christian PSM
Chief Executive Officer
NSW Aboriginal Land Council
Date: 16 April 2021
NEW SOUTH WALES ABORIGINAL LAND COUNCIL INITIAL RESPONSE TO THE
INDIGENOUS VOICE CO-DESIGN PROCESS INTERIM REPORT 2020
APRIL 2021

This submission is made by the New South Wales Aboriginal Land Council (NSWALC) in response to the
Indigenous Voice Co-design process Interim Report 2020 (Report) and the Commonwealth proposals for
“an Indigenous Voice” intended to “provide a way for Indigenous Australians to provide advice and input
on matters that are important to improve their lives” National Indigenous Australians Agency (NIAA).

The NSWALC requests that our submission is published as soon as it is received by NIAA on the website
established for the consultations on the Commonwealth’s Voice proposals: www.voice.niaa.gov.au. The
NSWALC will also be publishing the submission on its own website: www.alc.org.au.

The NSWALC is committed to pursuing cultural, social, and economic independence for Aboriginal
peoples. As a self-funded statutory corporation established under the Aboriginal Land Rights Act 1983,
the NSWALC has a legislated objective to improve, protect and foster the best interests of Aboriginal
peoples and communities across the state. The NSWALC also provides support to a network of 120 Local
Aboriginal Land Councils, with a combined membership of over 25,000 Aboriginal peoples. Through our
membership, NSWALC also serves the needs of 230,000 Aboriginal people in NSW, Australia’s largest First
Nations population.

The NSWALC provides this submission in our capacity as the peak body representing Aboriginal peoples
in NSW and as the largest Aboriginal member-based organisation in Australia. The NSWALC is also a
member of the NSW Coalition of Peaks (NSWCAPO) made up of peak community-controlled peak
organisations in NSW that came together to represent the interests of Aboriginal and Torres Strait
Islander peoples in NSW. The NSWCAPO is a member of the National Coalition of Aboriginal and Torres
Strait Islander Community-Controlled Peak Organisations (Coalition of Peaks). The Coalition of Peaks is a
representative body comprised of more than fifty Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peaks and
organisations from across Australia that have come together as an act of self-determination to work
together with Australian governments on Closing the Gap.

The NSWALC has played an active role in advancing Constitutional recognition of Aboriginal and Torres
Strait Islander people for many years. Most recently, the NSWALC and its members have engaged with
and provided submissions into the following processes:

• The Expert Panel on Indigenous Constitutional Recognition;
• The Uluru Dialogues and the First Nations National Constitutional Convention;
• The Referendum Council on Indigenous Constitutional Recognition; and
• The Joint Select Committee on Constitutional Recognition Relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait
Islander Peoples.

The NSWALC, as a member of NSWCAPO and the Coalition of Peaks, has also been instrumental in the
negotiations and agreement from governments to the historic Partnership and National Agreements on
Closing the Gap (the Agreements). The Agreements commit all Australian governments to share decision

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making with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representatives, chosen by our peoples, on matters
relating to improvements in our life outcomes.

Our recommendations in this submission seek to advance the human rights and interests of Aboriginal
peoples in NSW, consistent with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
(UNDRIP) and the Agreements, and to further the empowerment, recognition and self-determination
sought by the Uluru Statement from the Heart and the Partnership and National Agreements on Closing
the Gap.

Summary of NSWALC’s initial position and recommendations

The Uluru Statement from the Heart sought
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are being
full recognition of Aboriginal and Torres
asked to respond to a set of proposals that is very
Strait Islander peoples as First Peoples
different from what was envisaged in the Uluru
through a Constitutionally enshrined
Statement from the Heart.
national Voice to the Commonwealth
The government’s Voice proposals are very different Parliament to advise on laws that have a
from a Constitutionally enshrined First Nations Voice significant impact on Aboriginal and Torres
to the Commonwealth Parliament. Strait Islander people.

Despite the rejection of all elements of the Uluru Statement from the Heart by the Coalition Government,
the NSWALC continues to support it and notes that it has been overwhelming supported by many
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations and peoples and that this support continues to grow.

