I make this submission to express my strong support for a constitutionally enshrined Voice to Parliament even though this this factor it is not part of the terms of reference of the advisory group, it is fundamental to the respect, success and legitimacy of the body. It is not a third chamber, it is advisory in its nature but to undertake its role effectively, it must have certainty and cannot be fearful to express its true opinion because the threat of being disbanded hangs over it.
Indigenous Australians have worked hard and been very generous in developing the proposal of the Voice to Parliament . Broader Australia needs to listen to Indigenous people to hear what process, policies and laws will work for them. The process of developing the Statement from the Heart was thorough, inclusive, patient and the most effective consultation of Indigenous people about their views of a way forward that we have ever had and it was run and developed by Indigenous people to hear Indigenous people and to share those views with the broader nation. We cannot waste all of that work, thought, effort and generosity. We now have the chance to build something effective and wonderful for the whole nation that will help to fully recognise, support and protect the right of Indigenous people to true equality, fundamental well being and a level of self determination. It goes without saying ensuring the rights of Indigenous people ensures that Indigenous culture, which is such a valuable and precious part of our nation, is not lost but can thrive to the benefit of all.
Broader Australia has taken too long to understand the incredible damage non-Indigenous settlement, laws and policies have had on Indigenous people. Past destruction and damage cannot be undone but the Voice gives us the opportunity to do better going forward. We should embrace this opportunity to adopt a process that provides for the voices of Indigenous people to be heard in respect of their rights after years of ineffective, discriminatory and oppressive policies and laws. Democracies are not capable of ensuring the rights of small minority groups without taking additional steps such as the Voice allows, for the voices of those groups to be heard. A population of 3% has little chance of influencing policy through the traditional democratic processes alone. Indeed our country's continuing failure to properly address the disadvantage endured by Indigenous people in Australia demonstrates the inadequacy of relying on the democratic process to ensure the fundamental the rights and interests of all groups are upheld.
The make up of the Voice is a matter to be determined by Indigenous communities but I am strongly of the view that all proposed legislation needs to be referred and the Voice can determine if it impacts in a way which requires its review and comment. Australia's lawmakers have demonstrated time and again that they are often ignorant of the impact of their laws and policies on Indigenous communities - often they are indirect , or unintended but without lived experience lawmakers are not best placed to perceive how laws might impact. There might be many times when the Voice does not have any comment or advice but it should determine relevance, not Parliament.
The constitution of the Voice, in terms of who will sit, their terms and how they are nominated to the Voice, is a matter for Indigenous communities to determine, but must it be properly resourced recognising the breadth and diversity of Indigenous Australia that the Voice is representing.
I look forward to a constitutionally enshrined Voice to Parliament that will enhance Australia as a whole.