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Byron Shire
February 9, 2023

Storylines – The Voice, it’s time

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♦ Budgeram means story in Bundjalung language.

For generations First Nations people have consistently and persistently pointed to self-determination as being essential in making meaningful difference in the lives of our people. If successful it will improve the lives of First Nations people in Australia permanently through enshrined and empowered self-determination.

In 2017 The Referendum Council (federal government) held the National First Nations Constitutional Convention at Uluru to ratify the decision-making processes. The convention delegates drafted, and overwhelmingly endorsed, the Uluru Statement from the Heart. It called for a constitutionally enshrined First Nations Voice to parliament, and a Makarrata commission for a process of treaty-making and truth-telling.

Following the Uluru Statement of the Heart, the Joint Select Committee on Constitutional Recognition reported to federal parliament in 2018 on a referendum for constitutional recognition. The First Nations Voice is aimed at empowering First Nations peoples to participate in the policies and laws that affect them. The intention behind this initial report was to transform the relationship between First Nations peoples and the Australian government and improve the poor socioeconomic outcomes experienced by many First Nations people.

Late Mungo MacCallum and Thomas Mayor hold up the Uluru statement at Brunswick Heads during the campaign of support. Photo Jenny Garrett

Voice to Parliament

A federal referendum is required to change the Constitution and it is essential that the First Nations Voice to parliament is enshrined in the Constitution, so it is not subject to the politics of the day. This means that no government can remove the Voice to parliament without another referendum.

The Albanese government has committed to a referendum in the second half of 2023 to ask Australians: ‘Do you support an alteration to the Constitution that establishes an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice?’ This outcome is the result of decades of tireless engagement and commitment of First Nations people working to change the system to improve the systemic processes of government decision making about First Nations peoples.

Constitutional recognition through a Voice to parliament will enable First Nations people to provide advice to the parliament on policies and projects that impact our lives. Over many years government policies, programs and services have failed to reduce the objectives in ‘closing the gap’. The Voice to parliament will create a systematic process and structural change for First Nations people to participate in policy making. When First Nations voices have agency in informing decisions that impact our communities, families, and lives we will see policy that is made by First Nations people, not about us – true self-determination.

The referendum for constitutional change represents hope for a future where First Nations people can influence decisions made about us; it represents a foundation for a future with better outcomes for all Australians.

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

Debunk the myths

There are many myths circulating aimed at creating fear and misunderstanding. From the Heart is an organisation that has been providing information about the referendum to support Australians to make informed decisions on the referendum. For more information https://fromtheheart.com.au/what-is-a-voice-to-parliament/.

Currently the concept of referendum is enjoying support from both sides of politics, though the points of conflict and confusion around the referendum are on the details of what it is and how it would work. The Indigenous Voice Co-design Process Final Report was presented to parliament in 2021. Led by Marcia Langton and Tom Calma and commissioned by the former Morrison government, it contains 280 pages of detail about how the Voice could operate. The final report of the co-design process outlines an Indigenous Voice made up of two parts that work together; Local and Regional Voices and a National Voice. It recommended a body of 24 members, with two people from each state, territory and the Torres Strait, and a further five members from remote areas of the NT, WA, Queensland, WA and SA as well as a Torres Strait Islander living on the mainland. To date, the report has not been formally adopted by parliament.

For many First Nations people the Voice to parliament is a welcome advancement of our rights. While for many, treaty and truth-telling remain critical for the realisation of justice for First Nations people. In Victoria, treaty is in process; the Treaty Act and Framework outline the pathway to local and state-based treaties for the state. The Yoorrook Commission is a royal commission that is overseeing the process of truth-telling in Victoria and will inform the treaty process. Momentum is also building for treaty negotiations in Victoria, Queensland, the ACT and the NT, where government is supportive of the process.

The Uluru Statement of the Heart was the largest consensus of First Nations people speaking as one for the future of First Nations people. The referendum for constitutional change, the Voice, was one of three elements of this consensus. Truth-telling remains essential for healing, empathy and understanding and treaty is critical for justice, so we can walk into our future in peace. It’s time!


Belle Budden. Photo Tree Faerie.

Author

Belle Budden is a local dubay of Wakka Wakka descent. ‘Living off country I pay my respect to the Arakwal people and the wider Bundjalung people of this land,’ says Belle. 

Belle has worked in community for 15 years, Belle is an artist, dancer and weaver working across many other mediums. Belle is passionate about community and has committed to empowering women and young people through cultural practice. She has worked in government, arts and community organisation to advocate for improved access to land, culture and services. Belle is currently employed at Desert Pea Media as the Projects Manager.


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29 COMMENTS

  1. You are already over represented in parliament about 70%, and have more rights and privileges than anyone else. If you are still falling behind the other 200 ethnic and racial groups in this country, giving you even more power and money is not going to help. But I can get behind ‘Aboriginal only’ versions of things. Buses and drinking fountains spring instantly to mind, shortly followed by suburbs/ghettos.

    • I was in the Republic of South Africa during the Apartheid Regime.
      Not pretty – dividing people by race and skin colour.
      I hope this never happens in OZ.
      Oh! My mistake – it already has!
      It started slowly with the 1967 Referendum and then quickly increased in momentum leading to the present ”Voice”.