The NSWALC understands the proposals from the Coalition Government to be a range of Voice options
at the national and regional levels that are primarily about advising government, rather than the
Parliament, on potentially all matters involving policy and programs impacting on Aboriginal and Torres
Strait Islander peoples. It will have no Constitutional protection and may be underpinned by
Commonwealth legislation. The Coalition Government has also put forward Voice options that may have
an advisory role to state and territory governments on matters relating to policies and programs within
their jurisdictions that impact on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

The rationale for the changes from the
There is no Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
model of the Voice envisaged in the Uluru
community mandate for the government proposals
Statement from the Heart and the case of
and the government has not made the case for its
the new proposals have not been made changed approach and proposals.
clear by the government.

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The NSWALC is concerned that without
A key matter for the Land rights network and
Constitutional enshrinement and the
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people,
changed role of the Voice(s), the proposals
organisations and communities across the country is
from the government are not likely to
to determine what is being proposed by the
advance the empowerment, recognition
government is in the long-term interests of our
and self-determination of Aboriginal and
peoples.
Torres Strait Islander peoples in NSW and
across the country.

Further, the proposals do not take sufficient account of the many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
representative and self-determined arrangements across the country. In NSW, the government options
have the potential to undermine the Land Rights and the community-controlled network that has been
in operation for decades. The government has not made the case for how these current arrangements
will be protected or, if it believes they need to be replaced, why they need to be.

The proposals from the government also There is a significant risk that the government’s
lack clarity about the responsibilities and proposals could undermine self-determination and
accountabilities of the government to any result in conflict and a weakening of the current
Voice structures. There must be clear Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representative
accountabilities on government to engage structures and shared decision arrangements making
with and respond to any Voice structures with governments across the country.
put in place.

Further, there needs to be clear accountabilities on the national Voice to consult with, engage and fully
represent the views of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, organisations and peoples in
any position it takes and in its advice to government.

Any regional or local Voice structures must be established in a transparent manner and have a clear
mandate from the relevant community. Regional structures must be led by Aboriginal and Torres Strait
Islander peoples and not driven, created, or established by government(s). Importantly, any new regional
and local structures need to take account of and be agreed with relevant community-controlled
organisations operating within the same area so not to diminish or undermine their roles and
representative responsibilities.

The NSWALC is also concerned that the consultation process being led by the government and the manner
in which the proposals are being developed and decided is not consistent with the commitments from all
governments in the Partnership and National Agreements on Closing the Gap. These Agreements commit
governments to shared decision making with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representatives that
have a significant impact on our peoples.

The face-to-face consultations have not been sufficiently advertised and with enough notice and
Aboriginal peoples are not being properly supported to participate. There is a lack of transparency in how
the consultations are being recorded and
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities
managed. There is confusion about the role
need more information about what is intended by the
and influence of the NIAA officials and the
proposed arrangements and more time to consider
members of the Indigenous Voice Advisory
whether we should engage in and support the
Group members in the consultations.
Voice(s) being proposed by the government.
Further, there is significant confusion about

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the Commonwealth proposals, what precisely is on the table, and how it relates to the Uluru Statement
from the Heart.

The NSWALC believes that further The NSWALC has significant concerns that the final
engagement and negotiation between Voice model will be decided by government alone.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
representatives, chosen by our own peoples The Voice proposals should not be agreed by
for this purpose, and the Commonwealth government alone and instead should be negotiated
Government on a possible model is needed and agreed between the government and Aboriginal
before a decision on this matter can be and Torres Strait Islander representatives, chosen by
made. our own peoples for this purpose.

In response to the Report and with these matters in mind, the NSWALC provides its initial response and
the following recommendations against three broad categories.

