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Submission Number
The Central Coast (Darkinjung) Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community
Submission date
Main Submission Automated Transcript

Interim Report to the Australian Government
Executive Summary

The Central Coast Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community is very
pleased to be providing a response to the Indigenous Voice Co-Design
Process: Interim Report (Interim Report) to the Australian Government.

The Central Coast and our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (Aboriginal)
community are a distinct and mature region with strong regional
governance, Traditional Owners, cultural custodians, community protocols
and structures in place. For too long we have been overlooked by all tiers
of government for our neighbouring communities/regions (i.e., Sydney
and Newcastle) despite the Central Coast having a large and fast growing
population. Our community is made up of an estimated 12,485 Aboriginal
people comprising a geographical footprint of 1,681 square kilometres, a
geography larger than Canberra, yet this is where all decisions continue to
be made.

It is vital that we understand and acknowledge the complex trauma and
intergenerational trauma needs of our people. This includes the impacts of
removal from family, family violence and breakdown, cultural dislocation,
discrimination, and the ongoing social disadvantage that has been
bestowed upon us by successive governments. We believe that processes
such as this further compound and contribute to the ongoing trauma of
our people and must be acknowledged.

Our community refuses to sit on the periphery, being mere passengers
on this journey. Our community has expressed deep despondency in all
layers of government to address the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait
Islander people truly and adequately across this sovereign nation. We ask
the members of the Co-Design process to consider this submission in its
entirety, ensuring that this process is not merely a symbolic gesture that
leads to further rejection and disparity, which could be seen as a reflection
of past advisory committees.

Our region overwhelmingly supports the call made by the representatives
of the Uluru Statement from the Heart, including the delegates from the
Central Coast region through their call for Constitutional Enshrinement.

We are a proud, united, and mature region who have collectively engaged
to provide the following response to the Co-Design members on the
Interim Report. This submission represents the collective views of our
community in relation to the issues raised in the Interim Report and its
long-lasting impact.

Community Members

Rachael Philpott Suzanne Naden Avron Lincoln
Rodney Bourke Terri Bell Kate Kelleher
Arki Webb Gary Field Cassie Wheeler
Brooke Sales Carissa Cook Vickie Parry
Todd Welsh Brooke Harb Amy Parry
Adina Duncan Jodie Green Kim Brennan
Belinda Field Elaine Chapman Kim Anderson
Lindsay Hardy Lee Gavenlock Megan Cain
Kerrie-Ann Cook Nerida Danisetties Michelle Nixon
Wayne Cook Jessica Wheeler Sally-Anne Brown
Ross Ward Rebecca Richardson Shantelle C
Wendy Pawley Jon Captain Webb Simone Alvarez
Sharyn Bailey Lyn Lawrie Tanika Harris
Bronwyn Chambers Danielle Captain-Webb Aprill Small
Madelene Davy Mandy Shaw Geoff Scott
Allan Beale Jason May Bobbi Murray
Jodi Shannon BJ Duncan Breannon Field
Lesley Whitelaw Christine Hammond Stacy Parry
Jacob Smeaton Nerida Blair Debra Schleger
Josef Graf-cooper Chris Thew Mick Pittman
Rowena Lawrie Toni Carew Jainarri Smith
Barry Williams Rob Waters Thomas Dwyer
Juanita Duncan Jazlie Davis
Kylie Cassidy Fergus Davis

“ The voice to parliament would be a representative body
giving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders a say in law
and policy affecting them. Enshrined in the constitution
it would become an institution of lasting significance for

First Nations and all Australians.


Central Coast Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community
Submission to the Indigenous Voice Co-Design Process:
Interim Report to the Australia Government

Our Region: Darkinjung Country -
The NSW Central Coast Aboriginal Community 4

Local and Regional Voice response – Darkinjung focus areas 6

Sovereignty 7

What makes us different? 8

Empowered Communities and Local Decision Making 9

Representative structures: building on existing arrangements 10

Principles-based framework 12

Constitutional Enshrinement 14

Treaty 14

Data Sovereignty 15

Conclusion 15
Our Region: Darkinjung Country - The NSW Central
Coast Aboriginal Community

1. Darkinjung Country (The Central Coast) of New South Wales is home
to one of Australia’s largest, youngest, and fastest growing populations
of Aboriginal people. At the 2016 Census, the Central Coast region
was home to an Aboriginal population of 12,485 people, or 3.8% of
the region’s total population (327,736). The population is currently
estimated to be significantly larger. One of the defining features of
the Aboriginal population is the low median age, with 56% of the
population surveyed in the last census under the age of 24.

