3 May 2021
Ray Griggs AO, CSC
Chief Executive Officer, National Indigenous Australians Agency
PO Box 2191
CANBERRA ACT 2600
Dear Mr Griggs
Re: Indigenous Voice Design Consultation
Thank you for your letter of 19 January 2021 regarding consultation on the Indigenous Voice. The Indigenous
Land and Sea Corporation (ILSC) welcomes the opportunity to provide comment on the design of the
The ILSC is a Corporate Commonwealth entity (Independent Statutory Authority) tasked with delivering
economic, environmental, social and cultural benefits to Indigenous Australians through the return of country
and its management. We are well connected with industry, government, non-government, Indigenous and
the private sectors and have unique connections throughout Australia.
As you are aware, our mandate prescribed by the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Act 2005 requires the
ILSC to fulfil our statutory obligations to acquire, divest and manage Indigenous lands so as Australia’s First
Nations can enjoy their lands and waters. Our comments below are based on over 25 years’ experience in
delivering these benefits through partnering with Indigenous Australians to unlock the Indigenous Estate.
The ILSC supports the development of an Indigenous Voice as a practical and just means to enable First
Nations peoples to directly affect policy development in Australia at national and local levels. In providing this
support, the ILSC explicitly acknowledges the multiple mechanisms by which this Voice may be delivered and
affirms its support for the Uluru Statement from the Heart, including enshrining such a Voice in the Australian
Constitution and the establishment of a Makarrata Commission on truth telling.
The ILSC occupies a unique space in Indigenous affairs and its interface with government policies and
programs. Being a part of government, it cannot speak as an Indigenous owned entity. However the scale
and scope of ILSC work across jurisdictions and its long-held role sitting across engagement with,
representation of, and advocacy for, Indigenous people as owners and managers of the Indigenous Estate
means that it is well placed to provide a supporting role in realising the aspirations of the Voice. It is in this
vein that I write to you today.
In keeping with our approach to Closing the Gap, the ILSC’s approach is to play what role it can in delivering
agreed outcomes and providing accountability mechanisms, without influencing the definition of outcomes or
how the aspirations are represented. Consequently, the ILSC does not intend to provide advice on the
architecture of the national or regional/local levels of the Voice, or on options for representation beyond
restating its support for meaningful and comprehensive Indigenous led co-design and implementation across
We share the view that Indigenous people should be the architects of the Voice, including the development
of local/regional and national structures and the framework for interaction between the two levels, as well as
with other public and private agencies and organisations. We believe that government should uplift and
Office of the Chief Executive Officer www.ilsc.gov.au
Level 7, 70 Franklin Street, Adelaide, SA, 5000
GPO Box 652, Adelaide, SA, 5001
Telephone 08 8100 7100 | ABN 59 912 679 254
amplify opportunities so as to allow Indigenous people to occupy a space where they can manifest their own
The co-design process and framework as presented in the consultation materials appears to be robust and
capable of both engaging Indigenous Australians in the development of the Voice and of providing a workable
model that will have support.
The ILSC particularly supports developing a panel of experts to compliment the National Voice as a source of
expert advice, research, and to assist in preparing advice to Government. As noted in the co-design interim
report, this will help ensure the appropriate rigor is brought to the advice of the Voice and ultimately the policy
and program development processes.
The inclusion of the Youth and Disability advisory groups is also supported, as is the open option of creating
committees to provide advice on a range of other issues. In addition to the Youth and Disability advisory
groups, the ILSC recommends that a ‘Speaking for Country’ advisory group also be formed to ensure that the
growing Indigenous Estate gets the consideration it needs in the deliberations and advice of the Voice.
Tangibly, the Indigenous Estate is huge, dynamic and always changing. Recent analysis by the Australian
Bureau of Agricultural and Resources Economics and Sciences (ABARES) found that in 2016, 57% of the
Australian landmass was owned, managed or under some form of special rights by Indigenous Australians,
including 17% (134 million hectares) that was specifically Indigenous-owned. National Native Title Tribunal
data that was used to develop baselines for the revised Closing the Gap targets on Indigenous land and water
rights shows that in mid-2020 Native Title existed on 39.2% of Australian land and 1.3% of sea country.
The sheer combined size of the Indigenous Estate in land and waters and the importance of connection
between Indigenous people and country makes the Indigenous Estate important to the architecture of the
Indigenous Voice. The creation of a ‘Speaking for Country’ advisory group would serve two important,
• Provide Indigenous owners/managers of country with a unified voice to speak about matters of country
• Provide expert advice on the management of country to government, through the National Voice
The ILSC, through its statutory purpose aspires that Indigenous Australians enjoy the rightful entitlements,
opportunities and benefits that the return of country and its management brings. As the owners and managers
of some 57% of the Australian land mass the aspirations, rights, interests and voice of Indigenous Australians
must be front and centre in the social, environmental, economic and cultural landscape.
The ILSC believe that the connectedness of the Indigenous Estate to cultural identity; the prosperity of
Indigenous Australians; and the country’s economic position is such that the owners of the Indigenous Estate
must be recognised as the rightful voice on matters of country and its ongoing management and development,
and can be valuable contributors to the broader Australian society.
The ILSC considers that the benefits of having a dedicated voice on matters of country would extend to all
Indigenous Australians and to all government policy-making decisions and I extend an offer for the ILSC to
assist in developing and maintaining a Speaking for Country advisory group. The ILSC’s national footprint
and understanding of legislation, policies and programs across Australia makes it well placed to assist in this
Should NIAA, the National Co-design Group or the Senior Advisory Group wish to discuss the content of this
letter or the offer to assist in developing a Speaking for Country advisory group, please feel free to contact
me on or email .
Group Chief Executive Officer