2802

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Submission Number
2802
Participant
Australian Human Rights Commission
Submission date
Main Submission Automated Transcript

Submission to the
Indigenous Voice
Proposals outlined in
the Indigenous Voice
Interim Report
AUSTRALIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION SUBMISSION
TO THE INDIGENOUS VOICE CO-DESIGN PROCESS

30 April 2021

ABN 47 996 232 602
Level 3, 175 Pitt Street, Sydney NSW 2000
GPO Box 5218, Sydney NSW 2001
General enquiries 1300 369 711
Complaints info line 1300 656 419
TTY 1800 620 241
Australian Human Rights Commission
Submission to the Indigenous Voice Interim Report Proposals – March 2021

Table of Contents
Australian Human Rights Commission Submission to the Indigenous Voice
Co-design Process ..................................................................................... 1

1 Introduction .............................................................................................................. 3

2 Ensuring the independence and sustainability of the Indigenous Voice............. 4
2.1 Independence ............................................................................................. 5
(a) The United Nations Declaration on the Right of Indigenous Peoples ....... 5
(b) The Paris Principles .................................................................................. 6
(c) Principles to guide the operation of a National Indigenous Voice ............. 6
2.2 Sustainability .............................................................................................. 8

3 Accountability mechanisms.................................................................................... 9

4 Ensuring integrity—the composition and role of the proposed ethics council .10

5 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and girls’ representation,
participation and decision-making ........................................................................11
(a) Better women and girls’ representation is key to addressing policy failure
................................................................................................................ 11
(b) Wiyi Yani U Thangani (Women’s Voices) Project ................................... 12
(c) What women and girls told us ................................................................. 12
(d) National-level representation, participation and decision-making
mechanisms recommended by Wiyi Yani U Thangani............................ 13
(e) Women’s representation in the National Voice ....................................... 13
(f) Women’s representation in local and regional structures ....................... 14
(g) Women’s groups ..................................................................................... 15
(h) The need for supports............................................................................. 16

6 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children’s representation, participation
and decision-making ..............................................................................................16

7 Recommendations ..................................................................................................17

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Australian Human Rights Commission
Submission to the Indigenous Voice Interim Report Proposals – March 2021

1 Introduction
1. The Australian Human Rights Commission (the Commission) welcomes the
opportunity to provide this submission to the Indigenous Voice Co-design
Groups on the proposals outlined in the Indigenous Voice Interim Report of
October 2020 (the Interim Report).

2. The Commission acknowledges the significant work undertaken by the
Indigenous Voice Co-design groups, led by co-chairs Professor Marcia
Langton AM and Professor Tom Calma AO and commends the development
of the Interim Report which is informative, considered and transparent, and
provides some clear pathways forward.

3. The role of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner
was created by the federal Parliament in 1993 to provide ongoing scrutiny and
guidance about the human rights issues faced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait
Islander peoples.

4. Each Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, over
the past 28 years, has identified the need for an Indigenous representative
body as an integral component of the reforms necessary across our
parliamentary and government systems to address the ongoing human rights
concerns faced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

5. As noted in the Interim Report, the Commission has previously published
comprehensive research on models for national representative voices,
resulting in the establishment of the National Congress of Australia’s First
Peoples:

• Building a Sustainable National Representative Body Report (2008)

• Our Future in Our Hands Report (2009)

6. In 2018, the Commission produced a submission to the Joint Select
Committee on constitutional recognition relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait
Islander peoples. The submission was developed and signed by all current
and former Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice
Commissioners. The submission identified the ongoing importance of
achieving constitutional reform to remove the capacity to racially discriminate
against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. The Commission does
not focus on that issue in this submission but notes that there remains an
ongoing need for constitutional reform through federal laws.

7. In December 2020, the Commission released the Wiyi Yani U Thangani
(Women’s Voices): Securing our Rights, Securing our Future Report 2020—a
whole-of-life report which highlights the importance of Aboriginal and Torres
Strait Islander women and girls’ participation and representation in decision-
making; what women and girls need in order to participate more fully; and how
women and girls want to be represented at all levels.

