2983

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Submission Number
2983
Participant
The Indigenous Peoples’ Organisation (IPO) Australia
Submission date
Main Submission Automated Transcript

INDIGENOUS PEOPLES’ ORGANIZATION (IPO)
AUSTRALIA

Indigenous Voice Senior Advisory Group 30 April 2021
National Indigenous Australia’s Agency
Voice Secretariat
Reply Paid 83380
Canberra ACT 2601
Email: Co-designVoice@niaa.gov.au

Dear Indigenous Voice Senior Advisory Group

Please find attached the submission on the Indigenous Voice Co-Design Process Interim Report
to the Australian Government.

The Indigenous Peoples’ Organisation-Australia trust this this contributes to the deliberations in
developing a national representative body that reflects the Australian Government’s
international obligations to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ self-
determination.

We look forward to reviewing the next rendition of this proposal.

Yours Sincerely,

Cathryn Eatock & Brian Butler

Co-Chairs: Indigenous Peoples’ Organisation-Australia

1
SUBMISSION TO THE INDIGENOUS VOICE DISCUSSION PAPER

The Indigenous Peoples Organisation-Australia (IPO) is pleased to accept the opportunity to forward
a submission on the Indigenous Voice Discussion Paper. Please find our considered response to the
Indigenous Voice Co-Design Process Interim Report to the Australian Government.

1. INDIGENOUS PEOPLES ORGANISATION
The Indigenous Peoples Organisation-Australia (“IPO”) is national coalition of 285 Aboriginal and
Torres Strait Islander peak organisations, community organisations and individual members across
Australia. The IPO was established to facilitate constructive and collaborative advocacy of
Indigenous rights at the United Nations and to promote the enactment of internationally recognised
Indigenous rights within Australia. The IPO operates through the direction of a national executive
with two elected Co-Chairs.

2. Rationale
Over recent decades there has been a significant lack of Aboriginal input into government policy
approaches. The defunding of the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples in 2013/14 resulting
in its winding up in 2018, after having only being established in 2009, has left a void. The National
Congress had been established to respond to the void of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander input
into Government, following the winding up of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission
(ATSIC) in 2004. The IPO has been deeply concerned at the lack of an elected Indigenous
representative voice to provide input into policies, programs and legislation; which significantly
impacts Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples over recent decades. These cuts in funding
also highlight the vulnerability of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander governance bodies left to the
whims of Government.

The dearth of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander capacity to provide input into policy approaches
has seen an increase in punitive policy approaches, such as in the Cashless Debit Card which targets
communities of high Aboriginal populations, removes access to 80% of welfare payments and
prevents purchases at cheaper options and second hand stores, and is humiliating and instils a
sense disempowerment. The Community Development Program has instigated a disproportionate
number of financial penalties upon Aboriginal people in remote Aboriginal communities and
prevents communities from attending to cultural or sorry business, that may take them away from
onerous work obligations to receive welfare payments. Programs, such as these, that cut access to
cash also remove agency and inhibit women’s capacity to escape family violence.

This period has also been marked by substantial cuts in funding to the Aboriginal service sector with
$534 million cut from Aboriginal services in the 2014 budget by the Abbott/LNP Government. More
recently, the destruction of the 46,000-year-old Juukan Gorge caves reflects the desperate need for
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander input into legislation, policies and decision making around
sacred Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural heritage sites across Australia.

The ongoing high rate of Indigenous incarceration and deaths in custody indicates an abject failure
by successive governments since the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody. That is,
to appropriately respond the recommendations of the Royal Commission and address the crisis, loss
of life and over incarceration of Indigenous peoples. We know many of the contributing issues
involve structural racism, difficulty securing bail and a lack of alternatives to incarceration, and a
failure to provide appropriate health responses to health issues. However, fundamentally it reflects
the failure to implement self-determination for Indigenous peoples, which was called for some 30

2
years ago by the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody. The IPO recognises that all
the Recommendations put forward by the Royal Commission have not been implemented.

