2217

Submissions: Your Feedback

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Submission Number
2217
Participant
Yamatji Marpla Aboriginal Coorporation
Submission date
Main Submission Automated Transcript

Our Ref: GEN033 - Submissions
Your Ref: NA
Office: Perth
PERTH
Date: 27 April 2021
Level 8,
12 The Esplanade
Perth WA 6000

To: National Indigenous Australians Agency PO Box 3072
249 Hay Street
PO Box 2191 Perth WA 6892
Canberra ACT 2600
Freecall: 1800 270 709
ATTN: ‘Indigenous Voice’ Co-Design Groups T (08) 9268 7000
F (08) 9225 4633

GERALDTON

To Whom It May Concern, 171 Marine Terrace
Geraldton WA 6530

REF: ‘INDIGENOUS VOICE’ PROPOSALS – REQUEST FOR FEEDBACK PO Box 2119
Geraldton WA 6531

Yamatji Marlpa Aboriginal Corporation (YMAC) is the Native Title T (08) 9965 6222
F (08) 9964 5646
Representative Body (NTRB) delivering native title and other services across
the Pilbara, Mid West, Murchison and Gascoyne regions of Western Australia. HEDLAND
YMAC is run by an Aboriginal Board of Directors, representing several native 2/29 Steel Loop
title groups, each of whom have their own language, culture, traditions, and Wedgefield WA 6721
protocols. YMAC services include native title claim and future act PO Box 2252
South Hedland
representation, heritage services, executive office support, community and WA 6722
economic development assistance, and natural resource management support. T (08) 9160 3800
YMAC takes a holistic approach focusing on Country, culture and corporate F (08) 9140 1277
development. Understanding that each group we work with is unique, so too is
our approach to working with them. By acknowledging and respecting that BROOME

Aboriginal organisations want greater opportunities to develop their services, Lot 640 Dora Street
Broome WA 6725
and control their business into the future, we work to strengthen the support
provided to Traditional Owners by listening to their changing and growing DENHAM
needs.
61-63 Knight Terrace,
Denham WA 6537
YMAC welcomes the opportunity to provide the following general feedback in
hopes it is of value to the relevant ‘Indigenous Voice’ Co-Design Groups and
their efforts towards developing further proposals and suitable models for
local/regional and national “voices”.
The involvement of Aboriginal people in decision-making that affects them is
fundamental, as is the recognition of the diversity that exists across local and
regional areas within Australia. Generally speaking, the current proposals
appear to recognise these facts and aim to address the necessity for suitable,
Yamatji Marlpa
formal structures to be established that allow Aboriginal people appropriate Aboriginal Corporation
access to government to ensure their concerns and ideas for solutions are is a Native Title
Representative Body
heard. However, consideration as to how the proposed models might operate in ICN 2001
ABN 14 011 921 883
each of YMAC’s representative regions must be given; so too must similar
attempts of the recent past be learned from and not repeated.
ymac.org.au
To inform this response, YMAC has drawn from relevant, prior submissions on similar subjects,
as well as consulted with its Board of Directors for input on the proposals.

Regarding the establishment of Local/Regional Voices:
What features of the Local and Regional proposal are most important and why?
The local/regional governance structures must be community-designed and community-led.
Recognition of the unique needs facing different parts of Australia is an important departure from
previous “one-size-fits-all” approaches imposed by government: local people know local issues
and are best-placed to offer appropriate local solutions. Affording recognised, place-based
advisory groups who have been entrusted by their communities with the authority to provide
advice, collaborate and co-develop solutions to local, priority issues with relevant government
partners is highly encouraging.

How would the proposed Local and Regional Voice work for you, your community or your
organisation?
YMAC’s representative area is equivalent to approximately one-third of the size of Western
Australia, so, understandably, we anticipate working with multiple local/regional voices once they
are established. From previous experience working with regionally representative groups, e.g. the
‘Pilbara Aboriginal Voice (Kakurra Muri)’ (PAV), and more recently RECOV19ER and the COVID-
19 Yamatji Regional Emergency Response Group, it is felt two regional bodies – one for the
Pilbara region, and one for the Mid West and Gascoyne regions – would be required. Despite
there being much diversity across each of these areas, feedback suggests this arrangement
would be workable. However, ensuring adequate representation is achieved across a range of
factors, including (but not limited to) age 1, gender, cultural authority, residence/location, skills,
knowledge and experience, will be critical to achieving buy-in from the broader communities these
groups will speak for, as well as their ultimate success.

