2684

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Submission Number
2684
Participant
Australian Centre for Health Engagement, Evidence and Values
Submission date

Professor Stacy Carter
Director
On behalf of the staff and students of the Australian Centre for Health Engagement, Evidence and Values
Room 352 Building 29 The University of Wollongong, Northfields Avenue, Wollongong NSW 2522

Dear Co-Design Body

Submission to Co-design process

We write as the staff and students of the Australian Centre for Health Engagement Evidence and Values (ACHEEV) at the University of Wollongong (tinyurl.com/4bjdykrh). ACHEEV is the leading centre for high-quality deliberative and values-based research in health and health policy in the Asia-Pacific region. Our mission is to make health systems and decisions more inclusive and democratic. We are culturally diverse but are not of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander heritage. We have developed this submission collectively and make it both as a Centre and as a group of individuals with shared values.
We are (in alphabetical order): Dr Yves Saint James Aquino, Prof Annette Braunack-Mayer, Prof Stacy Carter (Director), Lucy Carolan, Dr Chris Degeling, Belinda Fabrianesi, Emma Frost, Julie Hall, Olivia Hawkins, Mina Motamedi, Saniya Singh, Dr Patti Shih and Cheryl Travers
Our answers to the submission questions are below.

1. Why do you think the Uluru Statement from the Heart is important?

The Uluru Statement from the Heart is a critically important and long overdue expression of what First Nations peoples need from constitutional reform to enable authority and a voice, for the first time, over the decisions that impact on their lives. The call to enshrine a First Nations Voice in the constitution is in keeping with the United Nations Declaration which asserts Indigenous Peoples’ rights to full participation in society, and self determination.
The proposed Makarrata Commission, as part of this statement, represents a much needed mechanism for recognition of truth-telling of Australian history and for facilitating a process of agreement- making between First Nations peoples and Australian Governments. This is an important proposition, given that Australia lags far behind many other liberal democracies in the development of agreements with First Nations peoples.
The Uluru Statement from the Heart carves out a clear structural pathway for change and a critical opportunity to respect and accept the expressed needs of First Nations peoples in Australia. The Australian government must take leadership on this issue by honouring its election commitment to a referendum once a model has been developed, to ensure that a First Nations Voice to Parliament is protected by the Constitution. It will also be critical that enabling legislation for the Voice is passed after a referendum has been held in the next term of Parliament.

2. Why is it important for Indigenous people to have a say in the matters that affect them?

In Australia, First Nations peoples have long been denied a permanent institution for expressing views to the parliament and government on issues that impact them and their rights. They have little say over the laws that impact on them. Despite evidence that the most effective Indigenous policies are those designed by Indigenous peoples, in Australia policies impacting Indigenous people have largely been determined by non-indigenous people, who lack appropriate cultural knowledge and skills to create meaningful change. It is vital that Indigenous people are provided with a voice and authority to develop and propose policies based on appropriate cultural knowledge and experience and to advise on national matters important to their social, spiritual and economic wellbeing. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in Australia have long noted that they have the solutions to challenges and issues, however their voice remains largely unheard by politicians.
It will be important that the developed model for a National Voice ensures that previously unheard Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have the same chance of being selected and heard as established leadership figures.

3. How could a voice to Parliament improve the lives of your community?

A voice to Parliament would improve the lives of all Australians, by enshrining greater voice for First Nations Australians in our national fabric and culture. All Australians are diminished by any national systemic injustice, and all Australians benefit from greater justice in our national structures and culture.

4. Why do you think it is important to enshrine the Voice to Parliament in the Constitution, rather than include it only in legislation?

A voice enshrined in the Constitution can make a lasting contribution to a better future for First Nations and all Australians. Through a constitutional referendum the Voice will have the public legitimacy and authority it needs to make sure the government and Parliament take its advice seriously. Changes in governments, policies and funding have long inflicted inconsistency and instability for support of First Nations peoples, undermining efforts at sustained change. Including the Voice only in legislation would leave it vulnerable to abolishment through changes in government or opinion. Only constitutional enshrinement can give the Voice the necessary stability and certainty in its operation across changes in Government.

5. Do you have any other comments for submission?

All staff and students of the Australian Centre for Health Engagement, Evidence and Values wholeheartedly agree with the Uluru Statement of the Heart that ‘With substantial constitutional change and structural reform this ancient sovereignty can shine through as a fuller expression of Australian nationhood’. Such reforms must empower First Nations peoples and enable individuals, families, and children to flourish and consequently contribute inevitably to a more complete Australian society. Thank you for the opportunity to submit on this issue of vital national importance.

Yours sincerely
Professor Stacy Carter
On behalf of:
Dr Yves Saint James Aquino, Prof Annette Braunack-Mayer, Prof Stacy Carter, Lucy Carolan, Dr Chris Degeling, Belinda Fabrianesi, Emma Frost, Julie Hall, Olivia Hawkins, Mina Motamedi, Saniya Singh, Dr Patti Shih and Cheryl Travers