1. Recommendations to strengthen the current consultations
process
a) A complete list of upcoming face to face consultations be published on the NIAA website and where
the NIAA is working with local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled
organisations to put together the face-to-face consultations in a way that encourage greater
participation.

b) Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander facilitators who represent the relevant communities should be
engaged for the face-to-face consultations rather than allowing them to be led by Indigenous Voice
Advisory Group members who are accountable to NIAA and the Minister.

c) Records and outcomes from the consultations are agreed with participating people and organisations
and made public immediately following each consultation so that other participants and organisations
can understand the issues being raised and how they might like to respond.

d) Government officials attending the engagements to clearly identify themselves and their role in
supporting the consultations and measures taken to ensure they are not able to influence or bias the
consultation process.

e) The date for written submissions be extended until the end of May 2021 to align with the conclusion
of the face-to-face engagements.

f) An independent organisation with relevant expertise and experience be engaged in a transparent
manner by NIAA to observe the remaining consultations and provide an assessment on whether the
face to face consultations were open, transparent and informed and enabled Aboriginal and Torres
Strait Islander peoples to be heard on the issues; if the outcomes of the face to face and written
consultations reflect the issues that were raised; and to make recommendations for future
engagements on the issue.

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2. Recommendations on the design of the Voice proposals a) Consistent with the Uluru Statement from the Heart:
• The national Voice’s central function should be on providing advice to the Commonwealth
Parliament on laws that have a significant impact on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
peoples.
• The Voice to Parliament should be enshrined in the Constitution before it is implemented
and supporting legislation is enacted.

b) For a national Voice to the Commonwealth Parliament:
• The obligations on the Parliament to respond to the national Voice and its advice should be
clearly articulated and included in underpinning legislation, ensuring the views of Aboriginal
and Torres Strait Islander peoples are taken account of before legislation is passed and how
and why the Parliament has responded in a particular way is made public.
• The roles and functions of regional / local Voices should be clearly linked to the roles and
functions of the national Voice to the Commonwealth Parliament so as not to confuse,
undermine or weaken the roles and functions of community-controlled organisations across
the country.
• Support for the operation of the Voice structures should be independent of government and
funding for its functions, including its own secretariat and policy support, is protected in
Commonwealth legislation.

c) Should the government proceed with the establishment of a Voice to government, instead of, or as
well as, a Voice to the Commonwealth Parliament:
• Instead of an advisory Voice, the relationship between the Voice structures and government
should be based on formal shared decision-making arrangement and agreement, consistent
with the Partnership and National Agreements on Closing the Gap.
• The Voice structures are determined by representatives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait
Islander people, are independent of government and long-term funding is provided for the
Voice structures for their roles and functions, including for their own independent
secretariat and policy support accountable to the Voice structures, not to government,
consistent with the Partnership and National Agreements on Closing the Gap.
• The roles, responsibilities and accountabilities of government are clearly articulated, and
dispute resolution mechanisms are agreed between the Voice structures and government,
consistent with the Partnership and National Agreements on Closing the Gap.
• Clear obligations on the national Voice must be in place to consult with, engage and fully
represent the views of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, organisations and
peoples in any position it takes and in its advice to government.
• The mandate of the Voice(s) fills an identified and agreed need and the interface between
the government and the Voice is clearly articulated and defined including whether and how
the Voice engages with various portfolios, departments, and Ministers.
• The roles and functions of the land rights network in NSW (and across the country) and our
existing representative functions and responsibilities embedded in the Aboriginal Land

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Rights Act 1983 are not displaced or undermined by a national and regional / local Voice
structures to the Commonwealth government or NSW government.
• The roles and functions of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled
organisations and representative arrangements across the country are not displaced or
undermined by a national and regional / local Voice structures to the Commonwealth
government and how the various structures co-exist and the empowerment, recognition,
self-determination of the community-controlled organisations and representative
arrangements and the responsibilities and obligations of the governments is clearly
articulated and agreed between all parties.
• The roles and functions of the NSWCAPO and the Coalition of Peaks on Closing the Gap and
the Partnership Agreement on Closing the Gap between the Coalition of Peaks and
Australian governments are not displaced or undermined by a national Voice to the
Commonwealth government and how the structures co-exist are clearly defined and agreed
with the Coalition of Peaks and NSWCAPO.
• Any regional or local Voice structures must be established in a transparent manner and have
a clear mandate from the relevant community – regional structures must be led by
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and not driven, created, or established by
government – and take account of and be agreed with relevant community-controlled
organisations operating within the same area so not to diminish or undermine their roles
and representative responsibilities.

d) Should the Voice structures also have a relationship with state and territory governments, the matters
above also apply.