International law establishes self-determination as a fundamental underpinning right. The
Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which Australia endorsed in 2009, and was
recognised in international law when endorsed by the United Nations General assembly in 2007,
sets out Indigenous peoples’ rights to self-determination through Articles 3 and right to establish
their own governance and representative structures through Articles 4, 5, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22 & 23.
The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) elaborates on existing
human rights standards, establishing a global framework of minimum standards for Indigenous
peoples. Professor James Anaya, the former Special Rapporteur on Indigenous Peoples, confirms
that the Declaration confirms broader rights that Indigenous peoples are entitled to through various
human rights conventions. The Declaration echoes Article 1 of the two main treaties of the
Declaration on Human Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, through Article 3 of the Declaration
which states:
‘Indigenous peoples have the right to self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine
their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development’.1
It has now been more than 10 years since Australia endorsed the Declaration in 2009, and it is time
that the Federal Government operationalised the Declaration through national legislation (with
legal effect) and the establishment of an elected representative governance body. The Voice
proposal outlined through the Indigenous Voice Co-Design Process takes significant steps in meeting
this shortfall. The proposed Voice model should actively frame itself in terms of meeting the
Australian Government’s global obligations to enact the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous
Peoples.

A national representative body is critical to enable Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to
provide direction to parliament and government in addressing the range of national issues, policy
and legislation that impacts Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples. A National representative
body will have a critical role in advocating for the recognition and protection of the human rights of
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. It will provide a mechanism to give meaning to and
pursue the exercise of our rights, including those recognised in the ‘United Nations Declaration on
the Rights of Indigenous Peoples’, including our right to determine our political status and pursue
our economic, social and cultural development.2 Article 18 of the Declaration states:
‘Indigenous peoples have the right to participate in decision-making in matters that 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.’3

1
United Nations (2007) United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples,
http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/unpfii/documents/DRIPS_en.pdf
2 Australian Human Rights Commission, “Our future in our hands”- Creating a sustainable National Representative Body for

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, Report of the Steering Committee for the creation of a new National Representative
Body, (Sydney: AHRC 2009), https://www.humanrights.gov.au/our-work/aboriginal-and-torres-strait-is…-
justice/publications/our-future-our-hands.
3
United Nations (2007) United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples,
http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/unpfii/documents/DRIPS_en.pdf
3
2. THE NATIONAL VOICE

The Proposal of an Elected Representative Model
The IPO firmly supports an elected representative model, that provides Aboriginal and Torres Strait
Islander community determined direction into policies, programs, services and legislation that
impacts our communities, before the Parliament. A regionally elected representative model will
reflect the views of their communities and regions and be accountable to those communities
through regular election cycles. In order for the Voice model to be accepted by the broader
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community the model needs to respond to Aboriginal
community concerns to enact Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander self-determination. An elected
regionally representative Voice to Parliament goes some way to address the democratic deficit that
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have been subject to as a self-determining people,
recognised in international law, while only comprising 3% of the population.
However, it is critical that the elected Voice representative body has the capacity to review and
provide direction to Parliament on legislation being put before Parliament. Significantly, it also
requires capacity review and provide direction to Parliament on existing legislation, policies,
programs and services. Further, Local and Regional Governance bodies must be able to raise issues
with the national body for investigation, review and consideration of providing direction to
Parliament on those matters. Additionally, capacity for the Voice Indigenous representative body to
provide direction to the non-government sector, businesses and corporations, is also endorsed by
the IPO. The national Voice body must also include capacity to publicly provide informed direction
to all Parliamentary members on all issues impacting upon Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
peoples and not be constrained to those laws proposed under Section 51 (xxvi).
While other models have been suggested, including the use of existing organisations, peak bodies
or land councils, each of these bodies have been formed to address a specific service delivery
purpose or focus area, and none can claim to represent the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
communities of their regions. Aboriginal Land Councils and Native Title Bodies are not
representative of all community members and they do not always reflect general governance bodies
of Aboriginal nations; for such purposes, other than the narrow issues directly related to the terms
of their establishment. Additionally, many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are not
members of Land Councils or Prescribed Native Title Bodies, formed through differing legislation for
particular land use related matters. These bodies are limited in their geographic representation and
where they are established, they cannot claim to represent all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
people.
While the IPO supports a model that accommodates nation-based decision making we believe the
capacity of nations across Australia varies tremendously, due to the deleterious impact of
dispossession in many regions and the ongoing impact of colonisation. However, we note that
where nations do have capacity, those nations may establish amongst themselves, traditional
selection methods that may feed into local and regionally conceived models of the Voice governance
structure. For those nations without sufficient capacity within the proposed regional model a
concerted period of nation building is needed to ensure the majority of nations are in a position to
fully and effectively represent their nations as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples look to
move into future treaty negotiations processes.

