, Melba ACT 2615
25 April 2021
Dear Co-Design Body
Submission for Co-design process
I am 76 years old and was born in Australia of parents from Latvia who came to Australia
in 1928 and 1929 respectively, before formal migration programs. My parents had a hard
time as newcomers, struggling during the period of the Great Depression as they
learned English and found whatever work they could, including itinerant work in mines
and factories and enterprises such as eucalyptus extraction and home-based work such
as dressmaking and alterations while bringing up a family. They embraced the
opportunities afforded and encouraged their children to study and work hard to improve
and contribute to Australian society. There were plenty of insults about wogs and foreign
accents over this period but there was also kindness and opportunity that rewarded hard
work. As the decades passed Australians grew an appreciation, both through experience
at home and with greater travel opportunities, of diversity in culture and of the moral
courage and strength demonstrated by those who had survived terrible persecutions in
other countries. Australia is the richer for having received and welcomed people from
many lands, people who give their allegiance wholeheartedly to Australia for having
given them a new start in life.
Why do you think the Uluru Statement from the Heart is important?
To me the Uluru Statement from the Heart is an earnest, beautiful, non-vindictive call
from indigenous Australians to be accorded true recognition, respect and opportunities
for a better future due to the peoples of a culture that has existed in this land for 60,000
years. All Australians ought to embrace this long heritage and be prepared to be truthful
about the violence and disempowerment the first Australians have experienced and
continue to experience as part of white settlement. I was utterly shocked at the instant
dismissal of the Statement from the Heart by our politicians, their excuses offered in
relation to the nature of the Voice sought and the apparent political intention to delay/
'filibuster' achievement of a First Nations Voice enshrined in the Constitution. I am also
shocked that for so long we have recognised that people being accepted for Australian
citizenship are deserving of rights and opportunities that we continue to deny our first
Why do you think it's important to enshrine the Voice to Parliament in the Constitution,
rather than include it only in legislation?
Legislation can be changed by Governments, and there are plenty of past examples of
Aboriginal advisory mechanisms being dumped by Governments arguing that the
mechanisms have been ineffective. This is the opportunity to be serious about the future
of indigenous peoples. Indigenous people are serious about finding the best Voice and
seeking the approval of the Australian people as a whole to incorporate that Voice in the
Constitution by supporting a referendum specifically enshrining the Voice.
How could a Voice to Parliament improve the lives of your community?
A Voice to Parliament could ensure that all policy proposals, whether directed at all
Australians or specifically on behalf of indigenous communities, included prior
consultation with Aboriginal people as stakeholders so that the likely impact of proposals
could be outlined in Cabinet Decision papers in much the same way as the views of
other stakeholders are currently presented to Cabinet.
Why is it important for Indigenous people to have a say in the matters that affect them?
Indigenous people are Australians, the first Australians and have a right to enjoy the
opportunities and benefits afforded to all Australians. The Closing the Gap reports and
our failure to implement so many of the recommendations of the Royal Commission into
Aboriginal Deaths in Custody are testimony to the need for a better way to improve the
lives of indigenous people. I was a public servant for many years, involved in the
introduction of the Aboriginal Secondary Grants Scheme, Abstudy, and various other
initiatives to help indigenous people back in the 1970s. Even then Aboriginal people
were calling for a self-determination approach but the various advisory roles accorded to
them by governments were ineffective and short-lived. In recent years, and in particular
through the Covid-19 challenge, we have seen examples of better outcomes being
achieved with local involvement in both health, education and justice systems.
What a wonderful opportunity we have now as a nation to really come of age and
partner with the first Australians and recognise we are all Australians together. My
personal hope is that a First Nations Voice may be enshrined in the Constitution in the
near future and that in the event of Australia becoming a Republic after the reign of
Queen Elizabeth II we will be able to be truly proud of an Australian identity that
recognises our various struggles and embraces us all.