3. Recommendations on next steps

In addition to taking immediate steps to improve the transparency and legitimacy of the current
consultation process: a) A complete independent report be produced on the outcomes of the whole consultation process,
identifying the issues that were raised so that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations and
communities can understand the full range of matters across Australia and consider the best way to
respond.

b) A complete draft proposed model for the national and regional / local Voice structures is put together
and is tested through a further round of genuine engagements with Aboriginal and Torres Strait
Islander people, organisations, and communities, led by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
representatives, chosen by our own peoples for this purpose.

c) Should the Commonwealth proceed with its Voice proposals, the final design of the national and
regional / local Voice structures should be determined through a negotiated and shared decision-
making process between the Commonwealth government and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
representatives, chosen by our own peoples for this purpose.

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d) The Commonwealth government and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representatives, chosen by
our own peoples for this purpose, should negotiate and agree the process steps for implementing the
agreed Voice model(s), including its legislative basis and whether it should be protected through
Constitutional enshrinement before it is implemented, and legislation enacted.

e) Should the Voice structures also have a relationship with state and territory governments, the matters
above also apply.

Discussion of key issues

The following provides a discussion of the issues raised in the Report and the consultation process.

1. Current consultation process

From experience, and whether a Voice model is The NSWALC is concerned about the
enshrined in the Constitution or not, much of its transparency and robustness of the current
strength, longevity, and capacity to further the consultation process in response to the
empowerment, recognition and self-determination of Report.
our peoples relies on its legitimacy and support from For example, and in relation to engagements
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. The the NSWALC Councillors and staff have
current consultation process will not achieve this. attended:

• Locations and dates for face-to-face consultations are not being provided with sufficient
time for organisations like the NSWALC to support its members to participate.
• Government officials attending the consultations do not always identify themselves and
their role in the consultations.
• The consultations are being led by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people appointed by
and accountable to the Commonwealth Government through terms of reference and
contractual arrangements, rather than Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representatives
agreed by our peoples for this purpose.
• It is not clear who is responsible for recording the meetings and its outcomes.
• The record of meeting and a summary of the outcomes are not checked back with and
agreed by participants making it difficult to know whether the issues raised are being
reflected accurately to government.
• Without summaries of the face-to-face engagements being made public it is difficult for
organisations and communities to understand what issues are being raised across the
country and to inform their own contributions.
• Whilst some written submissions are being made public and are available on the NIAA
website, the records of meetings and summaries of their outcomes from the face-to-face
engagements are not always being made public and in a timely way.
• Government officials have provided inaccurate information about the consultation and
notification processes.
• Written submissions close before consultations are due to finish.

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Further, the steps and timeframes following the conclusion of the consultations are not clear and it is
difficult to see how the NSWALC, its members and other community-controlled organisations will be able
to understand the issues that have been raised through the consultation process to inform how they
might be responded to and how we can engage in the next steps.

To strengthen the consultation process, the NSWALC makes the following recommendations to be
implemented immediately: a) A complete list of upcoming face to face consultations be published on the NIAA website and where
the NIAA is working with local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled
organisations to put together the face-to-face consultations in a way that encourage greater
participation.

b) Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander facilitators who represent the relevant communities should be
engaged for the face-to-face consultations rather than allowing them to be led by Indigenous Voice
Advisory Group members who are accountable to NIAA and the Minister.

c) Records and outcomes from the consultations are agreed with participating people and organisations
and made public immediately following each consultation so that other participants and organisations
can understand the issues being raised and how they might like to respond.

d) Government officials attending the engagements to clearly identify themselves and their role in
supporting the consultations and measures taken to ensure they are not able to influence or bias the
consultation process.

e) The date for written submissions be extended until the end of May 2021 to align with the conclusion
of the face-to-face engagements.

f) An independent organisation with relevant expertise and experience be engaged in a transparent
manner by NIAA to observe the remaining consultations and provide an assessment on whether the
face to face consultations were open, transparent and informed and enabled Aboriginal and Torres
Strait Islander peoples to be heard on the issues; if the outcomes of the face to face and written
consultations reflect the issues that were raised; and to make recommendations for future
engagements on the issue.

