2586

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Submission Number
2586
Participant
Queensland Family and Child Commission
Submission date
Main Submission Automated Transcript

Indigenous Voice

Submission

April 2021 qfcc.qld.gov.au | talkingfamilies.qld.gov.au
Contents
Background ...................................................................................................................................................................3
The significance of the Uluru Statement from the Heart .............................................................................................4
Transparency and accountability..................................................................................................................................6
Size and scope of the Voice ........................................................................................... Error! Bookmark not defined.
Empowering Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people ........... Error! Bookmark not defined.

Acknowledgement
The Queensland Family and Child Commission (QFCC) acknowledges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples
as the Traditional Custodians across the lands, seas and skies on which we walk, live and work upon.

We recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as two unique peoples, with their own rich and distinct
cultures, strengths and knowledge. We celebrate the diversity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures
across Queensland and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and emerging.

Queensland Family and Child Commission
PO Box 15217
Brisbane City East QLD 4002
qfcc.qld.gov.au

For any information about this submission please contact
Manager, Policy and Advocacy Leadership
Email: policy@qfcc.qld.gov.au
Phone: 07 3900 6000

Reference: F21/241

2
Background
The Queensland Family and Child Commission (QFCC) is pleased to provide a submission to the Indigenous Voice –
Discussion Paper.
The QFCC works collaboratively to influence change so Queensland is a safe place where children, young people
and their families thrive in supportive communities.
The QFCC seeks to give practical effect to the rights of children and young people in Queensland. Under the
Family and Child Commission Act 2014 the QFCC is responsible for promoting the safety, wellbeing and best
interests of children and young people. 1 This includes the promotion of children’s rights including the rights that
are unique to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.
We recognise that these lands have raised generations of strong, thriving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
children for more than 60,000 years. We are committed to continually recognising the power and wisdom of
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families and their cultures, and the important role they play within our
community.
In addition, we recognise the dedication and hope of all those involved in the Uluru Statement from the Heart
process and acknowledges the wisdom they have in managing their own affairs and providing solutions for their
communities.

The QFCC acknowledges that legislation, policy and service delivery has traditionally excluded Aboriginal and
Torres Strait Islander voices and the impacts of this cannot be understated. The inclusion of an Indigenous Voice
both at a Local and Regional, and a National Level, that allows Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander to have a say
in their own affairs is a crucial step to addressing the disparity and trauma in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
communities.
True partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples will be important in the design of the
Indigenous Voice. Children and young people should also be included at every step, so they can participate in the
establishment of a Voice that will help them have their say on decisions that affect them.

1 Family and Child Commission Act 2014 (Qld), s. 4.

3
The significance of the Uluru Statement from the Heart
Summary

• The design of the model of an Indigenous Voice should take into full consideration the views and aspirations
of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as expressed in the Uluru Statement from the Heart.

• The Indigenous Voice should advocate, and drive accountability, for the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait
Islander children and young people.

• The QFCC would support constitutional enshrinement of the Voice to make sure it is a permanent, trusted
mechanism for participation in decision-making.

The QFCC acknowledges the significance of the Uluru Statement from the Heart.

In May 2017, 250 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders gathered to present the Uluru Statement from the
Heart (the Uluru Statement) to the Australian public. The Uluru Statement calls for a First Nations Voice to
Parliament enshrined in the Australian Constitution, a Makarrata Commission 2 to supervise a process of
agreement-making with Australian governments and to also oversee a process of truth-telling about Australia’s
history and colonisation.

The rights, safety and wellbeing of children and young people are at the heart of the Uluru Statement, which
states:

We seek constitutional reforms to empower our people and take a rightful place in our own country.
When we have power over our destiny our children will flourish. They will walk in two worlds and their
culture will be a gift to their country. 3

The Uluru Statement from the Heart acknowledges the ‘powerlessness’ Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
communities feel, and the devastating position First Nations children find themselves in:

Our children are aliened from their families at unprecedented rates. This cannot be because we
have no love for them. And our youth languish in detention in obscene numbers. They should be
our hope for the future. 4

The ongoing impacts of colonisation and discriminatory laws and policies continue to disadvantage Aboriginal and
Torres Strait Islander people. This has contributed to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people being the most
incarcerated people on the earth, 5 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children being taken from their families