8. The Commission notes the call in the Uluru Statement for a national
representative voice to be enshrined in the Constitution. We note that this

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Submission to the Indigenous Voice Interim Report Proposals – March 2021

consultation process has not been empowered to consider this issue. We
encourage the Government to listen to the voices of Aboriginal and Torres
Strait Islander peoples about the desirability of a constitutional versus
legislative basis for the Voice. Our comments in this submission go to the
characteristics that any model should include however it is established.

9. The Commission does not intend to traverse all of the issues raised in the
Interim Report in this submission. Rather, attention will be given to the
following five areas:

• Ensuring the independence and sustainability of the Indigenous Voice

• Accountability mechanisms

• Ensuring integrity—composition and role of the proposed ethics
council

• Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and girls’ representation,
participation and decision-making

• Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children’s representation,
participation and decision-making

2 Ensuring the independence and sustainability of the
Indigenous Voice
10. Self-determination is an outcome as much as it is a process of negotiation. It
is about determining, through legitimate dialogues with the nation state, how
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are able to pursue their own
political, cultural, social and economic interests, while retaining the right to
participate fully in Australian life.

11. We know that enhancing control is strongly connected to positive wellbeing
outcomes and can have significant implications for addressing existing
challenges within communities. A self-determining approach is therefore
critical for promoting strong and safe communities, where Aboriginal and
Torres Strait Islander peoples are better able to transcend challenges and
cycles of powerlessness.

12. It is therefore critical not only to the credibility and legitimacy of the National
Voice but also to its efficacy that it be free—and be seen to be free—of
influence, interference or coercion by governments and/or other parties.

13. As detailed in the Interim Report, this can be addressed through:

• careful consideration around how members are selected

• ensuring the independence of the operations and decision-making
processes of the representative body, free from government control or
approval processes

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• ensuring that the Voice has a broad mandate, and is able to consider
a full range of issues of its own choosing

• prioritising the National Voice’s links with its own constituency through
engagement with local and regional Voice structures, state structures
and sectoral Indigenous peak organisations

• access to adequate and sustainable funding.

2.1 Independence

(a) The United Nations Declaration on the Right of Indigenous Peoples

14. The Australian Government endorsed the United Nations Declaration on the
Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) in 2009. Its provisions identify a
range of matters that are relevant to establishing a national Voice, most
particularly the right to independent political institutions.

15. The UNDRIP emphasises the importance of ‘participation of indigenous
peoples in matters that would affect their rights, through representatives freely
chosen by themselves’:

• Article 18: Indigenous peoples have the right to participate in decision-
making in matters which would affect their rights, through
representatives chosen by themselves in accordance with their own
procedures, as well as to maintain and develop their own indigenous
decision-making institutions.

• Article 19: States shall consult and cooperate in good faith with the
indigenous peoples concerned through their own representative
institutions in order to obtain their free, prior and informed consent
before adopting and implementing legislative or administrative
measures that may affect them.

• Article 3: Indigenous peoples have the right of self-determination. By
virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely
pursue their economic, social and cultural development.

• Article 4: Indigenous peoples, in exercising their right to self-
determination, have the right to autonomy or self-government in
matters relating to their internal and local affairs, as well as ways and
means for financing their autonomous functions.1

16. It also sets out the right of Indigenous peoples to freely determine their own
processes and structures for identifying membership of Indigenous groups.

• Article 33: Indigenous peoples have the right to determine their own
identity or membership in accordance with their customs and
traditions. This does not impair the right of indigenous individuals to
obtain citizenship of the States in which they live. Indigenous peoples

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have the right to determine the structures and to select the
membership of their institutions in accordance with their own
procedures.

(b) The Paris Principles

17. The Principles relating to the Status of National Institutions (The Paris
Principles) which were adopted by General Assembly resolution 48/134 on 20
December 1993.2 They are the international minimum standards for effective,
credible National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) such as the Australian
Human Rights Commission.

18. While these principles were not developed with Indigenous representative
bodies in mind, they set out a useful list of requirements to ensure that an
organisation is robust and able to operate with an appropriate level of
independence.

19. The principles set out minimum requirements which national human rights
institutions must meet if they are to be recognised as ‘A status’ institutions.
Such status ensures that the institution has full participation rights in UN
human rights processes and is seen as a credible, authentic human rights
institution.

