30 April 2021
Dear Voice Secretariat
Submission to support a First Nations Voice to Parliament enshrined in the Constitution
Thank you for this opportunity to make a submission to the Indigenous Voice Co-Design
Process in response to the Interim Report to the Australian Government.
This submission represents my personal view. I write this submission to express my support for
the constitutional change called for in the Uluru Statement from the Heart: a First Nations Voice
to Parliament to be enshrined in the Australian Constitution.
I am writing this from my home, which is in NSW on the land of the Gadigal people of the Eora
Nation. I acknowledge the Traditional Owners and custodians of the land and pay my respects
to their elders past, present and emerging. I was born and grew up in Victoria, on the country of
the Boon Wurrung and Woiwurrung people of the Kulin Nations. Now living in Sydney, I the
Principal Solicitor at the Public Interest Advocacy Centre, a community legal centre. I am proud
to work for an organisation that supports the Uluru Statement from the Heart and its calls for
voice, treaty and truth.
In my experience as a lawyer in both Victoria and NSW—with government, the Victorian Equal
Opportunity and Human Rights Commission, legal aid commissions and non-government
bodies—I have seen and continue to see the devastating and unacceptable over-representation
of Aboriginal people in out-of-home care, youth and adult detention, in our youth and adult
criminal justice systems and deaths in custody. Thirty years ago, the Royal Commission into
Aboriginal Deaths in Custody reported that the most significant contributing factor to Aboriginal
people coming into conflict with the criminal justice system was their disadvantaged and
unequal position in wider society; structural disadvantage and inequality that persists today.
In the Uluru Statement from the Heart, First Nations delegates from all around Australia
described the ‘the torment of our powerlessness’ in the face of such injustice and the structural
obstacles to real empowerment. They stated:
‘We seek constitutional reforms to empower our people and take a rightful place in our
own country. When we have power over our destiny our children will flourish. They will
walk in two worlds and their culture will be a gift to their country.
We call for the establishment of a First Nations Voice enshrined in the Constitution.’
The Australian Government has expressed its commitment to constitutional recognition and
numerous processes have emphasised that any constitutional recognition must align with the
wishes of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. A First Nations Voice, which would give
a representative First Nations body a direct connection to the Commonwealth Parliament with a
role to inform the legislative process, is the only model of constitutional recognition that has the
collective support of First Nations people.
A representative First Nations Voice should reflect the diversity and diversity of views of
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples across Australia and must be enshrined in the
Australian Constitution if it is to have the legitimacy, authority, stability and certainty needed.
This will enable it to succeed in fulfilling its role, having secured the endorsement of the
Australian people through referendum and having protection from repeal at the whim of the
government of the day. Details on the structure and membership of the Voice to Parliament,
which the Interim Report addresses, can appropriately be contained in enabling legislation,
allowing for the detail of its design to evolve as required.
I ask that:
1. ! The Government honour its election commitment to a referendum once a model for the
First Nations Voice has been settled; and
2. ! Legislation for a First Nations Voice to Parliament be introduced after a referendum has
The Uluru Statement from the Heart called for voice, treaty and truth and invited us to walk ‘in a
movement of the Australian people for a better future.’ Constitutional enshrinement will answer
the call for a voice and is an overdue and essential step in this journey.