2
Makaratta is a concept from the Yolngu people of Arnhem Land, it means coming together after a struggle to heal. It has been used as an
alternative term to treaty.
3
Referendum Council 2017, Uluru Statement from the Heart (Statement, First Nations National Constitutional
Convention, 26 May), https://ulurustatement.org/the-statement, accessed 28 April 2021.
4 Referendum Council 2017, Uluru Statement from the Heart (Statement, First Nations National Constitutional

Convention, 26 May), https://ulurustatement.org/the-statement, accessed 28 April 2021.
5
Anthony T & Baldry A 2017, ‘FactCheck Q&A: are Indigenous Australians the most incarcerated people on Earth?’, The Conversation,
https://theconversation.com/factcheck-qanda-are-indigenous-australians-…, accessed 27 April
2021.

4
and communities in excessive numbers, 6 and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people dying years before their
white counterparts. 7

The Uluru Statement seeks to empower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families and communities and
provides a clear pathway to achieving structural reform for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

The QFCC supports an Indigenous Voice being enshrined in the Australian Constitution, as put forward by the
Uluru Statement. Constitutional enshrinement of the Voice will ensure it cannot be diluted or removed by a
future Parliament. It would make the Voice a permanent structure, increasing community trust in its value and
purpose.

The QFCC recognises that all three elements of reform sought from the Uluru Statement – Voice, Treaty and Truth
– are crucial to alleviating the trauma and disadvantage still felt by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
communities across Australia.

6 SNAICC – National Voice for our Children, the Family Matters campaign, University of Melbourne, Griffith University and Monash

University, 2020, The Family Matters Report 2020 – Measuring Trends to Turn the Tide on the Over-Representation of Aboriginal and Torres
Strait islander Children in Out-of-home Care in Australia, https://www.familymatters.org.au/the-family-matters-report-2020/, accessed 21
April 2021.
7 Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2020. Deaths in Australia. Cat. no. PHE 229. Canberra: AIHW.

https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/life-expectancy-death/deaths-in-austral…, accessed 21 April 2021.

5
Empowering Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young
people
Summary

• Local and Regional Voices, and the National Voice, should be designed to encourage participation of
children and young people.

Statistically, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are younger than non-Indigenous Australians. At the
time of the 2016 Census, more than half of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were under the age of
25. 8 For this reason, it is particularly important to make sure the Voice is established with the structure and
capacity to hear from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people, and represent their views
to all levels of government.

Article 12 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child explicitly calls for children to be able to
participate in decisions that affect them. 9 The proposed Voice should serve as a robust platform to make sure
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are heard by governments at all levels on policies and practices that
affect their lives.

Government policy has a significant impact on children and young people, who have distinct rights, needs and
interests. However, children are often excluded from participating in the decision-making process.
The Voice proposal calls for a permanent youth advisory group to provide advice to the National Voice. While this
is a positive step, there may be opportunities to expand on this to make sure the voices of children and young
people are heard fully.

Young people should be represented as full members of the National Voice, and the Local and Regional Voices
where practicable, and the structures for selecting members on each Voice should be designed to encourage
youth participation. There may be value in considering setting the minimum age for participation lower than the
current voting age of 18 years.

Children under the set minimum age should also be regularly and meaningfully engaged in the work of the Local,
Regional and National Voices, whether through the youth advisory group or through other engagement activities.
The youth advisory group should be established to hear from children and young people across the broad range
of rural and remote, regional and urban areas. Advisory groups and engagement strategies should be established
for Local and Regional Voices, as well as the National Voice, to make sure children and young people have
opportunities to participate at all levels.

In particular, the Voice should seek participation from children and young people with direct experiences of the
impact of government policy, including experience with the child protection and youth justice systems. The rights,
safety and wellbeing of these children should be a priority for every Voice, so each Voice can be a strong advocate
for children’s rights at a local, state and national level.

8
Australian Bureau of Statistics 2017, Census of Population and Housing: Reflecting Australia – Stories from the Census, 2016, cat 2071.0.
9United Nations Office of the High Commissioner 1989, Convention on the Rights of the Child, resolution 44/25,
https://www.ohchr.org/en/professionalinterest/pages/crc.aspx, accessed 27 April 2021.