20. The Commission considers that the matters articulated in the Paris Principles
provide useful guidance for the types of requirements that would ensure the
integrity of a National Voice and that it has the key elements to ensure
genuine independence from government.

Recommendation 1: The Commission recommends that guidance be
drawn from the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous
Peoples (UNDRIP) and the Paris Principles to set out a series of
principles setting out minimum standards to underpin the independence
of the Voice.

(c) Principles to guide the operation of a National Indigenous Voice

21. The Commission has prepared the following list drawn from both UNDRIP and
the Paris Principles as an example. It is illustrative, not comprehensive.

22. This list of principles could be reflected in legislation. If the Voice is to be
constitutionally enshrined, such principles could also be referenced in the
Constitution with the principles set out in supporting legislation.

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Principles to guide the operation of a National Indigenous Voice, to ensure
its independence, credibility and effectiveness:

1. The National Voice should have a broad mandate, which shall be clearly
set forth in a constitutional or legislative text.
2. This mandate shall extend to commenting on policy issues relating to
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, without limitation,
educational and promotional activities, as well as engaging in legal
processes.
3. The Voice should have the mandate to submit to the Government,
Parliament and any other competent body, opinions, recommendations,
proposals and reports on any matters concerning Aboriginal and Torres
Strait Islander peoples.
4. The Voice should have the capacity to independently publicise their
views and reports.
5. The Voice should have the mandate to participate in UN and
international fora, if the Voice so chooses.
6. The membership of the Voice should reflect the diversity of Aboriginal
and Torres Strait Islander peoples and enable the participation of all
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in its proceedings.
7. Processes for selecting representatives of the organisation should reflect
the diversity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples—including
gender equality.
8. The processes for determining representatives and membership should
be clearly set out, including by specifying length of terms for selected
representatives to ensure stability of the organisation.
9. Consistent with the UNDRIP, processes for membership and for
selecting representatives should be undertaken through processes
established by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples themselves.
10. Processes for determining who is Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
should also be articulated through processes established by Aboriginal
and Torres Strait Islander peoples themselves.
11. The Voice shall have an infrastructure which is suited to the smooth
conduct of its activities, in particular adequate funding over a longer time
period. The purpose of this funding should be to enable it to have its own
staff and premises, to be independent of the Government and not be
subject to financial control.
12. Government should establish clear processes for engaging with the
Voice, to ensure that they consult and cooperate in good faith with the
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples concerned, through their
own representative institutions, to obtain their free, prior and informed
consent before adopting and implementing legislative or administrative
measures that may affect them.

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2.2 Sustainability
23. The Voice will require sufficient and sustainable resourcing to operate
effectively. A National Voice—even one that was constitutionally enshrined—
would not be immune from funding cuts and the undermining effect this might
have on the independence of the Voice through reducing its capacity to carry
out core functions and/or creating an environment where co-option is more
likely to occur.

24. A number of potential mechanisms for financial sustainability and examples of
their application are discussed in both the Building a Sustainable National
Representative Body Report (2008) and Our Future in Our Hands Report
(2009).

25. Initially, the Government should provide block-funding for 5 to 10 years while
the Voice is in its establishment phase.

26. If the body is established under legislation, as a statutory body, consideration
should be given to it being a corporate entity under the Performance
Governance and Public Accountability Act. This would enable it to have the
capacity to enter into corporate partnerships, fund-raising and fee for service
arrangements. The ability to supplement funding from non-government
sources could significantly aid the long-term sustainability of the Voice, and its
independence from Government.

27. Other funding options discussed in Our Future in Our Hands, for ensuring the
sustainability of the Voice include the following:

• a one-off lump sum payment ($100–200m) as a Capital Fund to create
an interest-accruing source of funds that could be drawn down at
levels that would meet the needs of the organisation without eating
into the real value of the capital in the fund.3

• Ongoing payments to a Futures Fund generated by taking a
percentage of a tax or levy.4

• Being granted Deductible Gift Receipt (DGR)/charity status and the
ability to receive donations.5

28. The rationale for the first two measures could be justified as a measure of
restitution and compensation for the loss of lands and other injustices, which
has not been otherwise forthcoming.

