2573

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Submission Number
2573
Participant
Gayle Margaret
Submission date
Main Submission Automated Transcript

Re: Indigenous Voice Co-Design Process - Interim Report to
the Australian Government Oct 2020

Acknowledgement & Respect
We acknowledge the Gunaikurnai people as the traditional
custodians of this land and waters on which we live and pay our
respects to their ancestors, elders and emerging leaders.

Introduction
Having read and considered the entire report, we congratulate and
thank the Co-Design Group (CoDG) for their:

i. transparent and clear reporting of CoDG discussions,
points of agreement and matters yet to be agreed;
ii. thorough review of past and present arrangements to
include Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (ATSI) people
in Australia’s Governing decision-making processes;
iii. proposals to markedly improve these arrangements at the
National, State & Regional levels; and for their
iv. extensive consultations with both indigenous and non-
indigenous Australians in preparation for their final report
and recommendations to the Federal Government.

We are pleased to be part of this movement for Constitutional
Recognition of Australia’s First Nation's People that will give the
Federal Government a means by which it can legislate to establish
a National Indigenous Voice (NIV). We consider this to be a
National Priority and the most critical reform for all Australians to
make asap.

Context
We understand that previous Federal Governments of all political
parties (John Howard 2007, Kevin Rudd 2007 & Julia Gillard 2011)
raised the need for Constitutional Recognition of Australia's
Indigenous people. Fourteen years later, the resolution of this is still
outstanding despite considerable time, effort, inquiries, reports and
public cost. The Federal Government and PM should do everything
in their power to expedite this matter.
This Interim Report is part of the Federal Government’s public
commitments to:

i. broad consultations with ATSI communities that culminated
in the Uluru Statement from the Heart 2017
ii. recommendations by its 2018 Joint Select Committee on
Constitutional Recognition; as well as

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iii. the intention to establish a NIV by forming a Referendum
question, holding a successful Referendum and
establishing the NIV within that term of parliament.

Following the Uluru Statement from the Heart 2017, the Federal
Government’s 2018 Joint Select Committee on Constitutional
Recognition recommended the Australian Government initiate a
process of co-design to develop detail for an Indigenous voice.

What a NIV would look like and how it would work to improve the
lives of ATSI people in particular and Australian society generally is
the subject of this Interim Report and of recent broad community
consultations with the support of the National Indigenous Agency of
Australia (NIAA), based within Minister Ken Wyatt’s Indigenous
Affairs Office and with the support of the From the Heart campaign
and websites. We subscribe to these websites and receive updates
via email.

Having initiated this process, the Federal Government is obliged to
show goodwill and integrity to progress this matter to the
satisfaction of all Australians and ATSI people in particular. We do
not want a repeat of the Marriage Equality Referendum/Plebiscite
political debacle.

Despite this Scott Morrison publicly stated in March 2021 (ABC
News) words to the effect that:

‘There will not be a Constitutionally enshrined National Indigenous
Voice and there is no evidence of community support for this.’

This undermines the very co-design process that the Federal
Government has put in place to consider options and whose Interim
Report we, among many other Australians are in the midst of
responding to. Is the PM deliberately thwarting this achievement or
is he simply trying to delay this achievement. This only exposes a
vast disconnect between voters and the Federal Government/PM on
this matter.

We agree with the submission made by the Bass Coast South
Gippsland Reconciliation Group:
“It should not be a legislated Voice – it must be above partisan
politics – and the Constitution grants it permanency, security,
respect, and a central place in the national dialogue and policy-
making, where culturally-informed comment and advice will be
taken seriously."

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It is vital that the Federal Government and the PM bring goodwill
and integrity to its consideration of these changes to Australia’s
colonial governance system. The opportunity inherent in this
change will only enhance goodwill between the Australian
Parliament/Government/Society and Australia's First Nations
Peoples (AFNP).

This is Australia’s opportunity to reconcile our differences - to heal -
to put our indigenous and non-indigenous relations on an equal and
respectful footing. This will not mean ‘Business as Usual’. This will
benefit all Australians and the majority of Australians want this and
believe this is a national priority (From the Heart polling 2020).

Another matter that has been covered in the news and conflated
with the establishment of the NIV is the resurgence of the Australian
Republican movement. These two matters must remain distinct and
Constitutional change to enshrine the NIV cannot be contingent on
Australia becoming a Republic. The time for change is now. The
voters will not tolerate further delays.