4
Significantly, when considering models of representation, it must be considered that many
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people no longer live on their traditional country due to
previous dispossession events and policies, and many have moved to regional towns and cities for
educational, social or economic opportunities. However, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
peoples who have moved to other locations have not renounced their indigeneity nor their
sovereignty or their rights as Indigenous peoples. To represent First Nations Peoples, the
representative body that is established must accommodate the diversity of Aboriginal and Torres
Strait Islander people across this continent. This can only be implemented through an elected
representative model, with capacity to accommodate local and traditional decision-making
processes, as reflected in the proposed model.
Objection to Government Appointment
The IPO resoundingly objects to the Government, Minister or National Indigenous Australians
Agency appointing any position on the representative body or staff member within the secretarial
support unit or the advisory bodies. The proposed model suggests that up to two members may be
appointed to the Voice body by the Federal Government. The proposal for the Government to
appoint any members to the elected Indigenous Voice body, whether independently or in
conjunction with those elected members of the Voice body, would completely undermine any
claims by the body to be a representative or an Indigenous self-determining body. Were the
Government to appoint any member to the Voice, it would leave the consultation process and the
establishment of a representative body null and void, completely invalidating the body and the
process to establish it.
Enabling Federal or State Government appointments to an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
representative governance body, whether a single position or several, would immediately remove
any sense of, or claim to, community accountability of the Voice as a representative governance
body, with those appointed positions perceived as illegitimate appointments aligned with
government. Government appointments, in any form, are directly counter to the objective to give
Indigenous peoples a voice to Parliament.
If expert advice is required to advise the elected representative voice to Parliament, that advice and
the selection of those persons who provide advice must be left solely up to those representatives
elected by the broader Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community to commission that advice
amongst the secretarial support for the Voice. Indeed, the capacity to commission expert advice is
a critical requirement of an effective elected representative Voice body.
Elected representatives should be drawn from the communities and regions they represent, much
in the same way members of the Australian Parliament and other democratic processes do, and
are not based on their expertise on any particular issue; and which may be a requirement of an
employee position. The elected representative will deal with all issues impacting Aboriginal and
Torres Strait Islander peoples and will need to assess and review each issue. This will require detailed
briefings, the assessment of reviews and policy advice but it cannot be addressed by a perceived
expert on any particular area. As with all democratic processes, those elected must reflect the
broader community membership they represent. Accordingly, the framework of the Voice model
must ensure that all representatives are elected from urban, regional and remote areas. To have
any representative members appointed by Government would fundamentally compromise the
proposed Voice body, to the extent that it could not be considered a representative body.

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Independence of the National Voice Representative Body
The long-term viability and independence of the national Voice body must be assured and it requires
sufficient resources to undertake its functions effectively and efficiently. Financial independence is
critical to the representation and advocacy of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander concerns and the
provision of free and frank advice to government, and that advice is independent from government
influence. The importance of independence from government is crucial to ‘enable the body to fulfil
its advocacy function in a bold and robust manner’, and not hindered by potential negative
consequences in challenging the government. The establishment of a national body will need to
proactively address the threat of abolition through legislative reform or the withdrawal of financial
support by successive governments.

Of critical importance in this initial phase will be ensuring that the new National Representative
Body is adequately funded and has the financial structure to be sustainable into the longer term.
Both human and capital resources are required to effectively respond to the complexity of its
governance procedures and functions to provide direction to government, and monitor and develop
policies approaches.

National Membership Numbers
The IPO would like to highlight the lack of options for membership of the national representative
body. The current options provided two representatives per State does not adequately address the
states that represent high Aboriginal populations, such as New South Wales and Queensland.
However, from the options provided the IPO endorses the 18 representative model to recognise the
unique position of the Torres Strait Islander Peoples, but with one of those representing the Torres
Strait Islands and one representing Torres Strait Islander people on the mainland.
Additionally, with the large Aboriginal population in New South Wales of more than 265,685, out of
a total population of 798,381 in 2016, the IPO considers there is a strong argument for three elected
representatives in NSW and one for the 7,513 Aboriginal people within the Australian Capital
Territory.
Membership Term Lengths
Two models for term lengths are proposed as options in the Voice Interim Report. The IPO confirms
the four-year term is preferential over the three-year term, with the four-year term staggered, with
a half election spill ever two years. This approach will ensure consistency across election cycles. If
the first term stood for six years, as opposed to four years, this would enable full representation to
commence. If the spill was for a single candidate from each State this would ensure each state also
retained consistency across election cycles.
It is recommended by the IPO that each representative provides an annual report to their
constituents outlining the areas progressed on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander rights over the
preceding year and any challenges faced. A term limit of two election cycles, eight years in total,
would ensure a refresh of elected representatives over the longer term. The IPO also suggests
portfolio sub-committees be allocated every two years, to enable sub-committee groups to progress
policy, program and legislation initiatives or responses, across a range of areas, while noting decision
making would require the full number of representatives.