29. Indigenous peoples’ right to restitution is backed up by UNDRIP (Article 11
and Article 28):

• Article 11: States shall provide redress through effective mechanisms,
which may include restitution, developed in conjunction with
indigenous peoples, with respect to their cultural, intellectual, religious
and spiritual property taken without their free, prior and informed
consent or in violation of their laws, traditions and customs.

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• Article 28: Indigenous peoples have the right to redress, by means
that can include restitution or, when this is not possible, of a just, fair
and equitable compensation, for the lands, territories and resources
which they have traditionally owned or otherwise occupied or used,
and which have been confiscated, taken, occupied, used or damaged
without their free, prior and informed consent. Unless otherwise freely
agreed upon by the peoples concerned, compensation shall take the
form of lands, territories and resources equal in quality, size and legal
status or of monetary compensation or other appropriate redress.6

Recommendation 2: The Commission recommends that consideration be
given to funding mechanisms that will ensure the viability and
sustainability of the Voice—including by providing initial funding for a 5–
10-year period; enabling the body to source non-government funding in
addition to core funding from government; provide the Voice with DGR
tax deductibility status; and consider long term funding mechanisms
such as a capital fund or levy.

3 Accountability mechanisms
30. Notwithstanding the partnership agreement on Closing the Gap signed by the
National Cabinet and the Coalition of (Indigenous) Peaks, there is a general
lack of accountability within government for outcomes to Aboriginal and Torres
Strait Islander peoples. This lack of accountability is integrally connected to
the lack of engagement with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

31. One mechanism that could improve accountability is ensuring Aboriginal and
Torres Strait Islander participation in Senate Estimates processes. The cross-
portfolio Indigenous Affairs day at Senate Estimates could be enhanced by
inviting non-parliamentary representatives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait
Islander communities to sit with the parliamentary committee for questioning of
agencies. Ideally, the National Voice would provide these representatives.

32. While it is not usual for non-parliamentarians to participate in Estimates
processes in this way, it is not without precedent. There is no requirement of
Parliamentary Committees that their members be exclusively drawn from
parliamentarians.

33. The ACT Parliament has enacted provisions that give the ACT Indigenous
elected representative body functions to participate in Estimates proceedings
in this manner. Commonwealth legislation could authorise the appointment of
non-parliamentary representatives from the National Voice as members of the
committee.

34. Another key measure would be to introduce legislation to amend section 3(1)
of the Human Rights (Parliamentary Scrutiny) Act 2011 (Cth) to include the
United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The
Attorney-General should similarly exercise the power under s 47 of the
Australian Human Rights Commission Act 1986 (Cth) to include the UN

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Declaration within the human rights functions of the Australian Human Rights
Commission.

35. In both instances, this would improve accountability through parliamentary
scrutiny processes and the work of the Australian Human Rights Commission
of how policies and programs respect the rights of indigenous peoples.

36. These mechanisms could be further enhanced by measures to ensure that the
views of the Voice are required to be heard in parliamentary debates on bills
that significantly affect Indigenous peoples. At present, Explanatory
Memorandums include a statement of compatibility with human rights. One
approach would be to enact legislation so that—for relevant Bills—statements
of compatibility with human rights also be required to include a statement by
the National Voice expressing its views about whether the bill is consistent
with the rights of indigenous peoples and whether the Voice was consulted in
its development. An alternative approach would be to empower the Minister
for Indigenous Affairs to make a declaration in similar terms about the
consultations undertaken and the view expressed by the Voice.

37. These proposals would elevate the significance of the views of the Voice in
the development phase of relevant laws. While the Voice could participate in
parliamentary committee inquiries by making submissions, the Commission
sees this as a less desirable option as: a) there are not inquiries into all bills;
b) this engagement occurs once a bill has been drafted whereas the objective
is to ensure full and proper indigenous engagement prior to this stage; and
c) there are potentially resourcing issues associated with this engagement,
especially if bills are referred for review within extremely short time frames
and/or there are multiple bills requiring attention simultaneously.

Recommendation 3: The Commission recommends the co-design and
adoption through legislation of a package of accountability mechanisms
that will enhance the ability of the Voice to input into and scrutinise the
design and implementation of Australian Government policies and
legislation impacting First Nations peoples.