What would be the benefits or challenges of a proposed Local and Regional Voice for you?
Traditional Owners who YMAC works with have long been calling for appropriate, localised
representative structures that can work towards finding solutions to the myriad challenges,
adversity and disadvantage they experience. Having such groups that are suitably recognised by
government, and that act to interface with other existing, specialised groups (e.g. specific health,
education, justice, etc., and/or discrete place-based, advisory groups) are viewed as critical to
ensuring more holistic approaches are implemented and duplications of efforts are avoided.
Where others may be operating in isolation, it is anticipated local/regional voices would be ideal
conduits to oversee and connect related objectives and efforts, i.e., within their area, as well as
with other voices and advisory bodies/groups. However, previous experience informs some
reservations about how local/regional voices will be accepted and respected by the government
agencies they will need to work with, and that without adequate resourcing they may be set-up to
fail. For example, Pilbara Traditional Owners established the PAV, which has been operating
without any substantial government funding since the end of 2019 (despite a previous lapse in
funding the year before, and ongoing commitments made by the State Government to not have

1 In particular, the involvement of youth is strongly supported; whether this be them as members of the overarching
local/regional voices, or set-up as separate but aligned “youth voices”.
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this occur again back in September 2019; with all attempts by PAV to follow this up since being
hand-balled or completely ignored). However, PAV is still continually approached by various
agencies – even those knowing their funding situation – for their advice on and endorsement of
policies, proposals, etc. This kind of devaluing and undermining by government of genuine
attempts by Traditional Owners wanting to be accountable to and proactive on behalf of their
communities is disheartening and contributes to their historical distrust of and disappointment in
government.

Though perhaps outside the scope of this consultation, similar concerns regarding what
guarantees have been made in terms of different levels of governments’ commitments – in
particular State Government and the various advisory bodies currently engaged across their
portfolios/departments – to work with local/regional voices, and who/how will they be funded and
assisted, have been raised. It cannot be emphasised enough how these groups must be properly
resourced and supported to ensure their members are valued and supported, and do not
experience burnout, and that they have the means and capacity to be able to effectively consult
with the communities they are charged with representing and work with other local- and state-level
advisory groups to ensure their efforts are aligned (especially on shared concerns and/or
priorities, regardless of the responsible jurisdiction, to effect more holistic responses/solutions).

Do the Local and Regional Voice principles seem right to you?
Yes. In particular, that the proposed models and partnership interface arrangements are expected
to be culturally-safe and empowering, and that there is a focus on capacity building and shared
accountability between governments and local/regional voices alike. The promotion of genuine
partnerships and equity in both decision-making and responsibility to community is most
welcomed.

How could the framework improve local partnerships and relationships between
communities and governments?
By allowing for the tailored establishment of local/regional voices, informed by what they deem as
best-suiting their composition and needs, these bodies should be viewed as credible and
legitimate, and, in turn, will attract the necessary buy-in and support from the communities they
act on behalf of, and will foster trust that they will work with government in their interests and to
their benefit. Creating formal, recognised structures, such as what is being proposed, and
requiring all levels of government to commit to respectful, long-term partnerships, should assist in
forcing meaningful conversations and obliging government to listen to and incorporate invaluable
local input (currently seen in practice by many as simply symbolic and/or tokenistic gestures, or
more commonly “rubber stamp” processes). Further, it would be hoped that these structures
would help to facilitate a flow on effect in terms of related reforms required – both across various
agencies/departments and across all levels of government.

Should the number of Local and Regional Voices across Australia be a greater number of
smaller regions, or fewer larger regions (within the proposed 25 to 35 range)?
To adequately accommodate the diverse and unique needs facing different parts of Australia, it is
anticipated that a greater number of smaller areas/regions would need to be afforded their own
representation in the proposed structure. Regarding the regions within which YMAC operates,
Yamatji Marlpa Aboriginal Corporation is a Native Title Representative Body Page 3 of 6
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feedback suggests two regional bodies/voices – one for the Pilbara region, and one for the Mid
West and Gascoyne regions combined – would suffice; this arrangement respects the different
experiences of each of these areas, while also recognising the strength derived from aligning
those sharing similar contexts.

What support do you think would be needed to establish or transition to a Local and
Regional Voice?
Within each determined local/regional voice’s representative area, it will be highly important that
communities are made aware of this process and what it means for them. In the regions that
YMAC operates, acknowledging the vast distances covered, this could be achieved by holding
multiple “town hall meetings” in these jurisdictions to inform people of the intent to
establish/confirm an advisory body for their area, and seek their input regarding its make-up,
functions, potential partners, etc. Following these information sharing sessions, an open, regional
community meeting should be held for people to attend and, based on what might have been
shared at the town halls, decide on the composition of the voice, i.e. how members are to be
chosen, how many members there should be, a basic terms of reference, identifying priorities,
and so on. (Noting, this format of consultation – i.e. holding regular, localised town halls as well
as annual/biannual regional community meetings – should be maintained beyond the
establishment of the local/regional voices to afford adequate, ongoing engagement between
communities and their representatives.)

Again, using YMAC’s experiences with its representative regions as an example, ample
consideration must be given to resourcing the ongoing coordination (e.g., the provision of
secretariat and administrative support) and attendance of meetings of local/regional voice
representatives once selected. For some people to participate they may have to travel very long
distances (driving several hours within their region in some instances) and make accommodation
arrangements, and many also have to take leave/time off work and/or manage other
commitments to be able to attend, often all at their own expense. It seems these kinds of logistical
concerns are overlooked by those unfamiliar with them but whom make decisions about where
such meetings should be held, what costs are reasonable, etc. We therefore urge due
consideration in the next phases of planning and implementation, as well as in relation to future
budget allocations.