6
National Advisory Group
The IPO endorses the establishment of a National Disability Advisory Group and National Youth
Advisory Group to provide critical advice related to these sectors. Additionally, the IPO firmly
supports the capacity for the Voice Representative body to establish other National Advisory Groups
as may be deemed necessary, in order to provide expert advice on critical areas such as violence
against women and girls, Indigenous incarceration and deaths in custody, the removal of children,
cultural heritage protection and land/water rights.
Policy Unit
Given the amount of legislation, policies and programs which impact Aboriginal and Torres Strait
Islander peoples, a well-resourced and adequately staffed Policy and Secretarial Unit is essential to
review legislation, policies and programs, to provide informed evidence-based reviews and advice
to the national representative Voice body. Elected representatives will require detailed policy advice
on legislation policy and programs currently implemented that significantly impact on Aboriginal
and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and which require capacity to review and assess those legislative
and policy approaches proposed.
Areas subject to review would include all issues, policies, programs and legislation, either existing
or proposed, that impacts on a significant number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples
in a region or nationally. It should not be confined to approaches that specify only Aboriginal or
Torres strait Islander peoples, as some policy and legislative approaches claim to be universal while
clearly targeting regions of high Aboriginal populations.
Additionally, the important principle of evidence-based decision making not only requires informed
advice but also the capacity to commission reviews of policy and legislative approaches to ensure
policy and legislative approaches are effectively reviewed, evidence based, targeted and effective.
The area where advice is sought must be determined by the Voice body and through advice from
the Policy Unit, in response to the requirements of the issue, and not be limited to a predetermined
Panel of Experts. Capacity to undertake evaluations and commission reviews of programs, services,
policy, and legislation is critical to providing evidence-based decision making and informed direction
on these matters.

LOCAL AND REGIONAL VOICE
The IPO welcomes the efforts to include local and regional Voice bodies, that may respond to the
particular representative requirement of the local region. The IPO recognises the benefits of local
Voice bodies, formed from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in that region, and which are
participatory, accountable, transparent, inclusive, and that strive for collaborative consensus
decision making, would reflect Aboriginal cultural mores and local decision-making processes.
Principle of Inclusive Participation & Cultural Leadership
The IPO welcomes the inclusion of the principle of inclusive participation and cultural leadership.
The principle of inclusive participation of all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander members, clans
and organisational bodies is crucial to fully reflect the concerns and aspirations of our communities.
Equally, the principle of cultural leadership, where we consciously privilege traditional decision
making and custodial responsibilities is fundamental to respecting the cultural obligations of our
decision-making processes.
7
However, the suggestion in the Voice Interim Report proposal that these local and regional
representation bodies build on existing structures may unfairly promote those existing bodies with
greater resources over local, less resourced inclusive governance bodies. The IPO suggests that local
bodies specifically address broader local governance through either traditional decision-making
structures or specifically established local governance that incorporate inclusive processes; and that
address all areas impacting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, such as with the
Community Working Parties of the Murdi Paaki region. Those bodies that have limited authority or
address areas of limited responsibility are inappropriate to represent Aboriginal or Torres Strait
Islander peoples at the local or region of level, though they may be members of local and regional
bodies. In this respect strengthening the principles of local and regional bodies, including consensus
decision making principles, or establishing overwhelming majority decision making, in the
establishment of these bodies, may counter the potential for a well-resourced body to dominate or
overly influence the establishment of local and regional bodies.
Principle of Community Led Design
The principle of community led design is fundamental and acknowledges the responsibility of
governments to support the establishment and ongoing operation of these local and regional
governance bodies. The IPO recommends the independent assessment in determining when Local
Governance Bodies meet the requirements of the principled and inclusive approach to form a Local
Governance Body.
Principle of Non-Duplication and Links with Existing Bodies
The principle of non-duplication and links with existing bodies highlights the need to incorporate
issue specific bodies within local and regional governance Voice bodies. However, community
experiences on women, health, justice, youth, cultural, or other specific areas where a peak may
operate, should not preclude the capacity for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander experiences on
the ground to inform feedback on policies, programs, services or legislation, and how to address
these. Rather than being concerned about duplication, I would hope that such dedicated Aboriginal
and Torres Strait Islander service organisations and peak bodies would seek to work collaboratively
with local, regional and national Voice bodies to address community concerns and aspirations
raised.
Principle of Respectful Long-Term Partnership
The principle of long-term partnerships must respect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander self-
determining decision making and actively support capacity development and its implementation on
the ground.
Selection
It is critical for the successful operation of this representative body that it is fully accountable back
to the local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community. Accordingly, the IPO recommends the
national representatives are structurally linked to the Local and Regional body to ensure local
accountability. Local accountability is essential to the success of any representative body and
accountability is only assured through election processes where delegates are drawn from the local
and regional bodies.