4 Ensuring integrity—the composition and role of the proposed
ethics council
38. The Commission notes that the consultation document proposes an Ethics
Council as part of any representative structure. The Commission set out
detailed arguments in favour of such an approach in the Our Future in Our
Hands Report and notes the genesis of this approach in the British
Parliament’s Nolan Principles.

39. As noted above, the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples sets
out the right of Indigenous peoples to set in place the rules governing their
own institutions, as well as membership of such institutions and processes to
determine who is Indigenous.

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40. The Commission considers that an Ethics Council or like governance process
is a way to implement these rights. Determinations of this nature should not be
matters for government, and not be dealt with as political issues.

41. An Ethics Council will also provide a rules-based approach for addressing
challenging issues, with the Council having the role of setting criteria for a
range of issues including who is a fit and proper person for being a chosen
representative, indigeneity etc. The Commission notes that the test for a fit
and proper person should take into account the over-representation of
indigenous peoples in criminal justice processes and should ensure that
people are not disqualified for minor offending.

42. The Commission encourages any Ethics Council to have gender equity built
into its structure.

Recommendation 4: The Commission recommends that an Ethics
Council be established within the Voice to establish and adjudicate on
matters of governance and ethics. This might include matters such as
who is a fit and proper person to be a representative; disputes about
indigeneity; and the resolution of other disputes. Such a body should
have gender equity among its membership.

5 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and girls’
representation, participation and decision-making

(a) Better women and girls’ representation is key to addressing policy failure

43. Parliament and government have consistently struggled to engage
meaningfully with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, especially
women, in policy development and service delivery. This has fundamentally
undermined government’s capacity to respond effectively to their needs.

44. That there is a pressing need for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women
and girls’ voices to be heard about matters that affect their lives is evident in
the facts below, which evidence ongoing policy failure.

• Three out of five Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women have
experienced physical or sexual violence and are 3.1 times more likely
to experience violence than non-Indigenous women.7

• Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women are the fastest growing
prison population and are 21.2 times more likely to be incarcerated
than non-Indigenous women.8

• Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women in prison are often victims
of violence or abuse, have a disability or be homeless.9

• Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are 10 times more likely to
be homeless and 19% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander clients
of homelessness services report family violence as the reason for
accessing the service.10

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• Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women experience anxiety and
depression at higher rates than Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
men,11 and are more likely to be caring for children and family with
30% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women caring for
someone in need either with disability, a chronic health condition or
old age.12

(b) Wiyi Yani U Thangani (Women’s Voices) Project

45. In June 2017, the Indigenous Affairs Group of the Commonwealth Department
of Prime Minister and Cabinet, now the National Indigenous Australians
Agency (NIAA) and the Australian Human Rights Commission partnered on a
multi-year initiative named Wiyi Yani U Thangani meaning Women’s Voices in
Bunuba language. Led by the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social
Justice Commissioner, June Oscar AO, the Wiyi Yani U Thangani (Women's
Voices) Project set out to capture what Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
women and girls consider to be their strengths, challenges and aspirations.

46. Throughout 2018, the Commissioner and her team travelled to 50 locations in
urban, regional and remote areas across Australia. They conducted 106
engagements and met with 2,294 women of all ages, including senior elders,
girls from 12 to 17 years of age, women in prison and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual,
Transgender, Queer or Questioning, Intersex, Asexual, Sistergirl and
Brotherboy (LGBTQIA+SB). Informed by these engagements, the Wiyi Yani U
Thangani (Women’s Voices): Securing our Rights, Securing our Future Report
2020 was tabled on 9 December 2020.

47. This report—which sets out a comprehensive plan for a structural change—
should be used as a guide to re-setting the relationship between Aboriginal
and Torres Strait Islander women and girls and Australian governments and to
ensuring the full participation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women
and girls in the decisions that affect their lives.

(c) What women and girls told us

48. A clear and common message from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
women and girls across Australia was that women, girls and their communities
are excluded from meaningful participation in the decisions that affect their
lives. As such, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and girls today
remain one of the most marginalised and politically disenfranchised groups in
Australia, and consequently experience high levels of disadvantage and
vulnerability.