2. To give context to these figures, the Aboriginal population on the
Central Coast (12,485) is greater than the populations of nationally
recognised Aboriginal regional communities including Cape York
(9,453); the West Kimberley (9,531); and North-East Arnhem Land
(9,555). This also means that the Central Coast has the third largest
Aboriginal community in NSW after Western Sydney (18,826) and
Illawarra Wingecarribe (14,807). Indeed, there are very few regions
across Australia with a higher Aboriginal population than the Central

3. The Darkinjung (Central Coast) region is home to the Darkinyung
Aboriginal nation. The Darkinjung Aboriginal community is diverse
and inclusive. That is, Aboriginal peoples from across Australia call this
Country home. The Darkinjung region is bound by the Pacific Ocean to
the east, the Hawkesbury River to the south, the Watagan Mountains to
the west and the southern end of Lake Macquarie to the north. It has
one of the highest densities of culturally significant sites in Australia,
with over 7,000 registered sites.

4. Population characteristics and growth:
The Growth of Aboriginal and or Torres Strait Islander Population for the
Central Coast, 2011-2016 = 3,470 people (38%) – according to the ABS the
population is expected to continually grow, and at rates higher than the
national average.
The Central Coast Aboriginal has nearly doubled since 2006, reflecting
the growth in the region. This growth is projected to continue over the
next decade as the Central Coast region continues to grow becoming
one of the largest Aboriginal populations in Australia.

• 2006: 6,455 (2.1% of population)
• 2011: 9,021 (2.8%) +2,566
• 2016: 12,485 (3.8%) +3,464

Aboriginal and or Torres Strait Islander Population
by SAS 2016

0 200 400 600 800 1000 1200 1400
Avoca Beach - Copacabana
Box Head - MacMasters Beach
Calga - Kulnura
Erina - Green Point
Gosford - Springfield
Kincumber - Picketts Valley
Niagara Park - Lisarow
Point Clare - Koolewong
Saratoga - Davistown
Terrigal - North Avoca
Umina - Booker Bay - Patonga
Wamberal - Forresters Beach
Woy Woy - Blackwall
Bateau Bay - Killarney Vale
Blue Haven - San Remo
Budgewoi - Buff Point - Halekulani
Chittaway Bay - Tumbi Umbi
Gorokan - Kanwal - Charmhaven
Jilliby - Yarramalong
Lake Munmorah - Mannering Park
Ourimbah - Fountaindale
Summerland Point - Gwandalan
The Entrance
Toukley - Norah Head
Tuggerah - Kangy Angy
Warnevale - Wadalba

879 - 1,245

644 - 879

383 - 644

212 - 383

87 - 212

Local and Regional Voice Response – Darkinjung
Focus Areas

• There needs to be the maximum number of regions considered across
the Country for the Voice Co-Design Framework. Currently, the Interim
Report proposes a maxim of 35 regions whereas, we believe that this
is not nearly enough, and it must be greater than 35 to ensure that
regions like the Central Coast (Darkinjung Country) are considered and

• The two-fold population growth in the region since 2006 reinforces
that growth in the last 20 years has established the Central Coast as a
standalone Aboriginal community. Since the time of ATSIC (comprising
35 regional partnerships), the Central Coast has grown to be one of the
largest, fastest growing Aboriginal populations in the country, with
aligned leadership, a regional governance framework and extent state
and federal Government engagement.

• A large majority of the Central Coast Aboriginal Community believe that
Constitutional enshrinement is critical so that that this is not abolished
at the whim of government.

• Members of the Central Coast community also call for the
Commonwealth to engage in further meaningful dialogues in relation
to Treaty which will lead to formal, place-based agreements between
the Government and Aboriginal people.

• There needs to be equal representation of genders, Youth and Elders –
neither group are able to make informed decisions for each other.

• Regions need to implement their own processes for selection of their
representative, ensuring clear criteria are being met and are aligned
with the principles-based framework.