Regarding the establishment of a National Voice:
What features are most important in the proposal for a National Voice and why?
Having a National Voice to Commonwealth Parliament is welcomed as it will provide Aboriginal
and Torres Strait Islander people a much-needed recognised right to be heard and consulted on
issues that affect them, including matters critical to their social, spiritual and economic wellbeing
and prosperity. It is important to provide such a platform, which will enable the flow of information
and feedback both up to the national-level and back down to local communities. However, in
expecting this, it is imperative that safeguards be put in place to avoid any dilution of local

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perspectives/needs at the national-level; i.e. federal responses must be careful not to adopt any
approaches that either directly or indirectly attempt to undermine or are in conflict with whatever is
shared by specific communities via their local/regional voices.

How would the proposed National Voice work for you, your community or your
organisation?
Providing that local/regional voices are adequately resourced and supported enough to be active
in their communities, anticipating their advice will be escalated to the national-level is
encouraging. Further, it is hoped that sharing local perspectives on a national platform will assist
in building positive understanding and relationships, not only between different Aboriginal and
Torres Strait Islander communities, but also with the broader non-Aboriginal and Torres Strait
Islander population nationwide.

How do you think the proposed National Voice could support you, your organisation or
your community to have your voice heard on issues of national importance?
The National Voice should act to empower individuals, as well as other organisations that
represent them (e.g. Prescribed Bodies Corporate (PBCs) and Aboriginal Community Controlled
Organisations (ACCOs)), including advocating for and effecting legislative reforms and the
allocation and/or redirection of funding/resourcing needed to support such changes. It is also
hoped it will place long-standing issues on a national platform, spotlighting enduring concerns and
disadvantage faced, forcing actions to be taken where previous efforts have not been able to
attract such attention/responses.

Do you think the scope of the proposed National Voice would empower Aboriginal and
Torres Strait Islander people at a national level?
Wanting to take an optimistic view of the current proposed models and their functions, the
concepts are generally supported, as change is certainly needed, and placing Aboriginal and
Torres Strait Islander peoples at the core of such structures and having these legislated (at both
the federal and state-/territory-levels) is positive and long overdue.

However, and as much as it is appreciated this may be beyond the current scope of these
consultations, YMAC’s position is that Constitutional recognition must be sought alongside the
practical establishment and legislating of a National Voice; as, without this, it is feared past failed
attempts of creating similar advisory bodies will be repeated. YMAC is a strong supporter of the
‘Uluru Statement from the Heart’ and has joined and is committed to the “call for the
establishment of a First Nations Voice enshrined in the Constitution” 2.

What are the benefits or challenges for drawing National Voice members directly from
Local and Regional Voices?
The “Structural Membership Link” is preferred of the two options described, i.e. with the National
Voice membership drawn from candidates comprising the local/regional voices. It is felt that by
having local/regional representatives empowered to speak on behalf of the communities they

2 ‘Uluru Statement from the Heart’ (https://ulurustatement.org/the-statement), retrieved 23 March 2021.
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have been nominated to represent at the national-level will build and promote strength and
confidence, both in individuals and the communities they advocate for. However, some concerns
regarding the representativeness and independence of the National Voice membership have
been raised. To address such concerns, it is suggested that the members must commit to
operating free from self-interest and influence derived from their affiliations/associations external
to the National Voice mechanisms and processes, e.g. they must not base advice/decisions
purely on their individual/personal views, nor on their employment or membership to other
bodies/groups, etc., nor without proper consultation with the local/regional voices affected by the
advice being provided. Instead, they must act to convey the collective requests made by the
communities/regions they are charged with representing (especially where such advice may differ
from general views and/or opinions); as stated above, it is critical protections be put in place to
avoid any misrepresentation of local perspectives/needs at the national-level, and that
government responses neither directly or indirectly undermine locally-informed positions and
requests.

What are the benefits or challenges for drawing National Voice members through a direct
election?
A direct election model is not preferred, as it is perceived to be more appropriate that the National
Voice membership be comprised of people who have been nominated by their communities to
represent them (i.e. via the local/regional voice processes). Some concerns raised regarding this
model include: the potential for a lack of diversity and over-representation of a particular
group/demographic, as well as sentiments of not wanting the ‘same people’ who always seem to
be on national advisory bodies; and, an imbalance of representation due to logistical concerns,
e.g. the risk that information is not adequately communicated (especially to those living in regional
and remotes parts of the country) and voting in such elections is not suitably accessible.

Should this response generate any questions or concerns, please contact Executive Assistant,
Dee Way, in our Perth office on 08 9268 7000, or email dway@ymac.org.au.

Yours sincerely,

Simon Hawkins
Chief Executive Officer

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