8
Structure
In the selection of national representatives, it is critical that national representatives are tied to and
come from regional representative mechanisms and that these regional representatives feed up
from local governance bodies.
Within the Regional options proposed, the IPO supports the larger regional representative model of
35, which reflects and recognises the greater populations of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
peoples in NSW and Queensland, while also reflecting the larger geographic regions of Western
Australia and the Northern Territory.
Principle of Transparency and Accountability
The IPO supports the principle of transparency and accountability listed within the Voice Co-Design
Interim report. The IPO suggests a review of the governance mechanism to assess effectiveness of
operation at the completion of the first, second and third terms of the national representatives.
This will enable ongoing improvements and the opportunity to review, assess and make adaptions
to increase the effectiveness and operation of the Voice representative bodies and their overall
objective of implementing self-determination, as confirmed in the Declaration on the Rights of
Indigenous Peoples. In addition, a review of achievements and priorities should be provided
annually by each of the elected representatives to the Aboriginal community at each level of the
Voice model, ensuring accountability is intrinsically tied to each representative position.
Resources for community developed initiatives are necessary to enable Aboriginal communities to
respond to their regions circumstances and develop local employment and social initiatives to meet
the requirements of those communities. Like small towns everywhere services need to be provided
to Aboriginal communities, in Elder care, childcare, community maintenance, housing maintenance,
building and car maintenance. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities need to be able
to respond to local priorities, they need capacity to encourage local employment, with set wages
and conditions, and the ability to respond to local community development initiatives.

LIMITATIONS OF THE PROPOSED VOICE MODEL
Lack of Decision-Making Capacity
The final report of the Referendum Council acknowledged that treaty was strongly supported across
the community consultation dialogues and concern was raised that the proposed Voice body would
have insufficient powers if it was an advisory body only. The lack of capacity to instigate community
initiatives, address community concerns and propose policies, programs and legislation remains a
serious concern.
The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander elected representative Voice body must be directed to the
Australian Parliament and all elected representatives, rather than only to the bureaucracy of
Government. It must also include formal structural means to raise issues with the Parliament.
The Voice model must go beyond a minimalist approach that fails to meet the minimum
requirements of a self-determining representative body. This is an opportunity to work with
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to counter the entrenched disadvantage Aboriginal
people continue to face and meet Australia’s international obligations. Australia needs to take