49. Throughout the Wiyi Yani U Thangani engagements, women were clear:
effective Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representation and self-
determination is critical to addressing this disadvantage and it must be a first-
tier priority. When measures are designed to enhance the enjoyment of
human rights by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and girls, entire
communities benefit.

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50. The key to designing such measures is the knowledge, skills and lived
experience of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and girls. When
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women are represented, empowered to
participate in decision-making and their leadership is embraced, we see more
effective, productive and fair laws, policies and programs.

51. Throughout Wiyi Yani U Thangani engagements, Aboriginal and Torres Strait
Islander women and girls were clear that they want to see representation
proportional to their population within both mainstream and Indigenous
structures at all levels and want representative bodies at all levels to carry the
distinct voice of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and girls.

52. Many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women also expressed frustration
that, in the moments where Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have
had the opportunity to participate in decisions, women’s distinct voices have
often been conflated with the needs and aspirations of Aboriginal and Torres
Strait Islander men.

53. An example of this from the Wiyi Yani U Thangani report can be read below:

The board is made up of men. Women put their hands up to go on boards but
men only vote for men. That is the biggest thing that is missing on the Tiwi
Islands is gender equity. The women are scared cause there are too many
men. The men try to dominate the meetings. They need to be told; this is an
equal world now. Tiwi Islands Melville women13

(d) National-level representation, participation and decision-making mechanisms
recommended by Wiyi Yani U Thangani

54. Following calls from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and girls, the
Wi Yani U Thangani report recommended:

• the development of a National Action Plan for advancing the wellbeing
of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Women and Girls (Wiyi Yani U
Thangani, Recommendations 1).14

• a National Summit be held as a key step in the process of co-
designing this plan and that a National Aboriginal and Torres Strait
Islander Women and Girls Advisory Body be established to lead the
development of the summit and the formulation, implementation and
monitoring of the plan (Wiyi Yani U Thangani, Recommendation 2).15

55. These recommendations were designed to ensure Aboriginal and Torres Strait
Islander women and girls are at the decision-making table and it is intended
that they be advanced in conjunction with the Indigenous Voice process.

(e) Women’s representation in the National Voice

56. The Commission welcomes the proposal in the Interim Report that there be
structurally guaranteed gender balance for the National Voice. This is critical
to progressing the representation and self-determination of Aboriginal and
Torres Strait Islander women.

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57. The Commission is of the view that measures should be put in place to ensure
gender equality within the proposed permanent standing committees for youth
and persons with disability. As is detailed in the Wiyi Yani U Thangani Report,
the lived experience of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander girls requires
particular attention as does the lived experience of Aboriginal and Torres Strait
Islander women and girls with disability who face the intersection of race,
gender and disability, making them one of the most disadvantaged groups in
Australia.

Recommendation 5: The Commission recommends that measures be put
in place to ensure gender equality within the proposed permanent
standing committees for youth and persons with disability.

58. Alongside the permanent standing committees for Youth and persons with
disability, the Commission recommends the establishment of a permanent
standing committee for women. The National Voice should be able to draw on
the expertise, knowledge and lived experiences of a range of Aboriginal and
Torres Strait Islander women within this Committee, in addition to the female
representatives of the National Voice.

Recommendation: 6: The Commission recommends the establishment of
a permanent standing committee for First Nations women.

59. The Commission considers that there is scope for the Woman and Girls
Advisory Body recommended in the Wiyi Yani U Thangani Report to be
engaged as the First Nation’s women’s permanent standing committee to
support the National Voice and recommends that consideration be given to
this as an option.

Recommendation 7: The Commission recommends the implementation
the recommendations of the Wiyi Yani U Thangani (Women’s Voices)
Report in full, including its recommendation to conduct a National
Summit and establish an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Women
and Girls Advisory Body and that consideration be given to this Body
taking on the role of the First Nation’s women’s permanent standing
committee to support the National Voice.

(f) Women’s representation in local and regional structures

60. Alongside the above measures targeted at the national level, the Wiyi Yani U
Thangani Report recommends Australian governments focus their
engagement with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and girls at the
local and regional levels (Wiyi Yani U Thangani Recommendation 7)1.