It is clear to most Australians that our colonial system of governance
is no longer ‘fit for purpose’ in relation to its adverse impacts on
Australia’s FNP. We are a much more humane society now and
want to end the oppression of Australia’s First Nations People in all
its forms and legitimately include the longest, continuous nations
and cultures on earth in Australia's story. We all need to listen to
and take these proposals seriously so as to accommodate FNP’s
needs in our new and more humane governance system. The
proofs of our failing of ATSI people are numerous, inter-generational
and touch all areas of life. A whole of government/Constitutional
approach is required to put an end to our colonial systems of
racism, discrimination, abuse and neglect that we must own up to
and remove.

It is time we took on what previous Governments and ATSI people
are proposing. The outcomes of these changes could not be any
worse for Australia's FNP than colonial rule has been and would
improve their lives in many respects – it is the change they need all
Australians to make - now.

Next Steps - Continuation of CoDG work
Another point of contention for us is that The Terms of Reference
(ToR) for all groups involved in the co-design process specifically
exclude any consideration of:

i. Final decision on which options progress to testing;

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ii. Making recommendations on constitutional recognition,
including determining the referendum question or when a
referendum should be held;
iii. Making recommendations on the establishment of a
Makarrata Commission (as called for by the Uluru
Statement from the Heart), agreement making, treaty and
truth-telling; and
iv. Overall budget, deliverables and associated timing and the
overarching timeframe for the co-design process.

However, the CoDG may “provide advice to the Minister on the
outcome and potential next steps”. We believe these matters are
the on-going work of the CoDG and could be flagged as such in the
Final Report and recommendations to the Federal Government. We
propose that the Co-design Group’s processes be adopted for a
fourth stage (ie. after the Final Report) - to develop specific
proposals for:

a. the final Referendum Question
b. the enabling Constitutional amendments and subsequent
Legislation to establish a NIV as outlined in the Interim
Report (to be enacted within the following term of
Parliament after the Referendum); and
c. a public information/education campaign in the lead up to
the Referendum.

We believe it could also be the work of the CoDG to explain and
specify how best a Makarata Commission, agreement making,
treaty and truth-telling processes could be established – in a fifth
stage.

Next Steps – The Federal Parliament
The aim of the Australian Parliament/Government must now be to
ensure a successful Referendum Question on Constitutional
Recognition of Australia’s FNP as a matter of priority and then to
pass enabling Legislation within the following term of Parliament
that would establish a timely NIV. There should not be any further
delays.

The Federal Government will receive the Co-Design Group’s Final
Report and Recommendations by the end of July 2021 (given the
extension to community consultations). There should be no delay in
accepting all recommendations and in releasing this document to
the public for further information, consideration and comment.

Transparency is essential. A national public information campaign
is required to ensure all Australian’s are aware of and understand
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the Why, What, How & When of Constitutional Recognition of FNPs
and of the National Voice. Following the release of the Co-Design
Group’s Final Report, the Australian Parliament as well as all
Governments and Ministers must publicly declare their strongest
possible support for Constitutional Recognition and the National
Voice and make it their priority to ensure a successful Referendum
and to pass enabling Legislation within the following term of
Parliament.

A bi-partisan approach is required to ensure that this does NOT
become a divisive matter, open to misinformation and scare
mongering any longer. All public information should be
evidence/data based. Of course, the Federal Government can put
their alternative proposal for a legislated NIV and no Constitutional
Recognition of FNPs. Both proposals/perspectives should be clear
about Why they are better for both ATSI and non ATSI people and
Australian society generally.

As the Interim Report makes clear, Australia has been working
steadily towards this objective. It documents the history and
culmination of decades of hard work by indigenous and non-
indigenous Australians (including governments) towards
Constitutional Recognition of FNPs and the establishment of a
National Indigenous Voice. The Interim Report is clear about what
a First Nations' National Voice will achieve: a. Better outcomes/positive impacts for all First Nations'
people
b. Recognition and affirming of:
i. the Sovereignty of First Nations’ peoples'
ii. the right of First Nations' peoples' to Self Determination
iii. integrity of First Nations’ peoples’ cultural identities and
practices
c. an end to wholesale discrimination and oppression of First
Nations' people by our Governments and Parliaments; and
d. Creation of formal opportunities for real dialogue,
negotiations and agreement making between Australia’s
indigenous and non-indigenous people including
reparations, Truth telling and Treaty for all Australians

The establishment of a First Nations' National Voice enshrined in
the Constitution will empower indigenous Australians and give them
agency over their own lives. This is lacking under our current
colonial Constitution and governance system. As the Uluru
Statement from the Heart makes clear, this is a matter of cultural
identity and survival especially of younger indigenous Australians.
The future of the oldest, continuous culture on earth is at stake. Our
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Parliaments, Governments and all Australians have this Duty of
Care.