• Geography and proximity to larger metropolitan areas must be
considered as regional groupings are not as linear or connected as it
is regularly assumed (i.e., The Central Coast in relation to Sydney and


Our sovereignty as Aboriginal peoples has never been ceded. Each
sovereign Nation has its own cultural authority based on specific protocol
and customs informed by Country 1. According to Reid:

“the unfinished business of Australia’s story is recognition of the
First Nations. This sovereignty is the [lore] that links us to our land:
it is intertwined in the landscapes and waterways that traverse
all points beneath the southern sky. It is a spiritual notion: [v]
prescribed in cultural protocol, it transcends Western laws.’ … ‘Our
sovereignty is not defined by white systems, and no white law can
extinguish First Nations sovereignty”. 2

Our sovereignty acknowledges our role as custodians of this Country
since time immemorial. An honest narrative about Australia’s story,
truth-telling is fundamental if we are to identify and understand the
ongoing dimensions of our sovereignty and to build the capacity of
our communities to exercise our sovereign rights. This will require a
‘reimagination of the architecture of power and how it functions’. We must
continue to build and expand the scope of this sovereignty. We remain
sovereign peoples. The Darkinjung Country community articulate our
sovereign right and acknowledges our voices, in fact our diversity of voices
within this Country.

We privilege Indigenous Knowing’s and, in this context, and we will
not provide a single, uniform framework for a way forward as Western
Knowledge dictates. In recognising and celebrating Darkinjung
community’s diversity our submission presents our voices in a way that
honours a “bundle of possibilities”. 3 Any reform must go beyond platitudes
that embody some sort of recognition that Aboriginal and Torres Strait
Islander peoples receive some sort of ’benevolent gift for which we should
be grateful’ 4. According to Jonas (2002) “we must stop asking government
to give us sovereignty. It is not the governments to give … you must claim
it, define it and exercise it. The treaty process is then ‘the recognition
space’ for the ongoing exercise of our sovereignty”. 5 Our voices in the form
presented here, reflect our sovereignty.

“This needs to be reflective of sovereignty and that we’re not asking
for a voice, we’re asking the Government to listen.” 6

“Country/Countrys is the term we have chosen to use to describe Aboriginal Countrys, spaces and places. It is capitalised and pluralised
to give respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander diversities. The term Country embodies ecological systems so much a part of
Indigenous Knowings; it is not just limited to geographical space and place. We choose to spell the plural differently to embrace the
distinctiveness of concepts.” (Blair .N. 2015. p.xvi)
Reid. T. The heart of seeding First Nations sovereignty. Our giilangs, our stories. https://www.griffithreview.com/articles/the-heart-of-
Hokari. M. (2011). Gurindji Journey. Honolulu. University of Hawaii Press
Tony McAvoy Building our House in It’s Our Country. Indigenous Arguments for Meaningful Constitutional Recognition and Reform. Eds
Megan Davis & Marcia Langton. Melbourne University Press 2016. p.54
Jonas. W. Recognising 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
Presented at ATSIC National Treaty Conference, Tuesday 27 August 2002
Community consultation and feedback notes.

What makes us different?

We have one Local Aboriginal Land Council (Darkinjung), one Aboriginal
Medical Service (Yerin Eleanor Duncan Aboriginal Health Service), one
Local Health District and one Local Government area.

All of this is supported by the fact that we are both an Empowered
Communities Region and a Local Decision Making Region which means
that we are the only place to have been working with both State and
Commonwealth Government on a coordinated reform journey in this
way for the past 5 years. To our knowledge, we are the only region with a
structure in the country engaged in formal dialogues with both the State
and Commonwealth Governments in this way. After 5 years of work, we
believe that our region has trialled, implemented, and learnt valuable
lessons that we can share across Australia.

We have one ...

Communities Region

Local Aboriginal Local Decision
Land Council Making Region
Darkinjung NSW Government

Aboriginal Health Local Government
Services Area
Yerin Eleanor Central Coast
Duncan Council

Local Health

Empowered Communities and Local
Decision Making

Through Barang Regional Alliance, this community has been successfully
delivering on Empowered Communities and Local Decision Making
for a period of 5 years. As a result of this, the community has seen
significant success in the following areas: data access, mapping services
and funding streams, engaging with the community to co-ordinate
planning, developing our regional priorities, tripartite joint decision
making about policies and funding relevant to the Central Coast region
and then implementing with the support of both New South Wales and
Commonwealth Governments. These things offer the type of opportunities
for a comprehensive regional approach to Closing the Gap on Aboriginal
disparity as envisaged in the Empowered Communities design model.

