2878

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Submission Number
2878
Participant
La Perouse Aboriginal Community Alliance
Submission date
Main Submission Automated Transcript

30 April 2021

Indigenous Voice Co-Design Groups

Email: Co-designVoice@niaa.gov.au

La Perouse Aboriginal Community Alliance’s response to the Interim Report to
the Australian Government on Voice Co-design

The La Perouse Aboriginal Community Alliance

The La Perouse Aboriginal Community Alliance (the Alliance) is a network or
governance table of local Aboriginal community-controlled organisations that provide
services to the La Perouse Aboriginal Community.
Established in 2013, the Alliance allows organisations to coordinate and collaborate
on planning, program and service delivery while coordinating avenues of
communication with the Local, State and Commonwealth Governments who service
our cultural area. The Alliance boundary mirrors the La Perouse Local Aboriginal
Land Council boundary as set out in the NSW Aboriginal Land Rights Act (1983).
The Alliance has been working with the Commonwealth Government through the
Empowered Communities initiative since 2016. During this time, we have progressed
the First Priority Areas being the Mission Church Restoration, Gujaga Early Years
Education Expansion and the Aged Care Feasibility Study projects.
In addition, the Alliance has recently engaged in the NSW Government Local
Decision Making process where it aims to progress a number of Development Focus
Areas.

The La Perouse Aboriginal Community
The La Perouse Aboriginal community was established in 1883 as a permanent
Aboriginal settlement on the northern headland of Gamay/Kamay (Botany Bay)
through the establishment of the NSW Aborigines Protection Board. The remaining
Aboriginal people from camps around Sydney Harbour and Botany Bay at that time
were relocated there.
In the late 1890’s Aboriginal people living at La Perouse were described as:

For more than 20 years there has been a camp of aborigines near the village
of La Perouse, on the northern shore of Botany Bay. They comprise of all that
remains of the descendants of the native tribe that occupied the district at the
time of the English occupation of New South Wales in 1788

Today, La Perouse is considered a discrete Aboriginal community which includes
families with ancient and unbroken roots to coastal Sydney.

The Alliance’s Position
As a Local Governance body, the Alliance chooses to limit its submission to the
design of the Local and Regional Voice. In designing the Local and Regional Voice,
it is the view of the Alliance that three guiding principles should be followed.
1. Led by Community Controlled Aboriginal Organisations
The Alliance defines Community Controlled Aboriginal Organisations as
organisations which are Aboriginal controlled and linked to a particular Aboriginal
community. We are of the firm view that meaningful local input can only be achieved
through engagement of these community driven, placed based organisations. This is
because:
a) The nature of Community Controlled Aboriginal Organisations means that
community members are able to become members of one or more
organisations which fit their expertise or interest. It is this combination of
connection to community and broad membership bases which ensure that the
Local Voice is truly local;

b) The community facing nature of these organisations increases the ability of
the Local Voice framework to gather and feed the needs and concerns of
Aboriginal people up to relevant government decision makers in a coherent
manner. Failure to incorporate these community based perspectives
increases the risk of decisions concerning Aboriginal people being made in an
uninformed manner;

c) Furthermore, these strong links to community ensure that the Community
Controlled Aboriginal Organisations responsible for forming the Local Voice
are accountable to their members. It is this accountability which ensures that
input into government decision making concerning Aboriginal people is
accurate and honest.

2. Correlation between authority of member organisations and authority of Local and
Regional Voice
It is also important that the feedback provided to government is directly linked to the
expertise and authority of the underlying organisations.
For example, should the organisations which underpin the Local and Regional Voice
be primarily service delivery focused, so should its advice to government.
Failure to apply limitations such as this invites the following negative outcomes:
a) Input can be uninformed and therefore not useful. For example, if a Local
Voice mechanism is asked to provide advice to government on an educational
matter, and there are no organisations with any expertise in education, the
resulting advice would come from an uninformed position and would be likely
to lead to detrimental outcomes for the community involved;

b) Decisions may not be culturally appropriate. This is particularly relevant in
regional centres and urban areas where organisations are often managed by
Aboriginal people who have migrated from other areas. Relying on
organisations such as this instead of traditional owners on matters relating to
connection to country, language etc. is culturally offensive; and

c) Further to this point, failing to set clear boundaries on who can advise on
service delivery and can speak for country will create future friction between
location-based service delivery organisations and traditional owners, which
benefits neither group.

3. Informed by cultural boundaries and decision-making structures
When designing the structures that underpin the Local and Regional Voice, it is
crucial that Region boundaries follow traditional boundaries as closely as possible.
This is important for a number of reasons such as:
a) This approach encourages cohesive decision making based on traditional
cultural connections. For example, when grouping local bodies such as the
Alliance with other local bodies in order to create a Voice Region, it is best to
group communities with a cultural connection to La Perouse such as those in
Wollongong and the Illawarra. This is because, despite being isolated from
each other due to Protectionism, these communities are linked by language,
cultural and kinship ties which enhances the potential for collaborative
decision making;
b) In addition to this, building Voice Regions on top of traditional boundaries
enhances likelihood of commonality of purpose within each Region. For
example, it may seem logical to group our community, who have a traditional
connection to Coastal Sydney, with Aboriginal communities in Western
Sydney due to the modern concept of the Greater Sydney region. However, if
this Greater Sydney approach was to be taken, cultural differences will likely
cause divergence in priorities and undermine the strength of the Regional
Voice.

A prime example of this is the importance the La Perouse Aboriginal
community places on caring for sea country. This priority is unlikely to be
shared by Aboriginal communities in Western Sydney due to their lack of
traditional or contemporary connection to salt water and may result in a
misaligned Regional body; and

c) Finally, creating Regional Voice boundaries according to traditional
boundaries removes friction for future treaty negotiations. This is because, in
order for a treaty to be truly an agreement between government and First
Nations, they can only be negotiated by members of that Nation who have the
right to speak for their Nation’s country. Opting to create Regional Voice
boundaries which conflict with the traditional boundaries of First Nations
would only add to the already complicated overlapping of Native Title, Land
Rights and government systems. We understand that, in regional and remote
areas, the Traditional Owner groups and Aboriginal service providers often
have common membership bases. However, due to the high number of
Aboriginal people living in urban areas, it is important that these boundaries
are clearly set to encourage harmony between Aboriginal groups who can
then focus energy and resources towards the advancement of Aboriginal
people.

END

Author Mr Ash Walker, Strategic Advisor
Approved Mr Ray Ingrey, Chairperson