PO Box 46, Kingsford NSW 2032
Reply Paid 83380
CANBERRA ACT 2601
30 April 2021
Submission on Interim Report to Australian Government: Indigenous Voice Co-Design
We appreciate this opportunity to make a submission in response to the government’s Interim Co-
Ngalaya (nar-lee-ah) is the peak body representing over 750 First Nations lawyers and law
students across New South Wales. Ngalaya was founded in 1997 to advocate for increased
representation within the legal profession and a more just legal system. Ngalaya’s membership
ranges from our most senior First Nations lawyers to our first and second year law students.
Despite our diversity, we share a common commitment to a fair and equitable legal system for all
We support the law reform envisaged by the Uluru Statement from the Heart: Voice, Treaty and
Truth; and we join the unequivocal and sustained chorus of Indigenous and non-Indigenous
voices calling for a constitutionally-enshrined Voice to Parliament.
The delivery of the Uluru Statement from the Heart was a watershed moment for this nation. The
statement, representing the culmination of an unparalleled consultation of First Peoples, following
decades of activism and years of various reviews, reports and statements on Constitutional
Recognition, called for an end to the structural exclusion of First Nations and delivered a clear
path forward for empowerment and unity.
The path forward requires that a structural promise to listen to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
voices be enshrined in the Australian Constitution. Legislation alone does not provide the
necessary security or certainty for the Voice, as we cannot trust that any legislative promise will
not be broken by the whims of a present-day government, which we saw with the Aboriginal and
Torres Strait Islander Commission and other peak bodies. The historical and continued
transgressions against First Peoples started at colonisation and has endured through the
sustained inequitable treatment of Indigenous peoples, as reflected in our peoples’
overrepresentation in prisons, underrepresentation in universities, professions and other
workforces, and the stagnation of many statistical ‘gaps’ yet to be closed. This must be remedied
by a durable promise from the Australian people given in the form of a referendum.
A referendum such as this would provide all Australians an opportunity to reckon with the past
and to meaningfully engage in rigorous democratic discourse, which is fundamental to Australia’s
system of responsible and representative government. Importantly, a referendum would create a
mandate like no other from the Australian people that Voice to Parliament is the best way forward.
Once the Voice is enshrined, then enabling legislation must be passed within the next term of
Parliament. The enabling legislation will address the complex and practical details for a politically
effective Indigenous Voice.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have a wealth of knowledge informed by our
experiences during the short history of the Australian nation as well as the lessons of our
ancestors since Creation. The Uluru Statement from the Heart was a gift for healing delivered to
the Australian people and an invitation to join First Nations people on the path to a fuller
expression of Australian nationhood. A First Nations Voice enshrined in the Constitution is a
critical first step on that path.
Last week we mourned the 474 deaths of Indigenous people in custody since the handing down
of the 1991 Royal Commission’s Report into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody. While the lack of
government action on the 339 recommendations over the past thirty years is well known, it marks
a timely reminder to the Australian people that the cost of structural exclusion is Indigenous lives.
The time for change must be now.
We look forward to continued dialogues with First Nations people on all issues that affect us.
However, in order for our engagement to be sustained and meaningful, and for our voices to be
heard, a constitutional guarantee is the only mechanism for genuine dialogue and long-lasting,
Ngalaya Indigenous Corporation