61. The Interim Report proposes that Local and Regional Voices be established
under the ‘principles-based framework’, which includes principles such as
empowerment, inclusive participation, cultural leadership and community-led

1 Wiyi Yani U Thangani (Women’s Voice): Securing our Rights, Securing our Future (2020), p 100.
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design. Crucially however, these principles make no reference to gender
equality in participation, representation and decision-making.

The Commission suggests including gender equality in the ‘principles-based
framework’. Not only will this ensure that gender balance in the National Voice
is structurally guaranteed, it will also ensure Aboriginal and Torres Strait
Islander women have the opportunity to be heard equally and be supported to
participate equally in decision-making at the regional and national levels. This
will require adequate resourcing of regional and local bodies to ensure that
representation at the state and national levels is feasible.

Recommendation: 8: The Commission recommends embedding gender
equality in the ‘principles-based framework’ at the local and regional
levels.

(g) Women’s groups

62. The Interim Report notes that governments will need to enable capability
building and provide support and resourcing at the local and regional levels.
This echoes the recommendation in the Wiyi Yani U Thangani Report to invest
in empowering women’s leadership on the ground (Wiyi Yani U Thangani,
Recommendation 3).

63. Throughout Wiyi Yani U Thangani engagements, women noted the positive
impact of women’s groups in their communities, many of which no longer
exist, and called for adequate government funding to support the
establishment of new ones at the local and regional level.

64. Stage Two of the Wiyi ani U Thangani Project is underway and as part of this
work the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner
and her team are focused on the implementation of the report’s
recommendations and will be working with local and regional women’s
groups—both established and in the process of being established—to amplify
and ensure Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women’s leadership on the
ground.

65. The Commissioner will be exploring mechanisms to improve engagement
between women’s representative groups at the local and regional level with
policymakers, researchers and governments to ensure the effective
participation of women in policy formation and implementation.

66. This could include giving Local and Regional Voices the power to establish
local and regional Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women’s groups to
support and provide expert advice.

Recommendation: 9: The Commission recommends that Local and
Regional Voices be given the power to establish local and regional
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women’s groups to support and
provide expert advice

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Submission to the Indigenous Voice Interim Report Proposals – March 2021

(h) The need for supports

67. Women called for supports such as carer respite and affordable and
accessible childcare in order for them to organise and be heard with many
women reporting their level of responsibilities in looking after their families and
communities prevent them from coming together and participating in decision-
making.

68. Women and girls also identified the need for capacity-building to encourage
broad-based leadership, succession-planning and the skills required to
represent at the interface with government and other external parties. An
example of a strengths-based, community-controlled leadership program that
could be scaled-up with very positive effects is the Women’s Martu Leadership
Program run by Kanyirninpa Jukurrpa in the East Pilbara.

Recommendation 10: The Commission recommends the co-design of
measures to empower women’s leadership and participation at local and
regional levels which will provide the foundations for ground-up to
capability-building and representation for the National Voice.

6 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children’s
representation, participation and decision-making
69. The Commission notes the proposed measures to include young people
between 18 and 25 years of age in the National Voice and to establish a
permanent standing committee for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth.

70. The Commission notes that Article 12 of the Convention on the Rights of the
Child is considered one of its the foundational / core principles that applies to
the implementation of all other rights. It states:

States 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.

71. Accordingly, the Commission considers that the proposed youth standing
committee should also include children.

72. Best practice would suggest that there also be mechanisms for engaging with
children of different age groups, including younger children. This is of
particular importance in relation to issues where Indigenous children
experience differential outcomes to other children, either through over-
representation or lower outcomes. For example, Aboriginal and Torres Strait
Islander children with lived experience in the care and protection and juvenile
justice systems have important insights that could better inform program and
policy design.

73. The Commission encourages the development of mechanisms to ensure such
participation, and also to build the capacity of Indigenous young people and
youth.

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Submission to the Indigenous Voice Interim Report Proposals – March 2021

Recommendation 11: The Commission recommends that the proposed
Youth Advisory committee also include children. This should be
supplemented by practices of engaging with children, especially those in
vulnerable situations such as care and protection and juvenile justice;
and youth leadership / mentoring initiatives.

