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Submission Number
Diversity Arts Australia
Submission date
Main Submission Automated Transcript

8 Victoria Rd
Parramatta NSW 2150
P +612 2 8821 9169
E info@diversityarts.org.au

29 April 2021

Submission on the Indigenous Voice Co-Design Process Interim Report

Diversity Arts Australia welcomes this opportunity to contribute to the Indigenous Voice Co-Design

Diversity Arts Australia is the peak national organisation for ethno-cultural and migrant racial equity in
the arts and creative sectors. Diversity Arts, based on Darug land (Western Sydney, NSW), works to build
a creative sector that reflects Australia's cultural, linguistic and social diversity and believes creative
expression is a fundamental human right, which strengthens and connects communities.

Diversity Arts combines service provision — resources, events, research, training — with creative
production. We act as a broker between artists, industry, educators and government, and commission
content from artists that articulates key issues and showcases leading practice. While our focus is on
cultural and linguistic diversity in the immigrant and refugee settler space, we work intersectionality and
in solidarity and partnership with First Nations artists, communities and organisations.

The importance of the Uluru Statement from the Heart

The Uluru Statement from the Heart is an invitation from Australia’s First Nations leaders and
representatives to build a better future together. It outlines a roadmap for truth, treaty and a First
Nations voice in our decision-making that offers both powerful symbolic change and practical tools to
address the long-term, systemic and ongoing wrongs and harms of colonisation and dispossession.

The Uluru Statement offers a generous invitation to share in the world’s oldest living continuing culture
as a “gift to their country” and to take clear steps towards a “fair and truthful relationship” with the
people of Australia.

The Uluru Statement from the Heart provides leadership and direction, informed by many First Nations
peoples and voices. It is innovative. It is visionary. It is practical. It is an example of transformative
democracy through civic engagement.
8 Victoria Rd
Parramatta NSW 2150
P +612 2 8821 9169
E info@diversityarts.org.au

Diversity Arts welcomes this invitation and supports the call for First Nations-led processes of
truth-telling and agreement-making. We see a powerful role for arts and culture in this process and will
work to see the principles of Makarrata realised in the cultural life of immigrant and refugee settler

The importance for Indigenous people to have a say in the matters that affect them

Diversity Arts Australia supports the principle of “First Nations First”. In our racial equity work we are
guided and strengthened by the leadership of Indigenous thinkers, artists and educators. A
constitutionally enshrined Voice would provide invaluable advice on cultural policy formulation and the
best ways to support cultural leadership and participation for First Nations leaders, practitioners and
audiences in Australia’s arts and cultural industries. National, Local and Regional Voices would inform our
approaches and practices, and improve our capacity to work collaboratively with First Nations
communities - drawing on the leadership, advice and practice models of these new structures to further
creative exchanges and capability-building partnerships in the work we do across Australia.

We know that First Nations artists and audiences are great participants in Australia’s arts and cultural life
[Australia Council National Arts Participation Survey 2020] - and comprise many of Australia’s most
significant and globally recognised visual artists, performers, musicians, filmmakers and writers. In our
work, we have found that culturally diverse artists, creatives and organisations actively engage,
collaborate and support First Nations artists and communities as part of their practice and programs.
However, indicative research suggests that First Nations people remain underrepresented in leadership
and decision-making positions in Australia’s cultural industries [Diversity Arts Australia, Shifting the
Balance 2019]. It is vital that First Nations perspectives lead and inform decisions to ensure that the work
of our cultural institutions and commercial practices reflect appropriate protocols, intellectual property
ownership and moral authority for First Nations artists, communities and audiences. We believe clearly
articulated sovereignty and governance principles as integral to achieving these aims.

We must foreground First Nations rights, stories and histories, without erasing or appropriating the
diversity of First Nations perspectives and voices.

More broadly, Diversity Arts Australia recognises the need for a cultural reckoning around how we are
governed and whose voices are heard in decision-making and legislative development, especially
regarding decisions that affect the lives of Australia’s First Peoples.
8 Victoria Rd
Parramatta NSW 2150
P +612 2 8821 9169
E info@diversityarts.org.au

To address both historic and current systemic inequities in the legal and legislative instruments of the
State, we must build new accountabilities into our governance, policy development and implementation
processes. To achieve social and political justice that has tangible outcomes, First Nations people must
be in a position to take leadership on the laws, policies and services that impact them, their
communities and their lives.

A Voice to Parliament in the Constitution

First Nations voices are fundamental to our national story. These voices must be valued, promoted and
acted on to ensure they are heard for generations to come. We believe a Voice to Parliament would
make a difference in the lives of First Nations community members by leading to more robust
conversations and tangible actions that work towards equity, inclusion and justice at an institutional
level. Diversity Arts Australia supports a membership model for the National Voice that includes equity
measures, and ensures previously unheard Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have the same
chance of being selected as established leadership figures.

The Uluru Statement from the Heart places faith in the Australian nation and its public institutions to
work towards constitutional and legislative changes. We support moves where First Nations people are
able to exercise full agency and sovereign control over their lives so they have the power and resources
to make meaningful changes not only in their own lives and communities, but to the collective future of
the nation.

The ongoing and intergenerational impacts of colonisation, genocide and dispossession are all too
evident in the continued disproportionate incarceration of young First Nations people, the high rate of
deaths of First Nations people in custody, poorer educational outcomes and the ongoing health crisis in
First Nations communities. A Voice to Parliament enshrined in the Constitution provides a practical and
forward-looking mechanism to begin to address the “torment of powerlessness” that the Uluru
statement identifies at the heart of these issues. It formally recognises the critical leadership and
authority of First Nations peoples to self-determine structures of governance, institutional frameworks
and processes of engagement that shape their everyday lives and opportunities.

The Government should make a formal commitment to a referendum once a model for the Voice has
been settled to ensure that a First Nations Voice to Parliament is protected by the Constitution. We
strongly support an Indigenous Voice enshrined in the Constitution. It is vital to go beyond symbolism to
ensure that Australia’s governing structures are informed by First Nations perspectives, advice and
8 Victoria Rd
Parramatta NSW 2150
P +612 2 8821 9169
E info@diversityarts.org.au

The principle of self-determination is the most fundamental of human rights. Only when collective
self-determination for First Nations people is a reality and embodied in principle, practice and law, can
we move forward with moral authority, greater equity and shared ownership of our common future.

With treaty and truth, and the insights of First Nations perspectives in a constitutionally enshrined voice,
all Australians will benefit from the extraordinary gift of First Nations diverse living cultural forms and