The Interim Report suggests that, New South Wales Local Decision Making
and Empowered Communities regions are already working in a way similar
to that envisaged for Local and Regional Voices and will be well positioned
to transition to local and regional voice arrangements (noting they
currently do not incorporate all tiers of government).7

Our community is one of the ten funded Local Decision Making sites in
NSW, as well as being one of ten Empowered Communities’ regions in
Australia. To our knowledge, we are the only community in the country
with a regional governance structure, engaged in formal dialogues with
both State and Commonwealth Government in this way. We believe that
this further demonstrates the Central Coast as an ideal location for a
regional structure.

This is further supported by the Interim Report’s comments regarding
places existing mechanisms/governance arrangements. We believe that
there would be an opportunity to enhance or expand what is in place by
working with our community.8

https://voice.niaa.gov.au/sites/default/files/2021-02/indigenous-voice-… page 93.

Representative Structures: Building on
Existing Arrangements

Importantly, the Interim Report on the Indigenous Voice to government
states that there would be no set structure for a Local and Regional Voice.
Suggesting that different regions would be able to design or set their
structures based on what works for their local community.

Currently, for the Darkinjung community, an example of a “structure” is
through the representative model of Barang Regional Alliance. Largely, our
community believes that this structure incorporates the principles-based
framework and, with work, could transition and build to meet the needs of
the Voice arrangements.

Barang is a not-for-profit public company limited by guarantee and
registered with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission
(ASIC) on 26 August 2015.

Barang Regional Alliance Ltd (‘Barang’) made a number of changes to
its constitution in March 2019 to broaden and strengthen community
representation and accountability at the Board level. These changes
included the creation of two new independent and two new Youth Board
Appointed Director positions on the Board.

Currently, Barang has Member Appointed Directors, Independent Board
Appointed Directors, Youth Board Appointed Directors, Optional Member
Elected Board Observers and Optional Associate Membership.

“At the local level governance and partnership arrangement is
on an opt-in basis, involving all key local organisations and
encouraging broad participation in the process. It is through
having such arrangements in place that people can decide who
represents them.” 9

Further to this, in accordance with what is expected to be detailed in
the final report, we have structures in place regarding codes of conduct,
confidentiality and non-disclosure agreements.

Barang Regional Alliance Governance Manual.





Constituted government structure with a collective of six
Aboriginal organisations located on the Central Coast.
Our membership is inclusive of associate membership,
independent Directors and Youth Directors.



Notable Comments

There are members of the local Aboriginal Community who do not believe
that Barang Regional Alliance is the most appropriate structure.

“We have considered that our community already has lots of
avenues for a voice e.g., land councils, regional alliances etc.” 10

Community consultation and feedback notes.

Principles-Based Framework

The Principles-Based Framework is an approach that seeks to provide
consistent guidance to the process overall. Whilst the report states that
this allows for flexibility and for Local and Regional Voices to be designed
and operate in ways tailored to specific cultural contexts, geography,
opportunities, priorities and aspirations, some members of our community
have raised concerns that the framework for ‘a voice’ will be dictated to us
by the Government. Suggesting that we will still have to work within that
framework, so it will still be the Government telling us exactly how we have
to operate.

Our community shares a common concern that the ‘framework’ is already
set out and if we do not follow the ‘framework’ we will not be heard.


These guide Local and Regional Voices, government arrangements, and
the partnership interface arrangements.

• Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians have greater
control and voice in their own affairs – a self-determination
approach. Governments shift to an enabling role. Arrangements are
culturally safe.

Inclusive Participation
• All have the opportunity to have a say, including traditional owners
and historical residents. Arrangements are broad-based and support
respectful engagement across a diversity of voices – individuals,
communities and organisations.

Cultural Leadership
• Voice arrangements strongly connect to cultural leaders in a way
that is appropriate for each community and region. Communities
determine how this principle interacts with the Inclusive
Participation principle in their context.

Community-led Design
• Voice arrangements are determined by communities according
to local context, history and culture. Community ownership gives
authorisation and mandate to voice structures. Communities
determine implementation pace; governments support and
enable this.


