The Salvation Army Australia Territory
95-99 Railway Road, Blackburn, Victoria, 3130
PO Box 479, Blackburn, Victoria, 3130
P 03 8878 4500
Reply Paid 83380
CANBERRA ACT 2601
Via email: Co-designVoice@niaa.gov.au
The Salvation Army Submission – Indigenous Voice Co-design Interim Report
Dear Voice Secretariat,
Thank you for the opportunity to provide our views on the Indigenous Voice Co-design Interim
Report. We appreciate the work that has gone into the process to date and recognise that it is
testament to the government’s commitment to reconciliation. The need for an Indigenous
Voice goes beyond reconciliation, it is a matter of human rights as set out in the United
Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
The Salvation Army steadfastly believes that a constitutionally enshrined Voice to Parliament
is a crucial step in our nation’s path to reconciliation. We acknowledge that consideration of
constitutional recognition is outside the scope of the current co-design committees, but agree
with the recommendation of the Joint Select Committee on Constitutional Recognition Relating
to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples that the government:
consider, in a deliberate and timely manner, legislative, executive and constitutional
options to establish The Voice.
This Voice is the only way to ensure that Indigenous Australians have a fair say on issues that
affect their families and communities, contributing to the design of legislation, policies, services
and programs that are effective in closing the gap and leading to improved outcomes for those
whom we walk alongside.
We acknowledge the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elders and advocates who have,
for generations, called for an Indigenous Voice to help Australia achieve justice and equality.
The Salvation Army’s values, experience and beliefs compel us to join this chorus.
Specifically, we support the recommendations identified by the Uluru Dialogue, the Indigenous
Law Centre at the University of New South Wales and From the Heart:
1. The government must honour its election commitment to a referendum once a model
for the Voice has been settled.
2. Enabling legislation for 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.
The Salvation Army Australia recently rolled out a comprehensive Aboriginal and Torres Strait
Islander Competency and Capability Framework. A component of that Framework is our
inaugural Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) as a single, united Australian Territory. The
process of developing our RAP involved a series of yarning circles – slow, intense, sometimes
challenging yarns involving all parts of The Salvation Army in Australia. What developing our
RAP reaffirmed for us was the importance of listening and truth telling. The Salvation Army’s
history with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people has been not always matched the
values we now hold dear – truth telling, and infinite patience on the part of our Aboriginal and
Torres Strait Islander family, has provided a way through toward reconciliation.
The process of yarning circles demonstrated yet again, that listening to First Nations peoples
leads to better outcomes for everyone, not just for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
Developing our RAP has also strengthened our focus and resolve to do what we can to
address hardship and injustice experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples
and communities. We are committed to social justice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
people and we are guided by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in how to best
achieve that end.
A Constitutionally Enshrined Voice
The need for a Voice protected in the Australian Constitution was informed by the experience
of generations of First Nations peoples, namely that:
Previous First Nations’ representative bodies (such as the Aboriginal and Torres Strait
Islander Commission (ATSIC)) were set up administratively or by legislation. That meant
they were easily abolished by successive governments depending on their priorities.
Setting up and then abolishing representative bodies cuts across progress, damages
working relationships and wastes talent that could be used to solve complex problems.
In the Regional Dialogues people said they were frustrated with this chopping and
changing. They wanted a long lasting and durable Voice in decisions made about their own
affairs. That is the reason the Uluru Statement calls for a Voice enshrined in the
Constitution. They didn’t want a body that could be abolished by legislation, or with the
stroke of a pen by a politician. Backed by the people at a referendum, a Voice enshrined in
the Constitution can make a lasting contribution to a better future for First Nations and all
Uluru Statement from the Heart. (n.d.). Frequently Asked Questions. Uluru Statement from the Heart. https://ulurustatement.org/faqs
As a nation, we must listen to what Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people say they need.
Enshrining a Voice to Parliament in the Constitution is not mere symbolism. The certainty that
constitutional recognition represents offers significant practical benefit for First Nations
peoples. The fact that the need to implement a constitutionally enshrined Voice is the first of
15 recommendations in the 2021 Close the Gap report demonstrates the recognised link
between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples having guaranteed input into decisions
that affect them and improving the health and wellbeing outcomes of Aboriginal and Torres
Strait Islander Australians.
We appreciate that a legislative or executive mechanism to provide a forum for advice from
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is administratively and logistically less complex
than a constitutionally enshrined Voice. Such a mechanism would also be inferior and would
not achieve a true path to reconciliation.
As you would be aware, the Constitution and legislation perform fundamentally different roles
in Australia’s legal and political system. It is our view that constitutional recognition of the
Voice must precede, and is a necessary pre-condition of, any legislation.
This gives the Australian people the decision-making power to take this important step.
It allows the Australian people, guided and supported by our elected leaders, to decide that
Australia will become a nation that properly recognises and protects our ability to listen to, and
learn from, First Nations peoples.
Our understanding of all discussions around a constitutionally enshrined Voice is that its role
would be advisory. It would not generate or veto legislation directly. This means that the active
involvement of all Australians, through a referendum process, is even more critical in ensuring
that as a Nation we can realise the many benefits of constitutional recognition.
Once its existence is protected in the Constitution, there is a role for legislation to amend the
shape and structure of the Voice. These amendments should reflect lessons learnt and ensure
that the intent of the Voice is preserved. Critically, because constitutional recognition would
already be in place, the mechanism for amending the shape and structure of the Voice would
already ensure that the experience of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is central to
The Salvation Army recognises the diversity represented amongst First Nations peoples and
believe that a Voice that is representative of this diversity will only strengthen its ability to
perform its role.
It is important that previously unheard Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have the
same chance of being selected as those whose names are more widely known. Recognising
that First Nations people from urban, regional and remote Australia bring different experiences
and insights, the selection of National Voice members needs to also be representative of this
It is our experience, across our entire mission and ministry, that First Nations voices help build
better policy and outcomes, not just for First Nations peoples, but for all of us. This is what we
want for The Salvation Army and it is what we want for Australia.
Thank you again for the opportunity to share our views. Please do not hesitate to contact me
on 0413 830 201 or at email@example.com if we can provide any
further clarification or if a meeting would be of assistance in the important work you do.
Paul Hateley, Major
Head of Government Relations
The Salvation Army Australia
30 April 2021
The Salvation Army acknowledges the Traditional Owners of the lands and waters throughout
We pay our respect to Elders and acknowledge their continuing relationship to this land and
the ongoing living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples across Australia.
We also acknowledge future aspirations of all First Nations peoples. Through respectful
relationships we will work for the mutual flourishing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
Australians and non-Indigenous Australians.
We commit ourselves in prayer and practice to this land of Australia and its people, seeking
reconciliation, unity and equity.