9
its place amongst the leaders of the global community, and in line with other former British colonies,
in recognising the inherent rights of unceded First Nations Peoples.
Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islander people across the continent are in agreement that we
need to move beyond symbolism, that national representative bodies must have capacity to
instigate initiatives and respond to the needs and aspiration of our communities. Fundamental to
a Voice to Parliament is a requirement that Parliament must consider the Voice of Aboriginal and
Torres Strait Islander Peoples. Adequate institutions and processes need to be developed to
establish this body as an independent and Indigenous self-determining national representative
body. We recognise that this requires substantial change but also note the substantial support
among the broader Australian community, before an education and awareness campaign has been
instigated. An Essential poll4 found the Voice to Parliament was supported by 66%, with 13% unsure
and 20% objected. Additionally, 70% supported constitutional recognition, 12% said they weren’t
sure and only 18% suggested they didn’t agree; with this support reflected across the major political
parties. Further, the poll found 59% support for a treaty, while 16% weren’t sure and only 25%
opposed the change. An ineffective Voice model and deficient national representative body without
the capacity to provide frank and fearless feedback to the Australian Parliament, and all elected
representatives, would not be accepted by the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community nor
the broader Australian community.
Constitutional Recognition
While the IPO agrees that the longevity of the representative body needs to be assured, IPO believes
that the constitutional enshrinement should occur after a model has been developed; that is
acceptable and meets the requirements of self-determination, as outlined in the Declaration on the
Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Providing legal enforcement of an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representative body through
the constitution prevents a federal government from ignoring the direction provided by the
representative body and ensures the body cannot be dissolved or defunded by a future government
that may be less supportive of an Indigenous representative body. However, the IPO is of the firm
view that the representative model should be determined and approved by the Aboriginal and
Torres Strait Islander community and not determined by Parliament, as originally suggested in the
2017 Final Report of the Referendum Council.5
Accordingly, we support the requirement for an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander elected
representative body in the constitution once a model is approved by the Aboriginal and Torres Strait
Islander community but confirm this does not counter Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander claims
to our sovereignty, which remains unceded. The IPO argues that a treaty is required to address the
entrenched and ongoing disadvantage, injustice and oppression that is a result of colonization but
the IPO also acknowledges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people cannot wait for the
completion of treaty negotiation processes before enacting our decision making on legislation,
policies, programs and services, that too often negatively impacts on us.

4
Murphy, Katharine, Essential Poll: Majority of Australians want Indigenous recognition and Voice to Parliament, 12
July, 2019. https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2019/jul/12/essential-poll-m…-
indigenous-recognition-and-voice-to-parliament
5
Referendum Council, Final Report of the Referendum Council, Commonwealth of Australia, 30 June 2017, p38
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Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Aspirations for a Treaty
The Statement from the Heart’s call for the establishment of a Makarrata Commission was endorsed
at each of the 12 regional meetings and final Statement, and it remains the overriding aspiration of
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. The call for a Makarrata Commission is a reflection of
the broad demand for a change in relations between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples
and the Australian State, to one of partnership and respect. It is a clear assertion of Aboriginal and
Torres Strait Islander rights to our self-determination and decision making on issues that impact on
us. The IPO supports the establishment of a Makarrata Commission to develop the terms for a
Treaty. The development of Treaty must not be over ridden by the development of an elected
representative Voice model.

Fundamental to any concept of self-determination is the ability of Aboriginal and Torres Strait
Islander Peoples to form and develop our own distinct institutions; determine our social, cultural,
economic and political priorities; and fully participate in decision making that affects us. While a
National Body will play a significant social, economic, cultural and political role within Aboriginal and
Torres Strait Islander Peoples society and national representative body and reflect that our systems
of traditional law and customs have capacity to provide informed direction on matters impacting
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples.

A Makarrata Commission would also oversee a process of truth telling, to acknowledge the history
and impact of colonization on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples. While the ‘Bringing
Them Home Report’ outlined the experiences of the Stolen Generations this is only one aspect of
the detrimental impact of colonization. Moving forward in partnership with Australia’s First Nations
Peoples requires an honest recognition of the ongoing impact and processes of colonisation and
how they affect Aboriginal peoples’ lives, before we can move forward in healing.
The just terms of a Treaty need to be developed through a series of detailed consultations,
incorporating broad engagement with all regions, over a sufficient period of time to enable
Aboriginal community to develop and ensure ownership of the terms of the treaty. The Declaration
on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples establishes at Article 11.2 that:
‘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’.

Australia, its citizens and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are ready for a revised and
respectful relationship with Australia’s Indigenous peoples through the establishment of a national
Treaty. International law recognises the rights of Indigenous peoples as legitimate actors in the
international legal system. As Bill Jonas argued:
‘Rights are not within the discretion of governments to give or withhold but are inherent. For
Indigenous people, the international system has begun to acknowledge their collective rights to self-
determination … that rights reside in peoples' systems of organisation, governance and ultimately,
sovereignty,’ where ‘the credibility and legitimacy of a State's foundations, its sovereignty, depends
on its inclusivity and the way it treats Indigenous peoples’. 6

6Jonas, Bill (2002) Recognizing Aboriginal Sovereignty-implications for the treaty process, Speech by Dr William Jonas AM,
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, Presented at
ATSIC National Treaty Conference, Tuesday 27 August 2002. https://www.humanrights.gov.au/news/speeches/recognising-
aboriginal-sovereignty-implications-treaty-process-2002.
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