2. Consideration of the Commonwealth Voice proposals

The NSWALC has not considered some of the detailed Given there is significant confusion about
issues raised in the Report on the government’s Voice what is being proposed and why, the
proposals as we believe there are fundamental and NSWALC uses the following to provide its
threshold issues that needs to be dealt with first in a views on some threshold issues that require
substantive way. consideration before the government
proposals should be advanced.
.

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The NSWALC is very concerned that it is being asked to respond to a range of proposals that are not clearly
defined and where the intent of the Commonwealth has not been fully disclosed. The Voice proposals
being put forward by the Commonwealth are very different from what was put forward as part of the
Uluru Statement from the Heart. The Uluru Statement from the Heart is about the full recognition of
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as First Peoples through three key proposals. At the centre
of its proposals is a Constitutionally enshrined national Voice to the Commonwealth Parliament to advise
on laws that have a significant impact on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

The Coalition Government has rejected all three elements of the Uluru Statement from the Heart. By the
government putting forward its own and very different proposals, the NSWALC is concerned that there is
no genuine community mandate for the proposals as they have not been developed through a process of
self-determination. Should the government proceed with its proposals there is a significant chance that
they will not be enduring or achieve meaningful change as they are being government driven rather than
arising from a self-determined process.

The government has instead put forward a proposal for a national Voice and regional Voices that will
primarily have a role in providing advice to the Commonwealth Government on policies and programs
that have a significant impact on our peoples. It has left open the idea that Voice or Voices will have a
legislative basis, but this is not certain from what the Commonwealth has said publicly or from the
available consultation materials. It has also left open as to whether the national Voice will have a role in
advising the Commonwealth Parliament, but this too is not certain either. The Commonwealth has also
left open the idea that the national Voice and or regional Voices will have a relationship with State and
Territory governments and parliaments, but this is not clear, and we have not heard that this proposition
is supported by State and Territory governments.

The government has also not articulated a rationale for its changed approach, what the problem is it is
trying to address and how the Voice models respond to the identified problem. The Report, and during
the consultations, the government, its officials, and representatives refer to the many discussions on
Constitutional recognition as providing the basis and rationale for its proposals. However, this is
misleading as the government is not talking about Constitutional recognition of Aboriginal and Torres
Strait Islander peoples.

There are many community-controlled The Voice proposals from the government do not
organisations across the country that have adequately address how they will intersect with the
existed for decades and whose roles is to many community-controlled structures and current
represent the needs of our peoples in service shared decision-making arrangements between
delivery and advocacy and policy advice to governments and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
governments. representatives.
The NSWALC has an extensive network of It is dangerous to suggest that the community-
120 Local Aboriginal Land Council (LALCs). controlled peaks can have an advisory function to the
The NSWALC and LALCs work together to Voice(s) – this will result in a significant weakening of
represent Aboriginal peoples in the the community-controlled sectors.
development of land rights in NSW and of
the development of cultural, social, and These matters need to be worked through in full
economic benefits derived from land. The through negotiation and agreement with the
Boards of the NSWALC and LALCs are community-controlled sector.
democratically elected by Aboriginal peoples

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in NSW. The NSWALC also acts as an advisor to, and negotiates with, governments and other stakeholders
on behalf of its members.

The NSWALC is a member of NSWCAPO, consisting of the: NSW Aboriginal Land Council; NSW Aboriginal
Education Consultative Group; Link-Up (NSW); Aboriginal Legal Services (NSW/ACT); AbSec - NSW Child,
Family and Community Peak Aboriginal Corporation; the Aboriginal Health and Medical Research
Council, First Peoples Disability Network and BlaQ (affiliate member).

