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Submission Number
Greenpeace Australia Pacific
Submission date
Main Submission Automated Transcript

Voice Secretariat
Reply Paid 83380

30 April 2021

Submission: Voice to Parliament - imperative of constitutional enshrinement

Thank you for the opportunity to provide this submission in response to the Interim Report to the
Australian Government on Indigenous Voice Co-Design Process (October 2020).

Greenpeace Australia Pacific is an independent campaigning organisation dedicated to securing
a world capable of nurturing life in all of its magnificent diversity. To ensure our independence
we take no money from any government or corporation and are solely funded by individual
philanthropy or private foundations. Greenpeace Australia Pacific and its employees are strong
supporters of the Uluru Statement from the Heart and we have taken up the generous offer to
walk alongside, and join the call for change through structural reform.

While we are aware that the terms of reference for the co-design process exclude
recommendations on constitutional recognition, we would like to strongly emphasise that
assuming a co-design process is able to reach a set conclusion consistent with the aspirations
of the Uluru Statement, and prior to a Voice to Parliament being legislated, it is essential that
there is a referendum to enshrine the Voice within the Commonwealth Constitution. A
constitutional foundation for the Voice is critical to the efficacy, legitimacy and overall success of
the instrument in achieving its objectives and functions. To that end, this submission relates to
Chapter 2 of the Interim Report, focussing on the Voice’s objectives, functions, form and
interface with Parliament and the government.

Should the Voice be established only through legislation, there is extensive risk that the
structural reform which is essential for meaningful recognition and progress will not be achieved.
Various governments in Australian history have implemented a range of governance measures
for Indigenous Affairs, but these have proven unable to withstand the whims and vicissitudes of
political fortune. Legislative and discretionary structures have repeatedly proven unsatisfactory
because they have been subject to extensive disruption up to and including arbitrary abolition or
dissolution, with minimal opportunity for long-term planning and enduring representation.
Indigenous polities have repeatedly been silenced in the course of this history. This has led to
stalled progress on reform and abiding damage to relationships between government and
Indigenous polities.

As the people who are most impacted, it is critical that Indigenous polities have a decent say in
the matters that affect them. Without enshrining the Voice in the Constitution, there is no
guarantee that the mechanism will have sufficient weight and impact within the broader system
of the Australian government. Enshrining the Voice within the Constitution, prior to any
legislation, is the right step to take to achieve the objective of ensuring recognition and hearing
of Indigenous people, as identified within the Uluru Statement. As the documentation of the
process makes clear, the First Nations Constitutional Convention and supporting consultation
that developed the Statement was an historic and comprehensive level of community
engagement that is deserving of great respect. It is appropriate to draw the conclusion that a
constitutionally enshrined Voice has a very high level of endorsement from the Indigenous
peoples of Australia.

Following the process of co-design, then completing a referendum to achieve constitutional
enshrinement before passing the legislation, aligns with the election commitments of both the
Australian Liberal and Labor parties. It would be proper for both major parties to honour this
commitment in the next term of government.

Constitutional enshrinement of the Voice would serve as a clear indication of increased respect
between First Nations and the Commonwealth. It would be a decisive step to take, both
respecting the past and creating a bridge towards a better relationship between Indigenous
peoples and the Australian government in the future.

The position that flows from the Uluru Statement is that the Voice must be constitutionally
enshrined. It would set an extremely poor tone for the future if the Australian government were
to ignore this clear preference and instead rush to legislate a Voice without a constitutional

Greenpeace urges you in the strongest possible terms, that once the co-design process has
been completed, to listen to the Statement from the Heart and to bring forward a referendum to
constitutionally enshrine the Voice.

Yours faithfully

David Ritter
Chief Executive Officer
Greenpeace Australia Pacific