2237

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Submission Number
2237
Participant
Anonymous
Submission date
Main Submission File
Main Submission Automated Transcript

Submission to the National Voice Proposal
My main point

I am writing to express my strong support for the establishment of a permanent First
Nations Voice to provide the views of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to our
Federal Government and Parliament on policy decisions affecting their lives. It is my strong
view that this Voice should be established through an amendment to the Australian
constitution. This places it at the heart of our national identity and offers it greater
permanence and protection from changing political winds in the future.

I firmly believe that the establishment of this Voice could be a turning point towards greater
reconciliation between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people and progress the healing of
the single greatest wound in our country and its national consciousness. Importantly, it
represents a critical first step in responding to the Uluru Statement from the Heart and
Aboriginal people’s gracious invitation to all of us to walk with them into a better future.
Below I say a bit more about why I believe these things.
My background and what has shaped by view
I am not an Aboriginal person. I am a white, 61-year-old male of Irish Scottish heritage born
in Paramatta in Sydney. I went to school at a time when education about Aboriginal people
was very limited. We didn’t know then as much as we know now about the complexity and
sophistication of Aboriginal culture and land management practices or the staggering length
of time they have been here—now dated up to 65,000 years.
My awareness grew after I got married in my early twenties. My wife has an adopted
younger Aboriginal brother. I got to know him as part of the family and our lives and the
lives of our children have been connected and intertwined for the past 38 years. He was
born in 1966, the year before the referendum vote that meant Aboriginal people could be
counted in the census. He was born of Aboriginal parents in the central north west of NSW.
He is a Kamilaroi man. Before he was one year old, he and his brothers and sisters were
removed by the authorities, so he is part of the Stolen Generation. I won’t go into detail, but
over the past nearly 40 years he has experienced much pain, trouble and trauma personally
and later in the lives of his partner and their children. He has had significant substance use
and mental health problems which over the years have increasingly made his life
unmanageable, despite his many attempts to address them. He has spent periods in jail as a
consequence of actions linked to his drug dependence. But in school after academic testing,
his adoptive parents were told his level of intelligence indicated he could undertake
anything he wanted to.
I know my brother-in-law has made poor choices that have contributed to his own
difficulties and suffering and which have had harmful repercussions for his partner and their
children. But I also believe that the trauma of being removed from his family has had a
profound impact on his life. His intelligence, insight and perceptivity have in some ways only
magnified the pain and torment of that experience. And underneath all lies the
dispossession, theft and murder that destroyed the life and dignity of his people and which
shaped the world and the circumstances he was born into, as an Aboriginal person in 1966.
This trauma and chronic disadvantage are named in the Uluru statement as a structural
problem - “the torment of our powerlessness”. I believe that this “torment of
powerlessness”, the alienation of Aboriginal people from a respected place in their own land
and a lack of autonomy and agency to shape their own future, is a major cause of the
disadvantage and alienation that Aboriginal people experience and the poorer life outcomes
that too often result. I also believe it is a fundamental cause of the tragedy so evident in my
brother in-law’s life.
What I am calling for and why
My fundamental reason for writing this submission is to appeal to our Federal Government
to honour its commitment to hold a referendum on a National Voice for Aboriginal and
Torres Strait Islander people. I believe this Voice for First Nations peoples must be enshrined
in the Constitution of Australia so that its existence and major purpose and functions are
safeguarded into the future. Having a Voice to Parliament on the issues that affect their lives
is a crucial precondition for increasing the agency of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
people. It is a further positive step in them taking their rightful, respected place in our
nation. It is a step that reflects the pride we should have that Indigenous Australians are the
longest continuous human civilization on earth.
Following the wishes of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in enshrining a Voice in
the constitution is, I believe, the only fitting response to their call for this step in the Uluru
Statement from the Heart. This call was borne of a historic consensus from a dialogue with
First Nations peoples and bodies that was unprecedented in its scope and
representativeness. In a spirit of great generosity and grace, First Nations people have
invited their fellow non indigenous Australians to walk with them towards a better future.
How can we deny them what they believe is a critical first step in that journey?
I believe the design of the Voice and the precise arrangements for appointing members
should be left primarily to Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander people to decide for
themselves. However, I do think that it would be beneficial if the membership model chosen
provides the opportunity for a wide and representative cross section of Aboriginal and
Torres Strait Islander people to contribute their perspectives. For that reason I favour some
variation of the Structural Membership model for selecting members. But the most
important first step is for the Government to hold a referendum on a constitutionally
enshrined National Voice and that is what I am asking our Federal Government to do.
Thank you for the opportunity to make this submission and for my views to be considered.

I am withholding my name and address as I want to protect the privacy of my brother-in-
law.