Enquiries regarding this submission can be directed to:
Georgina Byron AM
Chief Executive Officer
Reply Paid 83380
CANBERRA ACT 2601
Submission to the Indigenous Voice Co-Design Group
Prepared by The Snow Foundation
22 April 2021
The Snow Foundation strongly believes that the Indigenous people of Australia must have a
fair go at improving their own future, and that Australia as a nation will be richer and more
complete as a result.
That is why we are calling for:
1. an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice protected in the Constitution;
2. a referendum to be held BEFORE legislating the Voice; and
3. a model for the Voice that ensures representation of a wide range of Indigenous
voices, not just established leadership figures.
Who we are
The Snow Foundation was founded by brothers Terry and George Snow in 1991. Our purpose is to
create opportunities and strengthen resilience for a more caring and inclusive community where
everyone can thrive. Geographically, Canberra is our main place, along with key regions (South Coast
and Sydney) where we listen and respond to the communities’ needs across a range of cause areas.
Our national support is focused on social justice issues and supporting social entrepreneurs.
Over the past 10 years, we have become drivers behind key social issues at a national scale, like
Indigenous health (crusted scabies, rheumatic heart disease), marriage equality and economic
To date, we have committed more than $6M to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health,
education and support programs. We have seen time and again, that community-led programs,
where those who are affected are leading the solutions to their own problems, can and will be
Maningrida is an excellent example of how Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leadership and
community-led solutions are successfully tackling some of the highest rates of rheumatic heart
disease (RHD) in the world. Traditional owners, doctors, the school, the health clinic and Malabam
Health Services are all working together to educate children and families about RHD using
educational materials in traditional language and local metaphors. In 2018, following an extensive
and ongoing educational program across the community, Aboriginal health workers, specialists and
nurses screened 620 children’s hearts, diagnosing 32 children with RHD (two-thirds had never been
diagnosed before) and three children required emergency open heart surgery. Two years on, the
children are being treated regularly and on their way to healthy hearts.
Recommendation 1: An Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice protected in the
It’s time for recognition
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have lived in Australia for over 60,000 years. Yet they
are not recognised in our Constitution and have virtually no say on the matters that affect them.
A chance to improve living conditions and outcomes for Indigenous communities
Despite much effort and money spent, living conditions and outcomes for Indigenous people remain
much worse than for non-Indigenous people. Baseline data for the Closing the Gap targets 2020
indicate that Indigenous people have significantly lower life expectancy, are behind in all early
development indicators, have lower school completion and employment rates, are over-represented
in out-of-home care and prisons / juvenile justice centres, and are twice as likely to die by suicide.
Guaranteeing a Voice for Australia’s First Nations people in the Constitution will provide a basis for
Indigenous people to take ownership of the challenges they face and the solutions that will improve
Widespread public support
An Indigenous Voice has widespread support among the Australian public – in 2020, 86% of the
general community think it’s important to establish a representative Indigenous body, and 81% think
it is important to protect that body within the constitution (Reconciliation Australia – 2020
Recommendation 2: A referendum to be held BEFORE legislating the Voice.
It is important to first hold a referendum and enshrine the Voice in the Constitution, rather than
legislating it without a referendum.
A national conversation
A referendum will engage the Australian public in a conversation about our past, present and future.
Legitimacy and stability
It provides legitimacy and authority to ensure that the Voice is heard.
It also gives it stability and flexibility, enabling it to speak the truth without fearing for its existence.
Recommendation 3: A model for the Voice that ensures representation of a wide range of
Indigenous voices, not just established leadership figures.
The design for the Voice must ensure that previously unheard Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
people have the same chance of being heard as established leadership figures. The work of the Co-
Design Group has started this important process.
There is widespread support and momentum for a First Nations Voice protected in the Constitution.
Now is the time to extend the fundamental Australian value of a ‘fair go’ to First Nations
communities, so that all Australians can be proud of our history.