2807

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Submission Number
2807
Participant
Children and Young People with Disability Australia (CYDA)
Submission date
Main Submission Automated Transcript

Submission on the Indigenous Voice Co-Design
Process Interim Report

Children and Young People with Disability Australia
30 April 2021
Authorised by:

Mary Sayers, Chief Executive Officer

Contact details:

Children and Young People with Disability Australia
E. marysayers@cyda.org.au
P. 03 9417 1025
W. www.cyda.org.au

Acknowledgements:

Children and Young People with Disability Australia would like to acknowledge the Traditional
Custodians of the lands on which this report has been written, reviewed and produced, whose
cultures and customs have nurtured and continue to nurture this land since the Dreamtime. We pay
our respects to their Elders past, present and future. This is, was and always will be Aboriginal land.
Children and Young People with Disability Australia (CYDA) is the national representative
organisation for children and young people with disability aged 0 to 25 years. We have an extensive
national membership of more than 5,000 young people with disability, families and caregivers of
children with disability, and advocacy and community organisations.

CYDA gratefully welcomes the invitation of the Uluru Statement from the Heart to walk alongside
First Nations communities in a movement for a better future, where all children and young people
will flourish.

We are a rights-based organisation, and our purpose is to ensure governments, communities, and
families are empowering children and young people with disability to exercise their rights and
aspirations fully.

As part of this, and as outlined in our Strategic Plan 2020-24, we are committed to highlighting
systemic injustices and supporting First Nations children, young people and their communities.

We note at the outset that CYDA supports the recommendations made by the From the Heart
campaign in response to the Interim Report to the Australian Government: Indigenous Voice Co-
Design Process, and we specifically call for:

1. The government to honour its election commitment to a referendum once the model
for the Voice has been settled.

CYDA resolutely supports a First Nations Voice that is enshrined in the Constitution as defined in
the Uluru Statement from the Heart.

Constitutional enshrinement of the Voice to Parliament is required to ensure it remains independent
of, and protected from, possible abolishment by successive governments. Constitutional
enshrinement will help protect the Voice from partisan politics and ensure it can function as a
distinct mechanism of First Nations recognition and representation that can engage in fearless and
frank public dialogue with Parliament.

Importantly, as stated by Dr Dani Larkin, public lawyer and representative of the Senior Dialogue
Leadership group for the Uluru Statement from the Heart, “constitutional enshrinement of a First
Nations Voice is the only form of recognition that garnered the collective endorsement of Aboriginal
and Torres Strait Islander peoples”1.

A First Nations Voice to Parliament protected by the Constitution will establish the Voice as distinct
from existing government processes, and previously developed and disbanded representative
bodies.

Previous First Nations representative bodies, such as the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
Commission (ATSIC) (1989-2005), that were established administratively or by legislation have too
easily been abolished by successive governments. Creating and subsequently abolishing

1 Source: Mirage News (2021) ‘It’s time to walk together towards a referendum’: Indigenous Law Centre

CYDA’s Submission on the Indigenous Voice Co-Design Process Interim Report
representative bodies for First Nations people “cuts across progress, damages working relationships
and wastes talent that could be used to solve complex problems.”2

The enshrinement of a First Nations Voice in the Constitution must necessarily be accompanied by
an Appropriation Bill or Funding Deed that is guaranteed and that sets out the requisite ongoing
resourcing for the operationalising of the Voice to Parliament.

In particular, CYDA supports the proposal to create a national body made up of Aboriginal and
Torres Strait Islander people that:

• will provide advice to the Australian Parliament and Government on relevant laws,
policies and programs;
• will engage early with the Australian Parliament and Government in the development of
relevant policies and laws.3

We note that public support for a constitutionally enshrined Voice to Parliament remains consistently
high. Specifically:

• 94 per cent of the general community agree it is important that Aboriginal and Torres
Strait Islander people have a say in matters that affect them
• 86 per cent of the general community believe it is important to establish a representative
First Nations body
• 81 per cent of the general community believe it is important to protect a First Nations’
representative body within the Constitution.4

2. Enabling legislation for the Voice must be passed as soon as possible after a
referendum has been held.

CYDA believes that the overwhelming community support provides a basis for the government to
take affirmative action on the “constitutional, legislative and executive enactment of the Voice”
(Stage 2 of the Voice establishment process). It is vital that enabling legislation for the Voice follows
as quickly as possible from a successful referendum.

CYDA also believes it is essential that in addition to working towards a referendum and subsequent
legislation, the government must move quickly to support key complementary elements that will
enable and give strength to the Voice; structures and necessary mechanisms for capacity building
to enable metropolitan, regional and remote voices to emerge and contribute.

2 Source: The Uluru Statement (2021) Frequently Asked Questions

3 Note: in relation to the proposed wording of the National Voice Proposal we echo the suggestions of Western Australian
Council of Social Service (WACOSS) and South Australian Council of Social Service (SACOSS) that more proactive and
positive formulation in the proposed wording of the National Voice Proposal “emphasises the intent of the body to
proactively engage on the issues and priorities it chooses, rather than being merely responsive to an agenda set by
Parliament and Government.”
4 Source: Reconciliation Australia (2020) 2020 Australian Reconciliation Barometer

CYDA’s Submission on the Indigenous Voice Co-Design Process Interim Report
3. The membership model for the National Voice must ensure previously unheard
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have the same chance of having their
voices heard.

CYDA supports From the Heart’s position that a broad scope of professional and lived experience
expertise must be appropriately represented in the National Voice, and that membership must be of
a sufficient scale as is necessary to achieve this. The National Voice must be established in a
manner that actively ensures it is representative of the diverse populations and needs of Aboriginal
and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Whatever the structure and model chosen for the National Voice (and Regional and Local Voices),
we consider it critical that it has the necessary capability and legitimacy to undertake its function as
an institution that captures and represents the voices, priorities and aspirations of First Nations
peoples.

We note that limiting membership of the National Voice to a 16- or 18-person State/Territory
equalisation model may preference those with existing authority and profile being selected/elected,
while other less prominent voices may remain marginalised.

An overly limited membership model based on State/Territory representation may fail to adequately
account for the uneven distribution of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations across the
country, and fail to effectively reflect cultural groupings, obligations and custodianship.

Effective representation needs to balance population, circumstances and diversity (including age
and gender), to ensure there is an adequate cross-section of First Nations members who can both
capture and express the needs and challenges of regional and remote communities, as well as
reflecting the views of significant First Nations populations concentrated in urban areas. Alternative
models to the State/Territory equalisation model should be considered to reflect the lived reality of
First Nations families and communities in regional centres, metropolitan areas and remote
communities where different language and cultural groups have been brought together principally
as a result of colonisation and dispossession.

Ultimately, we believe that First Nations peoples are best placed to guide and finalise the legislative
design.

In Conclusion

As a rights-based organisation committed to justice and equality, we believe the creation of the
Voice is a rare and unique opportunity to forge a better future for our country, and therefore urge
that the government pursue constitutional enshrinement as an essential part of the process. Such
an important reform cannot be put at risk by being established only through legislation.

The National Voice must be taken seriously by governments as a representative voice and a
legitimate source of policy, advice, and strategic direction. To that end, the way it gives advice to
government and the manner the advice is received is crucial.

To safeguard the Voice and ensure its authority, effectiveness and longevity, the First Nations
National Voice to Parliament must be enshrined in the Constitution.

CYDA’s Submission on the Indigenous Voice Co-Design Process Interim Report