The NSWCAPO has a long-standing relationship with the NSW Government and negotiated and agreed
the Premier’s priorities as they relate to Aboriginal peoples in NSW. Recently, NSWCAPO entered
historic partnership arrangements with the NSW Government to share decisions on policies and
programs that have a significant impact on Aboriginal peoples. The partnership arrangement establishes
the following structure:

1) NSW Joint Council jointly chaired by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and NSWCAPO Co-Chairs
and made up of NSWCAPO representatives and the Secretary of Premier and Cabinet. This is the
formal decision-making body
2) NSW Partnership Working Group made up of senior government officials, NSWCAPO
representatives and ‘other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander partners’.
The partnership arrangements mirror
A proposal for an advisory Voice falls below the
national shared decision arrangements
commitments in the National Agreement on Closing
established under the Partnership
the Gap to share decision making between
Agreement on Closing the Gap between all
governments and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
Australian governments, including local
representatives.
government, and the Coalition of Peaks. The
NSWCAPO is a member of the Coalition of Peaks, a representative body comprised of more than fifty
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peaks and organisations from across that have come together to
have their collective voice heard on issues that affect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Should the Commonwealth proceed with its Voice proposals, it is vital that the mandate of the Voice(s)
not cut across or undermine the role of the community-controlled sector in Australia. Should there be a
crossover of mandates between the existing structures across the country and new structures
implemented by the government, there is a significant risk that the government (and other governments)
will preference the advice it wants to hear and largely through its own structures.

The NSWCAPO supports a Voice to the Commonwealth Parliament as there is currently no formal way for
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to speak to the Parliament about laws that will have a
significant impact on our peoples. That said, any Voice to the Parliament must include obligations and
responsibilities on the Parliament to respond and before any relevant legislation is passed. These
obligations need to be detailed in any final
draft of a proposed model. It would be disastrous for Aboriginal and Torres Strait
Islander interests if the community-controlled sector
Should the government persist with was weakened by the government’s Voice proposals
implementing a Voice to government, both in its capacity to represent the interests of its
including State and Territory governments, members directly with governments and provide
the relationship between the Voice and services and supports that had been directly
government needs to be based on shared negotiated with governments.
decision making. There have been advisory

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bodies in the past to the Commonwealth Government that have not advanced the interests or status of
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

The Partnership and National Agreements on Closing the Gap commit all governments to a new
benchmark in how they work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples based on shared decision
making.

Priority Reform One of the National Agreement sets out key elements for shared decision making
between governments and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representatives. A Voice to government
should be consistent with these elements and where it is set out and agreed how decisions will be made
together and on what, and the accountabilities and responsibilities of government, not only for the
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representatives. The interface with government also needs to be
clearly articulated. Funding to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representatives to access their
own support and advice independent of government also needs to be included. For a Voice to Parliament
and or government, long term funding to support the Voice should be set out and protected in legislation.

The NSWALC provides the following initial recommendations to address some threshold issues associated
with the Commonwealth’s Voice proposals. The NSWALC would welcome the opportunity to discuss
these further.

a) Consistent with the Uluru Statement from the Heart:
• The national Voice’s central function should be on providing advice to the Commonwealth
Parliament on laws that have a significant impact on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
peoples.
• The Voice to Parliament should be enshrined in the Constitution before it is implemented
and supporting legislation is enacted.

b) For a national Voice to the Commonwealth Parliament:
• The obligations on the Parliament to respond to the national Voice and its advice should be
clearly articulated and included in underpinning legislation, ensuring the views of Aboriginal
and Torres Strait Islander peoples are taken account of before legislation is passed and how
and why the Parliament has responded in a particular way is made public.
• The roles and functions of regional / local Voices should be clearly linked to the roles and
functions of the national Voice to the Commonwealth Parliament so as not to confuse,
undermine or weaken the roles and functions of community-controlled organisations across
the country.
• Support for the operation of the Voice structures should be independent of government and
funding for its functions, including its own secretariat and policy support, is protected in
Commonwealth legislation.

c) Should the government proceed with the establishment of a Voice to government, instead of, or as
well as, a Voice to the Commonwealth Parliament:
• Instead of an advisory Voice, the relationship between the Voice structures and government
should be based on formal shared decision-making arrangement and agreement, consistent
with the Partnership and National Agreements on Closing the Gap.
• The Voice structures are determined by representatives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait
Islander people, are independent of government and long-term funding is provided for the