It is essential that ATSI peoples have formal, recognised, equal and
legitimate ways of influencing all levels of government and
parliamentary decision-making because:

i. They are Australia’s First Nations People
ii. They have never ceded sovereignty
iii. They now constitute only 3% of Australia's population (and
so cannot be effectively represented electorally)
iv. They continue to be adversely impacted by European
occupation and governance
v. Successive governments have been unable to substantially
improve the standing of First Nations peoples

The right to organise and participate in society is a basic human
right.

Conclusion
Overall, we strongly support:

1. the Reconciliation & Constitutional Recognition processes
2. the Uluru Statement from the Heart Sept 2017
3. the From the Heart campaign
4. the proposal for a First Nations' Voice to Australia's
Parliament that is enshrined in the Constitution; and
5. the establishment of a Makarata Commission to manage the
policies and processes for First Nation’s Agreement making
with Governments.

In particular, we strongly support the proposals and options for a
NIV enshrined in the Constitution as outlined in the Interim Report
and the submission made by the From the Heart campaign,
regarding:

1. the need for Constitutional Recognition as well as a
Legislated NIV;
2. comments regarding how best to ensure the
representativeness/membership, independence and integrity
of the National Indigenous Voice; and
3. comments about roles, structures, relationships with
state/territory and regional bodies, policies, processes,
resources, ethical/principled operations, succession planning
and timelines etc. to ensure a legitimate and well functioning
First Nations’ Voice to the Australian Parliament

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Membership - This is best left to Indigenous people to decide on
their own acceptable form of representation for their own National
body. This may include cultural decision-making practices that are
not familiar to non-indigenous people and may vary between
indigenous communities and groups across Australia.

Matters requiring the Government to consult with the NIV
Of particular interest to us, is how best to ensure that the Australian
Parliament/Government is “obligated”, "expected" or
“unencumbered" to seek advice on particular policy and legislative
matters at the earliest ie. from initial concept through to policy and
legislative development, implementation, monitoring and evaluation.
The interim report scopes this hierarchy to determine which matters
the government/parliament must, is likely to or may consult the NIV
on. These matters can be flagged up front in regard to how they
may impact First Nations' people and how existing Parliamentary
processes for tabling of Bills etc. can enable this. These practices
should be adopted (see p50-54 of the Interim Report).

The Interim Report also provides a comprehensive review of Local
& Regional Indigenous organizations and their shared decision
making structures with Local/Council, State & Territory
governments. Again, there is agreement on most matters with
some improvements proposed eg. over the next three years to
establish groups where they don’t exist, support developing groups
and to change or maintain group roles etc. where they already exist.
This transition would mean that all ATSI individuals and groups
would have a formal mechanism by which they could voice their
concerns and aspirations at an appropriate decision-making level.
This system would also be a means of developing, providing and
refining services and programs to ATSI people and uphold the
model of community led solutions.

The Interim Report also addresses how best Local & Regional
Indigenous organizations would interact with and relate to the
National Indigenous Voice. Again, we believe these are practical
matters for Indigenous people to make decisions about and for all
our Parliaments and Governments to implement and abide by with
the best goodwill possible.

To repeat the From the Heart campaign priorities again, we also call
on the Federal Government to:

1. honour its election commitment to a Referendum for
Constitutional Recognition and a Legislated NIV;

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2. co-design enabling legislation for the Voice to be passed after
a referendum has been held in the next term of Parliament;
and
3. co-design a membership model for the National Voice that
ensures previously unheard Aboriginal and Torres Strait
Islander people have the same chance of being selected as
established leadership figures.