7 Recommendations
The Commission recommends that:

1. Guidance be drawn from the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous
Peoples and the Paris Principles to set out a series of principles setting
out minimum standards to underpin the independence of the Voice.

2. Consideration be given to funding mechanisms that will ensure the
viability and sustainability of the Voice—including by providing initial
funding for a 5–10-year period; enabling the body to source non-
government funding in addition to core funding from government;
provide the Voice with DGR tax deductibility status; and consider long
term funding mechanisms such as a capital fund or levy.

3. The co-design and adoption through legislation of a package of
accountability mechanisms that will enhance the ability of the Voice to
input into and scrutinise the design and implementation of Australian
Government policies and legislation impacting First Nations peoples.

4. An Ethics Council be established within the Voice to establish and
adjudicate on matters of governance and ethics. This might include
matters such as who is a fit and proper person to be a representative;
disputes about indigeneity; and the resolution of other disputes. Such a
body should have gender equity among its membership.

5. Measures be put in place to ensure gender equality within the proposed
permanent standing committees for youth and persons with disability.

6. The establishment of a permanent standing committee for First Nations
women.

7. The implementation the recommendations of the Wiyi Yani U Thangani
(Women’s Voices) report in full, including its recommendation to
conduct a National Summit and establish an Aboriginal and Torres Strait
Islander Women and Girls Advisory Body and that consideration be
given to this Body taking on the role of the First Nation’s women’s
permanent standing committee to support the National Voice.

8. Embedding gender equality in the ‘principles-based framework’ at the
local and regional levels.

9. Local and Regional Voices be given the power to establish local and
regional Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women’s groups to
support and provide expert advice.

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Submission to the Indigenous Voice Interim Report Proposals – March 2021

10. The co-design of measures to empower women’s leadership and
participation at local and regional levels which will provide the
foundations for ground-up to capability-building and representation for
the National Voice.

11. The proposed Youth Advisory committee also include children. This
should be supplemented by practices of engaging with children,
especially those in vulnerable situations such as care and protection and
juvenile justice; and youth leadership / mentoring initiatives.

1 United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples: resolution / adopted by the General
Assembly, 2 October 2007, UN Doc A/RES/61/295.
2 Principles relating to the Status of National Institutions (The Paris Principles): resolution / adopted by

General Assembly, 20 December 1993, UN Doc A/RES/48/134.
3 Australian Human Rights Commission, Our Future in Our Hands (Report, 2009) 31.
4 Australian Human Rights Commission, Our Future in Our Hands (Report, 2009) 18.
5 Australian Human Rights Commission, Our Future in Our Hands (Report, 2009) 31.
6 United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples: resolution / adopted by the General

Assembly, 2 October 2007, UN Doc A/RES/61/295.
7 Australian Human Rights Commission, Wiyi Yani U Thangani (Women’s Voice): Securing our Rights,

Securing our Future (2020), p 129.
8 Australian Human Rights Commission, Wiyi Yani U Thangani (Women’s Voice): Securing our Rights,

Securing our Future (2020), p 43.
9 Australian Human Rights Commission, Wiyi Yani U Thangani (Women’s Voice): Securing our Rights,

Securing our Future, Community Guide (2020), p 12.
10 Australian Human Rights Commission, Wiyi Yani U Thangani (Women’s Voice): Securing our

Rights, Securing our Future, Community Guide (2020), p 15.
11 Australian Human Rights Commission, Wiyi Yani U Thangani (Women’s Voice): Securing our

Rights, Securing our Future, Community Guide (2020), p 20.
12 Australian Human Rights Commission, Wiyi Yani U Thangani (Women’s Voice): Securing our

Rights, Securing our Future, Community Guide (2020), p 24.
13 Australian Human Rights Commission, Wiyi Yani U Thangani (Women’s Voice): Securing our

Rights, Securing our Future (2020), p 82.
14 Australian Human Rights Commission, Wiyi Yani U Thangani (Women’s Voice): Securing our

Rights, Securing our Future (2020), p 98.
15 Australian Human Rights Commission, Wiyi Yani U Thangani (Women’s Voice): Securing our

Rights, Securing our Future (2020), p 98.

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