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Voice structures for their roles and functions, including for their own independent
secretariat and policy support accountable to the Voice structures, not to government,
consistent with the Partnership and National Agreements on Closing the Gap.
• The roles, responsibilities and accountabilities of government are clearly articulated, and
dispute resolution mechanisms are agreed between the Voice structures and government,
consistent with the Partnership and National Agreements on Closing the Gap.
• Clear obligations on the national Voice must be in place to consult with, engage and fully
represent the views of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, organisations and
peoples in any position it takes and in its advice to government.
• The mandate of the Voice(s) fills an identified and agreed need and the interface between
the government and the Voice is clearly articulated and defined including whether and how
the Voice engages with various portfolios, departments, and Ministers.
• The roles and functions of the land rights network in NSW (and across the country) and our
existing representative functions and responsibilities embedded in the Aboriginal Land
Rights Act 1983 are not displaced or undermined by a national and regional / local Voice
structures to the Commonwealth government or NSW government.
• The roles and functions of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled
organisations and representative arrangements across the country are not displaced or
undermined by a national and regional / local Voice structures to the Commonwealth
government and how the various structures co-exist and the empowerment, recognition,
self-determination of the community-controlled organisations and representative
arrangements and the responsibilities and obligations of the governments is clearly
articulated and agreed between all parties.
• The roles and functions of the NSWCAPO and the Coalition of Peaks on Closing the Gap and
the Partnership Agreement on Closing the Gap between the Coalition of Peaks and
Australian governments are not displaced or undermined by a national Voice to the
Commonwealth government and how the structures co-exist are clearly defined and agreed
with the Coalition of Peaks and NSWCAPO.
• Any regional or local Voice structures must be established in a transparent manner and have
a clear mandate from the relevant community – regional structures must be led by
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and not driven, created, or established by
government – and take account of and be agreed with relevant community-controlled
organisations operating within the same area so not to diminish or undermine their roles
and representative responsibilities.

d) Should the Voice structures also have a relationship with state and territory governments, the matters
above also apply.

3. Next steps

Building on the concerns identified with the current consultation process, the legitimacy and credibility
of the Voice models for and by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples is not only about how
members are selected in any final design but is also about how the Voice model itself is put together.

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Consistent with the commitments in the Partnership and National Agreements on Closing the Gap, the
final model should be agreed through a negotiated process between the Commonwealth Government
(and with the involvement of the Commonwealth Parliament and other governments if required) and
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representatives chosen by our peoples for this purpose.

A negotiated agreement on the final model of the Voice and the steps to achieve it between the
Commonwealth Government and our representatives will provide the best foundation for an enduring
and successful model that is owned by and advances the interests of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
peoples whilst fostering responsibility and accountability of the Commonwealth government to the
Voice(s). The NSWALC believes this is the only legitimate way to settle the final design of the Voice.

At a minimum and as a first step, the NSWALC would be very concerned if the Commonwealth
Government were to decide on the final model of the Voice structures without a further engagement
process. Noting it is not clear whether the proposed Voice structures will have a relationship to the
Commonwealth Parliament and government or government alone, whether a Voice to government will
be underpinned by legislation, and what the relationship will be with state and territory governments, a
complete draft Voice structure should be developed and made public. This should be accompanied by an
independent report on the issues identified through this current engagement process. Aboriginal and
Torres Strait Islander people, organisations and communities should be able to see an independent
analysis on the issues raised across the country in response to the current proposals to inform their own
thinking on next steps and whether a model put forward by the Commonwealth government should be
supported.

The NSWALC provides the following recommendations on next steps: a) A complete independent report be produced on the outcomes of the whole consultation process,
identifying the issues that were raised so that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations and
communities can understand the full range of matters across Australia and consider the best way to
respond.

b) A complete proposed model for the national and regional / local Voice structures is put together and
is tested through a further round of engagements with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people,
organisations, and communities, led by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representatives, chosen
by our own peoples for this purpose.

c) The final design of the national and regional / local Voice structures should be determined through a
negotiated and shared decision-making process between the Commonwealth Government and
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representatives, chosen by our own peoples for this purpose.

d) The Commonwealth Government and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representatives, chosen
by our own peoples for this purpose, should negotiate and agree the process steps for implementing
the agreed Voice model(s), including its legislative basis and whether it should be protected through
Constitutional enshrinement before it is implemented, and legislation enacted.

e) Should the Voice structures also have a relationship with state and territory governments, the matters
above also apply.

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