2716

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Submission Number
2716
Participant
Commissioner for Children and Young People (Tas)
Submission date
Main Submission Automated Transcript

30 April 2021

Professor Dr Marcia Langton AO
Professor Tom Calma AO
Co-chairs, Senior Advisory Group
Reply Paid 83380
CANBERRA ACT 2601

Email: Co-designVoice@niaa.gov.au

Dear Professor Langton and Professor Calma

Indigenous Voice Co-design Process

I am grateful for your invitation to contribute to the Indigenous Voice Co-design Process as
part of the national consultation on proposals contained in the Indigenous Voice Co-design
Process Interim Report (Interim Report).

The focus of this short submission is on the importance of supporting and empowering
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people to effectively participate in
the co-design process and final model(s) for the Indigenous Voice.

In making this submission, I acknowledge and pay my respects to the palawa people of
lutruwita as the original and ongoing custodians of the land on which I carry out my work
and for the more than 40,000 years they have cared for their country and children.

Role of the Commissioner for Children and Young People

Tasmania’s Commissioner for Children and Young People is an independent statutory office
established under the Commissioner for Children and Young People Act 2016 (Tas) (CCYP
Act). The Commissioner’s functions are set out in section 8(1) of the CCYP Act and include:

• advocating for all children and young people in the State generally

• researching, investigating and influencing policy development into matters relating to
children and young people generally

• promoting, monitoring and reviewing the wellbeing of children and young people
generally
L1 – 119 Macquarie Street childcomm@childcomm.tas.gov.au
Hobart TAS 7000 www.childcomm.com.au
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• promoting and empowering the participation of children and young people in the
making of decisions, or the expressing of opinions on matters, that may affect their
lives

• assisting in ensuring the State satisfies its national and international obligations in
respect of children and young people generally.

In performing these and other functions, the Commissioner is required to do so according to
the principle that the wellbeing and best interests of children and young people are
paramount and must observe any relevant provisions of the United Nations Convention on
the Rights of the Child (CRC).

The Commissioner’s work must also be performed according to the principles that the
contributions made by children to the community should be recognised for their value and
merit and that the views of children on all matters affecting them should be given serious
consideration and taken into account.

Tasmania has not established an independent statutory officer specifically responsible for
promoting, monitoring and reviewing the rights and wellbeing of Tasmanian Aboriginal
children and young people. The establishment of such a role would honour the ongoing
commitment of the Tasmanian Government to reset its relationship with Aboriginal
communities and enable self-determination. A dedicated Aboriginal Children’s
Commissioner for Tasmania would be uniquely positioned to engage in a culturally safe and
respectful manner with Tasmanian Aboriginal children and young people, and their families
and communities, and to advocate for their rights and wellbeing.

Comment

Around half of Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population is under the age
of 25, and around 10 per cent of Tasmanians aged 0 – 19 years identify as Aboriginal or
Torres Strait Islander. However, the voices of children and young people are often
overlooked in the development of policies and the legislative processes that affect them.

Article 12 of the CRC provides that children and young people aged less than 18 years have
a right to participate in decision-making processes that affect their lives:

1. State parties shall assure to the child who is capable of forming his or her own views the right
to express those views freely in all matters affecting the child, the views of the child being
given due weight in accordance with the age and maturity of the child.
2. For this purpose, the child shall in particular be provided the opportunity to be heard in any
judicial and administrative proceedings affecting the child, either directly, or through a
representative or an appropriate body, in a manner consistent with the procedural rules of
national law.

In its General Comment No. 12 (2009): The right of the child to be heard, the Committee on
the Rights of the Child interprets this participatory right broadly to relate not only to individual
children but also groups of children, including indigenous children. Furthermore, article 19
of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples outlines the importance of
consulting and cooperating with Indigenous peoples to obtain their consent before adopting
laws and policies that may affect them.

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Accordingly, Aboriginal children and young people have the right to be actively engaged and
their views sought and considered when developing legislative or policy measures that are
likely to affect their lives.

Listening to children and young people about the matters that affect their lives and genuinely
considering what they have to say will lead to better and more appropriately informed
decision-making. The right of children to participate in decision-making processes that affect
them is a relevant consideration not only in the current co-design process but also for any
final model(s) adopted for an Indigenous Voice.

There is no doubt that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people have
unique insights and opinions to offer the co-design process. For example, in 2019, following
the Uluru Statement from the Heart, 65 Indigenous and non-Indigenous school students
came together at the Garma Festival to prepare and present The Imagination Declaration in
which they eloquently called on the Prime Minister and Education Ministers to recognise
children and young people as ‘part of the solution’ and to involve them in policy-making that
affects their lives now and in the future.

The Interim Report acknowledges the importance of ensuring structural representation of
youth (under 25 years of age) in the proposed National Voice. It proposes that specific
representation of youth be structurally guaranteed through the establishment of a permanent
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Youth Advisory Group. It is unclear whether children
under the age of 18 years could participate in this Advisory Group or whether the specific
needs and vulnerabilities of children will be considered in this context. For the Local and
Regional Voice model, a more flexible approach is proposed, with principles to guide local
and regional voice arrangements including Inclusive Participation, Empowerment and
Community-led design. However, the Interim Report does not explicitly explore options for
child-inclusive participation at the local or regional level.

Seeking and considering the views and experiences of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
children should be a primary consideration in the co-design process and in the final model(s)
for the Indigenous Voice. The model should include culturally appropriate mechanisms to
support and empower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people to
have a say in and to influence decisions that affect them at the local and regional level as
well as at the national level.

Appropriately equipping Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people of
all ages with the knowledge and understanding necessary to effectively participate in these
important discussions will not only uphold their right to participate in decision-making
processes that affect them, but will be critical to ensuring an empowered, enduring, and
representative Indigenous Voice into the future. This will require a strong commitment to a
universal approach to educating Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young
people and their non-Indigenous peers from a very young age about civics and citizenship,
their human rights and about Aboriginal culture and history. In this way we are taking steps
to ensure that all children and young people understand the importance of actively engaging
in consultative processes and can genuinely influence decisions that affect them at all levels.

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Finally, I note the terms of reference for the Co-design Senior Advisory Group exclude the
Group from making recommendations on constitutional recognition through this co-design
process. However, in its Final Report, the Joint Select Committee on Constitutional
Recognition Relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples recommended that,
“following the process of co-design, the Australian Government consider, in a deliberate and
timely manner, legislative, executive and constitutional options to establish The Voice”
(recommendation 2). I note there remains very strong support for constitutional reform and
I look forward to the announcement of the next stage of the process to embed the Voice
once a model has been agreed by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

I would welcome the opportunity to meet with you or other Co-design Group members to
discuss my comments in more detail.

Yours sincerely

Leanne McLean
Commissioner for Children and Young People

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