Principles-Based Framework (continued)

Non-duplication and Links with Existing Bodies
• Voice structures build on and leverage existing approaches wherever
possible with some adaptation and evolution as needed to improve
the arrangements. Voices will link to other existing bodies, not
duplicate or undermine their role.

Respectful Long-term Partnerships
• Government and voices commit to mutually respectful and enduring
partnership, supported by structured interface. Governments are
responsive and proactive. Governments support building capacity
and expertise of voice structures and implement system changes.

Transparency and Accountability
• Governments and voice structures adhere to clear protocols and
share responsibility and accountability, including downward to

Capability Driven
• Voice arrangements match the unique capabilities and strengths
of each community and region. Governments and communities
both build their capability to work in partnership and support local
leadership development.

Data and Evidence-based Decision Making
• Data is shared between governments and communities to enable
evidence based advice and shared decision making. Communities
are supported to collect and manage their own data.

-13 -
Constitutional Enshrinement

The Central Coast Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community believes
that the exclusion of Constitutional discussion is a farce on the Co-Design
process and therefore purposely excludes the views of many Aboriginal
and Torres Islander people.
According to the Gilbert + Tobin submission to the Joint Select Committee
on Constitutional Recognition relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait
Islander Peoples (2018), they felt that constitutionalising a First Nations
Voice would support Australia, as a nation, to reconcile with the facts of
its history by providing long overdue, formal recognition of the status of
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the first Australians:

“When the Australian Constitution was drafted, Indigenous
Australians had no role in its formation and no place in the
Constitution except by way of exclusion. Constitutionally enshrining
The Voice would address this manifest wrong and provide proper
and respectful recognition of the place of Aboriginal and Torres
Strait Islander Peoples in our nation.” 12

You will see as detailed throughout this submission that our community
believes that this is a rightful and practical step to including and sustaining
the voices of our people.

** There are members of the local Aboriginal Community who do not
believe that Constitutional Enshrinement addresses community needs.


Darkinjung community voices vary on the issue of treaties. The bundle
of possibilities is again acknowledged. Those voices advocating for
treaties acknowledge the importance of multiple treaties negotiated with
individual sovereign nations. Such treaties must according to McAvoy
demonstrate equity and fairness through a negotiated framework and
minimum outcomes.13 Any treaty process must recognise the ongoing
dimensions of sovereignty.

Tony McAvoy Building our House in It’s Our Country. Indigenous Arguments for Meaningful Constitutional Recognition and Reform. Eds

Megan Davis & Marcia Langton. Melbourne University Press 2016. p.52

Data Sovereignty

A lack of data and access to data for Aboriginal economic participation has
been identified as a key deficiency in the Closing the Gap framework.14 The
data challenge is acknowledged by Government, but solutions have not
yet been implemented. Our region supports the need of data sovereignty
and acknowledges the establishment of the Central Coast Aboriginal
Data Network, Ngiyang Wayama (‘We All Tell’ in Darkinyung language)
– with the support of the ABS, AIHW, the University of Melbourne’s
Indigenous Data Network, the University of Newcastle’s Wollotuka
Institute, Empowered Communities Central Team, Jawun, Bara Barang,
GNL, Mingaletta, NAISDA Dance College, Yerin Eleanor Duncan Aboriginal
Health Centre, The Glen Centre and Barang Regional Alliance.


The Central Coast of New South Wales, Darkinjung Country, is a distinct
and mature region with strong regional and cultural governance,
Traditional Owners, cultural custodians, community protocols and
structures in place. This region is the fastest growing Aboriginal region in
Australia, with a rapidly increasing youth demographic.

We do not support a minimalist or purely symbolic constitutional
amendment. Constitutional recognition must be substantive and practical.

The Darkinjung community on the Central Coast of New South Wales
must not be overlooked. We believe that the oversight of our region could
be the first of many cascading blows to follow if we are not adequately
represented and our voices heard.

We are firm and resolute on our position on the Central Coast as a stand-
alone region. We must not be clustered with neighbouring regions for
mere financial benefit, having our voices and self-determination watered

The members involved in the consultations and construction of this
submission welcome the opportunity for the Co-Design groups to further
engage with us to discuss this submission in more detail.