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July 6, 2022

First Nations Voice proposal heads to Local Govt Conference

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Thomas Mayor in Brunswick Heads in 2018 promoting Uluru Statement From The Heart. Photo supplied.

Could local government provide an opportunity for Indigenous Australians to have the kind of active, meaningful voice in government that is envisaged in the Uluru Statement from the Heart?

This is the question Byron Council has put forward for debate at this year’s NSW Local Government Conference, to be held February 28 to March 2.

The Uluru Statement, which calls for the establishment of a First Nation’s Voice to Parliament, to be enshrined in the Australian constitution, has yet to be adopted at either the State or federal level.

A common argument among those who oppose such a change, is that it would require a significant change to the Australian Constitution that would be difficult to implement.

Byron Shire Coucillor Mark Swivel.

At last week’s Council meeting, newly-elected Independent councillor, Mark Swivel, proposed that Local Government NSW develop an advisory body model for a First Nations Voice to Council for local Indigenous communities, based on the vision in the Uluru Statement.

‘One of the obstacles to the campaign for the Uluru Statement from the Heart is the attempt to alter the constitution,’ Cr Swivel told the meeting. 

‘I thought there was a strong case for an idea that begins at the opposite end of the political structure, particularly given the interest in this community.

‘The proposal is a structural idea that each LGA, in their own way, might be interested in supporting.’

Cr Swivel said the model could involve the creation of an advisory body or consultative committee within each local council.  

The structure, terms of reference and membership for the First Nations Voice to Council would be determined by consultation with local Indigenous community stakeholders including Local Aboriginal Land Councils, native title holders and elders in conjunction with local councils. 

All councillors voted in favour of the proposal, except Councillor Alan Hunter, who argued that it would not contribute to solving any local issues. 

‘We’ve got 30 months [in this Council term] – we haven’t got time to mess around,’ Cr Hunter said.

‘This isn’t going to do anything for housing, anything for the impact of COVID on the local economy… anything for beach erosion.’

Cr Swivel and other supporting councillors acknowledged the work of the Arakwal Memorandum of Understanding Advisory Committee.

The proposal will now be put forward as a motion for debate at this year’s NSW Local Government Conference. Byron Council representatives at the conference will be Mayor Lyon, and Crs Swivel and Balson.

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  1. If this was a serous proposal it would be worth deliberating on seriously. If it was a serious proposal. I agree with Cr Hunter. Cr Hunter thinks that the proposal is “messing around”. If the proposal has been stopped at the Federal and State end of Government then what chance has Local government got? Buckleys.

  2. Emily, the Uluru Statement has 3 elements – Voice Treaty, Truth. The Voice is for a voice to parliament via Constitutional Referendum, a process which is entirely under the Federal Government to bring forward. Treaty, is again a process which is entirely under the Federal Government to bring forward. But Truth is where local Councils, with their residents, can progress the broad understanding on where we sit as a country regarding our indigenous population, with that broader understanding informing not only local first nation issues, but also assisting in creating the broad populations supportive involvement in the hoped for Constitutional Referendum. There is much merit in bringing all Councils on board to consider where we have come from, what are the local issues and what sort of a Nation we will be in the future

  3. Fake Arakwal have stolen an error of Ngarakwal from other Aboriginal families to get Native Title over Byron Bay, their claimed Bundjalung identity is just what white linguists called the language, Yugambeh in QLD and all the money has been wasted for two fake Nations in the one language group. Mark Swivel needs to learn about the scandals of the entire failures of the fake Arakwal ILUAs.

    • James, you are right that the local Byron mob used the name of their specific Arakwal Bundjalung dialect for their Arakwal Indigenous Land Use Agreement. It was an appropriate use to designate the Arakwal clan families, that are identified as a separate clan in the Bundjalung Nation that covers all the different Bundjalung clans from aprox Grafton to over the Qld border ( and the Arakwal clan is recognised by the local Land Councils). In terms of who are the correct mob, the Federal Native Title body sat with all of the Aboriginal families in the Byron Shire three times. The Arakwal demonstrated that their unbroken family linkage went back to before white occupation. I cant speak for the other mobs, but the Arakwal have demonstrated an unbroken connection. Aboriginal politics can be worse than white politics, and there has been a lot of jealousy and other mob who just want a part of what the Arakwal have achieved after the Arakwal spent 15 years pursuing their claim of connection in the face of white bureaucracy that really didnt want to.
      The Arakwal ILUA’s were absolutely correct. I dont know why the other claims from others wasnt recognised, but neither do you. But the Arakwal have demonstrated their claim and the subsequent ILUA is just and appropriate. Sorry but you sound like just another white person that is taking someones side without knowing the facts.

  4. I think it’s a great initiative and definitely a step in the right direction.
    Let’s do a TREATY FIRST, before we do anything else?
    Simply put, it could be 1. A recognition of continual custodial connection. 2. A commitment with tribal Elders to come under Natural Law and the Law of the Elders. 3. Empowering the mob by asking for ‘adoption’ and for us to perhaps come into the Elders Circle – with some guidelines for protocols included.
    These are just suggestions for discussion, which would then be put to the mob in terms of ‘…we would like to do this. What do you think?…”
    The central tenet is to now honour and empower the current day custodians so as to help bring back some balance before the wisdom is lost completely.
    I am convinced that the new initiatives for a reset community MUST begin at these grassroots levels.

  5. I agree with binnah, let’s make them officially surrender first. Then we will talk.
    A special council to represent the interests of the descendants of those who founded and built the Commonwealth of Australia would be welcome.

  6. Although accommodation of the Uluru Statement (or something similar) into Australia’s constitution is long overdue, it may be better for Local Government to get ITSELF recognised in this constitution first. There have been two referenda already on the recognition of Local Government in Australia’s constitution (1974 and 1988), both failed dismally.


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