We have taken a pro-active approach to informing and educating
ourselves about various perspectives, concerns and aspirations of
ATSI people. We believe this is a matter of national urgency, as
expressed in the Uluru Statement from the Heart 2017 and give our
unqualified support as non-ATSI Australians. We look forward to
the Final Report and will stay up to date via our From the Heart and
NIAA subscriptions.

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Appendix 1 - Summary - Key Points of Interim Report

The Interim Report covers: a. the drafting of legislation for a National Voice
b. recommendations on matters of constitutional recognition of
FNPs; and
c. recommendations on the Makarrata Commission, treaty and
truth telling

These are the aims of the vast majority of Australians now and can
be considered a National priority.

Where we’re at with the National Indigenous Voice

The Australian Government accepted the recommendation of the
Joint Select Committee to co-design an Indigenous Voice and
implemented this two-staged process:

Stage 1 to come up with models/options (ie. this Interim Report);
and

Stage 2 to engage with and gain input from indigenous and non-
indigenous Australians.

After thorough, comprehensive and inclusive deliberations this past
year, the National Co-Design Group (ie. Indigenous and
Government representatives) has agreed on the key elements of a
National Voice (with options to be finalised in the Final Report after
Stage 2 public consultations).

The CoDG has given broad and deep consideration to all aspects of
the NIV. The Interim Report is very clear about all the matters that
the CoDG agree on and the few aspects that are still open for
consultation and further consideration and finalisation. It gives a
clear insight into concerns and alternatives raised and is very
transparent about all its considerations. We look forward to the
CoDG's final report that will also reflect community consultations
and feedback especially from ATSI individuals and communities.
The key design elements of the National Indigenous Voice are:

Role/Scope/Responsibilities – What the NIV would do
a. Be set out in legislation for Constitutional change
b. Be the National representative, authoritative, legitimate, and
responsible body on all matters impacting indigenous people
c. Provide independent advice to Governments and Parliaments
on all legislation, policies and programs that impact indigenous
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people – at all stages from inception through to implementation,
monitoring and evaluation
c. Not veto any Parliamentary decision making
d. Not be a 3rd Chamber of Parliament
e. Not provide/deliver indigenous services/programs or administer
funding. This remains the responsibility of the Australian
Government.

Function/Operations/Processes/Governance – How the NIV would
work
a. Have the capacity to initiate it's own research, investigations,
consultations, engage expertise and respond to Governments
and Parliaments ie. adequate funding, resources, training and
professional development
b. Work with and complement existing and improved Local,
Regional and State indigenous and non-indigenous bodies
and processes
c. Work with indigenous and non-indigenous Australians
d. Advocate on behalf of indigenous people
e. Have the power to make agreements and to work in
partnership with all levels of Government, Businesses,
Community and the public
f. continue to evolve over time as it is implemented, takes shape
and matures (not prescriptive)

Membership & Structure - How the NIV would best be
representative of ATSI people and communities
a. To establish and retain integrity and confidence in the National
body, it must be chosen by and representative of all
indigenous people/communities (approx. 3% of Australia's
total population). Several options relate to this:
i. Whether or not to limit the number of representatives to 16-
18 or to not limit
ii. What process/es to be used – elections, appointments,
mixture etc.; eg. 2 per state/territory/TSI
iii. Which indigenous people to include on the National body
eg. – representatives of local/regional indigenous
organisations or states and territories, non-representative
people etc.
iv. Have equal gender representation and representation from
youth and people with disability (via working groups)
v. Adequately reflect the diversity of the indigenous
population across all geographical areas; and
vi. Have 4yr staggered terms (half members every 2yrs)
provides continuity in overlapping years or 3yrly for all and
max 2 consecutive terms each

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vii. Eligibility criteria,, misconduct etc matters to be developed
and decided by an Ethics Standing Committee including
grounds and processes for removal etc.

b. Local/Regional models seem to best fulfil principle of direct
community links ie. National Voice will not replace or duplicate
these though there may be some changes or improvements
made c. No members should be appointed or selected by the
Australian Government.

Establishment of the National Indigenous Voice
a. Be established via Constitutional amendment/s that require:
i. the formation of a successful Referendum question
ii. a transparent and accurate public information
campaign
iii. the holding of a successful Referendum
iv. enabling Legislation to be passed by the Australian
Parliament within the next term of Parliament

Where are we at with the Makarata Commission, Treaty & Truth
Telling?
Excluded from scope of CoDG considerations by its Terms of
Reference.

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