RESPONSE TO INDIGENOUS VOICE CO-DESIGN PROCESS INTERIM REPORT TO
THE AUSTRALIAN GOVERNMENT
Submission by NSW Uluru Statement from the Heart Youth Network
This submission is in response to the invitation to all Australians to provide feedback on
proposals contained in the Interim Report to the Australian Government.
About the NSW Uluru Statement from the Heart Youth Network
The NSW Uluru Statement from the Heart Youth Network is a coalition of Indigenous and non-
Indigenous young people committed to pursuing and advocating for the sequenced reforms
contained in the Uluru Statement from the Heart – Voice, Treaty, Truth. The network was
founded in 2020 by First Nations members of the Uluru Statement from the Heart National
Youth Dialogue held in Cairns in December 2019. We are led by the Uluru Statement Senior
Leadership Team through the Indigenous Law Centre at the University of New South Wales
including Professor Megan Davis and Aunty Pat Anderson.
Since our inception, we have engaged hundreds of Australian youth to take up the invitation
contained in the Uluru Statement to walk together in a movement of the Australian people for
a better future. Our activities include publication and distribution of materials in support of the
Uluru Statement from the Heart campaign, educational webinars, panel appearances,
community workshops and submission writing.
Response to the Interim Report to the Australian Government
First and foremost, we acknowledge that Constitutional amendment with regard to an
Indigenous Voice was excluded from the terms of reference.
We acknowledge that the Interim Report on Indigenous Voice Co-Design Process is anchored
in the historic Uluru Statement from the Heart. However, the Interim Report has largely ignored
the Uluru Statement from the Heart, and it’s set of sequenced and substantive reforms. We
submit that the reforms contained in the Uluru Statement remain the most empowering and
effective way to pursue a meaningful Indigenous Voice.
We support the following key messages championed by the Uluru Statement from the Heart
1. That the Australian Government honours its election commitment to a referendum
once a model for the Voice has been settled.
2. That legislation enabling the Voice must be passed after a referendum has been held
in the next term of Parliament.
3. The membership model for the National Voice must ensure previously unheard
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have the same chance of being selected
as established leadership figures.
A constitutionally enshrined Voice to Parliament has been endorsed by two former
Chief Justices of the High Court of Australia
To emphasise the legal validity of a constitutionally enshrined voice, the NSW Uluru Statement
Youth Network would like to draw upon the views of two former Chief Justices of the High
Court, the Hon. Murray Gleeson AC QC (Chief Justice 1998-2008) and the Hon. Robert
French AC (Chief Justice 2008-2017).
The Hon. Murray Gleeson AC QC made the following remarks regarding a constitutionally
enshrined Voice in 2019:
“It would give Indigenous people a constitutionally entrenched, but legislatively
controlled, capacity to have an input into the making of laws about Indigenous people
or Indigenous affairs.”1
“In our constitutional development we have arrived at the situation in which the
Constitution confers on the Parliament a power to make special laws for the people
of a certain race, and that power, supplemented by the Territories power, is used in
practice as a power to make special laws for Indigenous people. A proposal that the
Constitution should provide for Parliament to design, establish, and determine from
time to time the make-up and operations of a body to represent Indigenous people,
with a specific function of advising about the exercise of that power, hardly seems
“It is difficult to see any objection in principle to the creation of a body to advise
Parliament about proposed laws relating to Indigenous affairs, and specifically about
special laws enacted under the race power which, in its practical operation, is now a
power to make laws about Indigenous people.”3
The Hon. Robert French AC endorsed Gleeson’s comments and noted the following in an
opinion piece in The Australian newspaper:
“Recognition in the Australian Constitution would reflect an existing national growth of
respect for our First Peoples and thus for the whole of the full, rich and long history of
the people of this continent.”4
“the Constitution should provide, in spare terms, for the existence of the Voice as an
advisory body. It should be left to the parliament to establish its detailed design by
Murray Gleeson, ‘Recognition in keeping with the Constitution: A worthwhile project’ (Speech, Uphold & Recognise, 18 July
Robert French, ‘Voice of reason not beyond us’, The Australian (online, 31 July 2019)
“…given the existing support for and practice of constitutional and extra-constitutional
recognition in many different ways throughout Australia, the creation of a national
consensus should not be beyond our wit.”6
Our views on constitutional enshrinement
The NSW Uluru Statement Youth Network “A Voice to Parliament would
wholeheartedly supports the constitutional empower me as an Aboriginal
enshrinement of a Voice to Parliament. person, and promote faith in the
government of Australia, that we are
A voice is necessary for empowering individuals and being respected and the wrongs of
communities, for acknowledging the wrongs of the the past acknowledged, allowing all
past and moving forward together, for promoting the peoples of Australia to move
equality and generating a future in which all peoples forward together and move beyond
of Australia are respected and have an equal say in
the governance of this country
For years Indigenous people have been "encouraged" to participate in the political arena while
constantly being ignored and restricted from actual participation. A constitutionally enshrined
Voice to Parliament is the only way to guarantee that First Nation's voices are heard and
continue to be heard in a meaningful way. Without the strength of a constitutionally enshrined
voice, this important measure is vulnerable to legislative change, and lasting action will be
difficult to achieve. Changing the Constitution to include a
“A constitutionally enshrined First Nation's voice means the question is posed directly to
Voice to Parliament is the the Australian people, giving them the opportunity to
only way to ensure the
mandate of reforms enclosed engage with the gravity and importance of this action.
in the Uluru Statement from
the Heart are achieved” A Voice created by legislation alone will simply not fulfil the
mandate of the Uluru Statement from the Heart. A statutory
voice is vulnerable to legislative change, meaning that work towards the goals of the
Statement may be easily eradicated with a change of government. We cannot subject the right
to self-determination of our First Nations, peoples guaranteed under international law, to
political indeterminacy. A constitutionally enshrined Voice to Parliament is the only way to
ensure the Uluru Statement reforms are achieved.
Enshrining the Voice to Parliament in the
Constitution is essential for providing certainty.
As noted by Hon. Murray Gleeson AC QC,
former Chief Justice of the High Court of
Australia, the constitutional change would
include the “minimum requirements necessary
to guarantee its continued existence and its
essential characteristics”.7 The details of the
Voice to Parliament can be addressed in
legislation, where attributes of the
representative body can evolve as required. Photo includes founding members of the NSW
Uluru Statement from the Heart Youth Network
Gleeson (n 1) 12.
Thank you for considering our submission.
NSW Uluru Statement Youth Network
Special thanks to the following contributors:
Kishaya Delaney Noah Bedford
Lucy McFarlane Phillip Nixon