6
Size and scope of the Voice
Summary

• The size and scope of Local and Regional Voices should build on existing structures and be designed in
partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to properly represent the views of children,
families and communities.

The QFCC supports the proposal to create Local and Regional Voices as well as a National Voice. Local and
Regional Voices have the potential to provide opportunities for children and young people, families and
communities to participate in government decision-making. They can connect people to governments at the local,
state and national level and represent the community’s views on the impact of policy on children’s rights, safety
and wellbeing.

The Local and Regional Voices could also play an important role in connecting communities to services provided
by governments in their area. When working well, they could help to foster trust and understanding between
communities and the governments that serve them and provide an opportunity for community members,
including children and young people, to gain experience with government and advocacy that could lead to further
opportunities to participate in the political system at all levels.

The QFCC agrees with the view that Local and Regional Voice arrangements should build on existing structures
that are already working well. In that context, there may be some concern about the stated range of 25 to 35
regions. This will create a new set of regional divisions across Australia, which may not relate to existing state,
local and community boundaries. They will not necessarily overlap with the traditional lands of Aboriginal and
Torres Strait Islander peoples. Some of these new regions may incorporate more than one distinct community of
interest with different needs and support requirements. 10

To be successful, the Local and Regional Voices would need broad and consistent support, resources and training
to build their capability to take on the relevant responsibilities of the Voice. Each Voice would need to be a
trusted community institution and be seen to offer true community representation.

In the model presented, there is a risk that large Regional Voices may be required to present or adjudicate
between contrasting views across different distinct communities. This could limit their effectiveness in working
with governments and providing advice to the National Voice.

The size and scope of these Local and Regional Voices needs to be considered to make sure they can be truly
representative. A review of existing community structures may help to identify the best size and scope for true
representation.

10
Phillips DW & Montellow DR 2017, ‘Defining the community of interest as thematic and cognitive regions’, Political Geography, Vol. 61,
pp. 31-45.

7
Transparency and accountability
Summary

• Each Voice should publish clear indicators and data to make sure it is accountable to the community.

• The Voice should publish material in child-friendly language and formats, so children and young people are
empowered to engage with the Voice and participate in decision-making.

• Governments should be required to consult and engage directly with the Indigenous Voice, and there
should be oversight mechanisms in place to promote government accountability to the Voice.

• The National Voice should be empowered to directly address Parliament, to make sure its advice is not
subject to misinterpretation.

The model of the Indigenous Voice proposed in this discussion paper would benefit from stronger measures to
make sure government and the Voice are accountable to the communities they serve.
The Local, Regional and National Voice should also be designed with measures to make sure they are transparent
and accountable to the communities they serve. Among the stated principles to guide the Local and Regional
Voices is transparency and accountability, which would require governments and voice structures to ‘adhere to
clear protocols and share responsibility and accountability, including downward to communities’.
This principle would benefit from clearer detail on how governments and the Voice will make sure they are
accountable to communities. Clear indicators for success, collection and publication of relevant data, community
engagement and regular evaluation would help to make sure each Voice is publicly accountable. The Voice should
also have oversight responsibilities to hold governments to account for their role in meeting the needs of
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, families and communities.
Each Voice should also publish material in child-friendly language and formats, so children and young people
understand the role of the Local, Regional and National Voice, and can be empowered to participate in the Voice
and in broader decision-making processes.
Transparency and accountability are also important to secure strong outcomes from the National Voice and
Commonwealth Parliament. The proposed model would see:
• the National Voice tabling advice in Parliament

• a statement of consultation provided with Bills which would address engagement with the Voice

• the establishment of a new parliamentary committee to examine engagement and consideration of advice.

None of these mechanisms would allow for members of the Voice members to address the Senate or House of
Representatives directly. Without this direct representation, it is possible the advice of the Voice may be
misinterpreted by Members of Parliament during hearings and debates.
Further, the ‘obligation’ to consult the Voice would be ‘non-justiciable’, meaning a failure to engage with the
Voice would not be able to be challenged in court and would not affect the validity of the law or policy. The model
would be improved if this obligation was made a legal requirement.
Further development of the Voice proposal should consider the systemic mechanisms necessary to make sure
governments, Local and Regional Voices, and the National Voice are appropriately transparent in their processes
and properly accountable to their communities.

8