2741

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Submission Number
2741
Participant
Initiatives of Change Australia
Submission date
Main Submission Automated Transcript

'Armagh' 226 Kooyong Road
Initiatives of Change Toorak, VIC 3142
Phone: (03)98221218
Australia www.au.iofc.org info.au@iofc.org
ABN 22 004 350 789

Submission to the Senior Advisory Committee on Indigenous Voice
Federal Parliament of Australia, Canberra

From Initiatives of Change Australia

Initiatives ofChange, an international NGO operating in 60 countries and with Special
Consultative Status with the United Nations through ECOSOC, has an 80-year record of
enabling trust-building and community transformation in situations around the world.
Its mission is to inspire, equip and connect people to address world needs, starting with
themselves.

Historical Background

In Australia, Initiatives of Change Australia (formerly Moral Re-Armament, or 'MRA') has,
since its registration in 1956, been guided by, and has directly supported, prominent
Aboriginal people whose moral stature and leadership have made an impact on our national
life, including:
• Margaret Tucker, MBE, founding member of the Australian Aborigines League, and
the first Aboriginal woman to serve in the Commonwealth Ministry of Aboriginal
Affairs {1968). MRA assisted Margaret to write her autobiography, the first by a
member of a Stolen Generation;
• Harold Blair, Aboriginal tenor and activist from Queensland;
• Reg Blow, NAIDOC Person of the Year 1995, Advisor to the Premier of Victoria;
• Galarrwuy Yunupingu who spoke at an MRA international conference, in Switzerland,
1971;
• Dr Jackie Huggin s, at lofC conferences in Sydney (2004), Uganda (2005) and various
lofC forums since.

At the same time, political leaders on both sides of Federal Pa rliament have interacted with
Aboriginal people at lofC/MRA conferences and workshops, including:
• Hon . Dr KE Beazley, from 1953 onwards, motivated by his moral convictions
impacting land rights, health and education ;
• Hon. Philip Ruddock, Min ister Assisting the Prime Minister for Reconciliation,
speaking in Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra, Brisbane and Switzerland;
• Hon. Malcolm Fraser, speaking at the lofC centre in Melbou rne;
• Hon. Kevin Rudd, at the lofC international conference in Switzerland in 2012, w ith
Aboriginal activist/academics.
Hearing the 'Voice' through truth-telling

From all these interactions, lofC Australia understood the primary importance of hearing
and responding to the authentic 'voice' of First Nations people, their stories and
experiences. At an MRA conference at Melbourne University in 1981, Dr KE Beazley said,
'Two things characterise Australia's race relations in the past: an absence of gentleness and
an absence of listening. We always "knew" what was best for them.' This basic cultural
attitude has to be turned around.

Currently, lofC Australia is embarking on a three-year program of 'truth-telling and truth­
hearing' forums, in partnership with First Nations people - truth-telling about past histories
and present realities matched by truth-hearing, a willingness to listen to the voices of First
Peoples, to respond rather than react, to be vulnerable rather than defensive. At its heart it
will be a process of deep listening, in the spirit of 'Dadirri', to the voice of truth that speaks
within each person. A core principle of lofC is absolute honesty. Experience has taught us
that no trust can be built without it.

Recommendations for establishing the 'Voice'

Therefore, at this critical moment in our national life, the Board, the staff and the volunteer
network of Initiatives of Change Australia affirm that establishing an authentic,
independent and enduring First Nations 'Voice' at the heart of Australia's national life is
crucial for our national cohesiveness and our true identity as a people on this ancient
continent. In short, recognising and hearing the guidance of a First Nations 'Voice' is critical
to us finding a sense of our Australian 'soul'.

Specifically, through the Indigenous Voice Senior Advisory Committee, we strongly urge the
Minister for Indigenous Australians and the Federal Government of Australia to ensure the
following conditions:

1. To be 'authentic', the Voice must include a representative cross-section of all First
Nations people: the elders and traditional cultural authorities, but also women,
youth, from the outback, the bush and cities, those with a leadership profile and
those unheard/unrecognised. We support recommendations of the Committee for 'a
flexible principles-based framework (to) guide and support all Local and Regional
Voices', with 'elections held for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to elect
National Voice members directly'.
2. To be 'independent', the Voice should be legislated to guide and advise Federal and
State Parliaments --not just the governments of the day-- as well as local and
regional Councils.

3. To be 'enduring', the Voice must be enshrined in the Constitution beyond the
influence of successive governments to alter or abolish, which has been the fate of
nearly all representative First Nations bodies -from the Australian Aborigines
League in 1935 through to ATSIC and now the Congress of Australia's First Peoples.
Each in turn has been subjected to a process of patronising benevolence,
neutralising, discrediting and systematic dismantling.

4. Furthermore, in order to be heard and respected by all Australians, the 'Voice' must
become part of our national fabric through the clear consent and will of the
Australian people. Therefore, it is essential that establishing the Voice must be put
to a vote through a referendum. The current Federal Coalition Government must
keep its 2019 election promise that the decision of fundamental recognition would
be taken to a referendum. Now that the proposed details of the Voice have been
defined - thanks to the work of your Committees - recognition of the First Nations'
presence must be given substance through a Voice accepted and legitimised by a
majority of Australians.

Simply legislating for the Voice without a referendum is to deny the Australian
people our part in responding to this moral call at the heart of our nationhood. All
polls and surveys, even the most conservative, indicate that support for
Constitutional change with a Voice to Parliament has climbed from 44 to 56 per cent
in three years, with some polls showing support as high as 81 per cent (analysis by
ANU's Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy research, November 2020). We call on
governments of all backgrounds to move in tune with this growing national trend
and, through clear bipartisan political leadership, to ensure that this generational
constitutional decision gains a wholehearted endorsement.

5. The arguments for 'practical reconciliation' overlook the evidence of 30 years of
reconciliation which, despite significant investment, have barely begun to 'Close the
Gap' in realistic terms. A new relationship of genuine co-responsibility can only
work effectively when an authoritative Voice of First Nations peoples is taken
seriously both by parliaments and current governments. Why would senior First
Nations leaders - those who were mandated with bipartisan agreement at the 2015
Kirribilli meeting to hold a national consultative process-trust a process of
co-responsibility with Government when their specific recommendations from that
once-in-a-generation consultation, distilled in the Uluru Statement from the Heart,
were summarily dismissed and ignored? The Constitutionally-enshrined and
empowered Voice is the means and price of co-responsibility.
6. This is a moment for Australia to take a step towards maturity as a people and a
nation, a step as significant and decisive as in 1967. We the Australian people are
prep ogether with First Nations peoples in a movement of the
Aust wards a better future'.

S''"' os e .
Chair of the Board of Directors Executive Officer

Initiatives of Change Australia

29 April, 2021