Submissions: Your Feedback

Submissions from people and organisations who have agreed to have their feedback published are provided below.

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Submission Number
Shawn Whelan
Submission date
Main Submission Automated Transcript

Shawn Whelan

Fitzroy VIC 3065

Dear Co-Design Body

Submission to Co-design process

I am a non-Indigenous Australian, the son of parents who came from the USA to Australia in
1969. I have lived all my life in the inner cities of Sydney and Melbourne, but I have travelled
widely in Australia and overseas. My professional work is as a mediator, negotiator and
teacher of these skills (self-employed). I was once a lawyer, in the early days of the Native
Title Act, and I have maintained an interest in issues of justice and (re)conciliation since my
teenage years. Some of my work now is with Traditional Owner groups here in Victoria. I am
an active member of the Uniting Church, a parent, and a musician.

Why do you think the Uluru Statement from the Heart is important?
The Uluru Statement from the Heart is an extraordinary achievement. A consensus that
emerged out of deep listening and strong debate, from people representing Aboriginal and
Torres Strait Islander communities across this vast continent. It must be accorded the highest
level of respect by anyone who seeks to understand "What are Aboriginal and Torres Strait
Islander people saying? What do they want?". Beyond that, its content is extraordinary. While
public attention has focused on (some of) its more political demands, it also speaks to the
heart of Australia. I'm not going to repeat it here, but I urge all decision makers to read it again,
and again, slowly and carefully - as our study group at church has done, as people of goodwill
across the country have done.

How could a Voice to Parliament improve the lives of your community?
A Voice to Parliament, as proposed and as is emerging through the co-design process, is a
vital measure for ensuring Indigenous views are heard by our Federal Parliament. It's not an
attempt to "take over" or even "take power"; it sensibly recognises that the Parliamentary
democracy we have will continue to be how decisions are ultimately made. But it does help re-
balance the fundamental relationship between First and Second peoples in this country to say:
that elected body must listen to what the First Peoples are saying. Not necessarily to agree,
but to listen properly and through appropriate, formal, accountable channels.

Why is it important for Indigenous people to have a say in the matters that affect them?
It's essential that we listen to what Indigenous people say, regarding the matters that affect
them. For over 200 years, we haven't done so, not seriously, and the results of that approach
are appalling. The principle of Self-Determination is widely acknowledged in international law; I
also think of it as being an extension of a basic aspect of human psychology: the need for
autonomy, agency, control over our own lives.

Why do you think it's important to enshrine the Voice to Parliament in the Constitution, rather
than include it only in legislation?
For this reason, I strongly believe the Voice must be enshrined in the Constitution - not just
in legislation. I am confident the Australian public will support this, if they understand clearly
what is being proposed (and what isn’t – such as the ludicrous “third chamber” idea). Once the
design is refined, it should be put to the Australian people with strong advocacy from all
major parties for its adoption.
Other thoughts regarding the design
Regarding the details of design, I believe it's more appropriate for Indigenous people to
comment - it's to be their Voice, after all. I don't have a strong view on its size or composition,
except to note that there is such a diversity of Indigenous perspectives that it may be better to
err on the side of larger (more representatives from each area or group) than smaller (only one
or two). This diversity includes older & younger, men and women, traditional owners and
Stolen people, urban/rural/remote, well known and less known.

Yours sincerely,
Shawn Whelan