Submission on the Indigenous Voice Co-Design Interim Report
Mission Australia is a national non-denominational Christian charity motivated by a shared vision of
an Australia where everyone has a safe home and can thrive. Since 1859, we have pursued our
Founding Purpose which is, inspired by Jesus Christ, to meet human need and spread the knowledge
of the love of God. In 2019-20, we supported more than 167,000 people through 483 programs and
services across Australia.
As an Australian services organisation, we recognise a particular responsibility to our First Nations
peoples. We acknowledge that God has been present and active in our indigenous communities
since time immemorial. We acknowledge with shame the actions during European settlement of
systemic injustice and dispossession, and honour the special relationship that indigenous peoples
have as custodians of the land on which we meet and work.
Jesus Christ by His life and saving death reconciles His people to God, and calls us to be reconciled to
one another. Therefore Mission Australia recognises the task of reconciliation as an essential aspect
of our Christian work, and wholeheartedly strives for reconciliation with First Nations people
through recognition, empowerment and service.
Every day we deliver homelessness crisis and prevention services, we provide social and affordable
housing, and we assist struggling families and children. We help individuals and families to address
their mental health issues, and fight substance dependencies, and we support people with disability
to participate fully in their community and achieve their goals.
We have long worked with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as colleagues, providers of
support, and as partners in our communities. Mission Australia was among the first not-for-profit
organisations in Australia to develop and implement a Reconciliation Action Plan. We are a signatory
to the Australian Council of Social Services (ACOSS) Principles for a Partnership-centred Approach
which guide the way we engage with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations, and how we
deliver services and development initiatives in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
In 2009 we established Charcoal Lane – a social enterprise restaurant and hospitality training
program for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students in Melbourne. Between 2010 and 2018
we delivered 14 dedicated Indigenous employment programs across Australia. We currently deliver
services in remote communities such as Mornington Island and Yarrabah in Far North Queensland,
and in the NT and WA where the communities lead our approach to supporting individuals, families,
Our genuine engagement with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is perhaps best reflected
in the people who choose to use our services; on average more than 20 percent of people accessing
our community services in 2019-20 identify as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander. This
engagement is driven by our genuine commitment to working alongside and with Aboriginal and
Torres Strait Islander people and groups.
And currently, around six percent of our workforce identifies as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait
Islander. To address employment outcomes, we have an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
Employment Strategy and Toolkit that complements our Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP). In
addition, we have recently launched RAP Champions, a peer to peer learning network to further
build the cultural competence of our employees.
Given our engagement with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and people, we are
privileged to have the opportunity to make a submission regarding the recently released co-design
models for a Voice to Parliament reflecting the Uluru Statement from the Heart.
Giving a voice to young people and people with disability
We are encouraged by the inclusion of youth and disability advisory groups within the proposed
National Voice structure. Mission Australia conducts an annual Youth Survey to engage young
people aged 15-19 years across the country. In 2020, 25,800 young people responded to the survey
and a total of 1,129 (4.4%) respondents identified as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander young
people. Although this is not a representative sample, the findings indicate the concerns, hopes and
plans of young people.
For the first time in 2020, young people were asked whether they had been treated unfairly in the
past year. Almost four in 10 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people reported they had
been treated unfairly (compared with only a quarter of non-Indigenous respondents). Of those
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander respondents who felt they were treated unfairly, half reported
this treatment was due to their race/cultural background. Close to four in 10 Aboriginal and Torres
Strait Islander young people cited equity and discrimination as the most important issue in Australia
In 2019, young people were asked whether they feel that their voices are being heard on important
issues with family, friends, at school/TAFE/university and in public affairs. A third of Aboriginal and
Torres Strait Islander young people felt they had no say at school/TAFE/university and more than a
half had no say in public affairs.
These results demonstrate that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people want to voice
their concerns and highlight what is important to them. As they are the future of the country, they
need to be involved in the design, development and implementation of policies that affect them.
Mission Australia supports a Voice to Parliament
The Uluru Statement from the Heart offers Australia a way forward. In part, the Statement calls for
structural reforms that give Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people a greater say (and authority)
on the decisions that affect them. A Voice to Parliament will empower Aboriginal and Torres Strait
Islander people politically, and act as a permanent institution for expressing Aboriginal and Torres
Strait Islander views, through parliament, to the government.
Mission Australia supports the recommendations that Indigenous leadership have called for, namely:
a. The Australian Government must honour its election commitment to a referendum
once a model for the Voice has been settled;
b. Enabling legislation for the Voice must be passed after a referendum has been held
in the next term of Parliament; and
c. The membership model for the Voice to Parliament must be open to the selection of
previously unheard Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in addition to
established leadership figures.
We believe that a Voice to Parliament enshrined in and protected by the Constitution is vital to
ensure that the relationship between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous
Australians can move forward. Moreover, we believe that the Uluru Statement, built on more than
two years of co-design engagement, is the vehicle through which justice and self-determination for
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities should be realised.