    • Christian, “But I can get behind ‘Aboriginal only’ versions of things.”, you right, the genocide, the dispossession, the ongoing destruction of cultural sites, Indigenous Australians still being left behind as evidenced by Closing the Gap are, ‘Aboriginal only’ coming last.
      The Voice, doing something to improve Indigenous Australians situation – we asked, they answered.

      • Then take 3.8% of the land and kick them out of the Commonwealth so they don’t have have to take all our racist goods and cash anymore. If they become a failed state like Zimbabwe, tell them to bitch to the UN cause the White man bank is closed. Most of the original citizens were dragged here against their will, banded from speaking Gaelic, and lived under a hostile ethnicity and their foreign cultural practices, and we did just fine. The way you carry on, it’s as if you are implying there is something wrong with Aboriginals, like they don’t function properly or something.

        • CS, do you put on your white hood and mask before you write racist or does it all come natural to you.

          To better informing yourself isn’t all that hard, you’ve got your trusty keyboard at the ready.
          Here’s a couple of simple lookups to learn yourself up a bit better –
          Get onto ABC Iview and dial up this mornings ‘WugulOra Morning Ceremony 2023’ and listen to the address given by Yvonne Weldon.
          Get onto SBS On Demand and dial up yesterdays ‘Sunset Ceremony 2023’
          Get onto National Indigenous Times and dial up ‘Voice will empower us, not undermine Sovereignty’ by Dr Hannah McGlade 160/1/2023

          And for some music to keep the Indigenous vibes pumping through your veins, dial up Mitch Tambo singing, wait for it…..’You’re The VOICE’, the Indigenous version.

          Always Was Always Will Be Aboriginal Land.

          • Firstly, the KKK were lefty democrats. Secondly, your black Nuremberg rallies are pathos, which have no effect on me. You have to address my points with Logos.

            “Australia arguably saw at least three pre-1788 waves of Aboriginal invasions. These were by the Tasmanians, the Murrayans, and finally the Carpentarians, and with not a trace of ‘Treaty’ at any stage.” – Ian MacDougall

            He misses out the Pygmies tribes who were probably the original inhabitants, but that’s 4 distinct races, from 4 different parts of the world. They had to fight their way in to this country. If you only call out White tribes, you are the racist.

  2. Its called the horrendous effects of living on stolen land Christian…Colonisation continues…Aust. holds the worst Human Rights record in the world. Yet First Nation People ask US ALL to walk with them all. Hence the Statement from the Heart. Colonisers may find this puzzling..understandable…Yet HIGHLY ACHIEVABLE IF WE LOCATE INNER COMPASSION AND A FUTURE vision FOR OUR CHIILDREN.

    • The Aboriginals used to ‘steal’ each others land all the time, as every other tribe in the world did to some other group at some other time. If Aboriginals don’t want to be Australian, and equal to all other Australians, then game on.

    • Save your breath. Response only encourages increasingly extreme and offensive comments that shouldn’t get past any thinking moderator.

      • Quick everyone, they are debating us, shut it down before they show the flaws in our arguments. Someone fire the moderator for not being ideologically pure enough!

        • Don’t kid yourself! When someone doesn’t provide any real arguments or substance – and totally ignores complexities and nuance – it’s just gratuitous.

          We’re not afraid of your “arguments” just the unnecessary hurt that may result from your concept of “free speech “.

          • While claiming that your blatant vilification and demonisation of British people isn’t genocidal talk?

          • Examples please especially where I have advocated genocide of any persuasion.

            This is refuge in diversionary hyperbole and has no relevance to my calling out of comments like: “ But I can get behind ‘Aboriginal only’ versions of things. Buses and drinking fountains spring instantly to mind, shortly followed by suburbs/ghettos.”

            Just a coincidence that this brings to mind the sort of segregation that occurred in the southern states of the USA and South Africa – segregation that treated one particular race as subhuman.

    • Jo !! No race of people’s the world over
      Including indigenous own any lands !!
      we belong to it !! .. Australia holds the worst
      Human rights record in the World Jo ?
      How did you come to that conclusion Jo ?

      • Terrific thanks Barrow, we’ll be around tonight to use the barbie to cook dinner – and if we drink too much we’ll pitch a tent in the back yard. Do you have a pool by any chance? I need to know whether to pack my cossie?

  3. The Australian Government asked First Nations People what they wanted and after regional dialogues held around the nation, First Nations People gave Australia their reply in 2017, The Uluru Statement from the Heart.
    Right on cue, the resistant Liberal Party and National Party said, not having it with the usual makings up scare campaign, just like they did with The Mabo ( Eddie Koiki Mabo ) Decision and Native Title.
    latterly, it Peter Dutton and his ‘more detail needed’ attempt at derailing of a successful Referendum vote.
    Calling the Peter, the detail is following the Professors Langton and Calma Voice co-design Final Report that was taken to Cabinet when you were a government minister. Maybe you missed doing the required reading the first time round, time to catch with a second attempt at required reading.

  4. If you do not make a genuine attempt to understand and address what those with genuine concerns about tthe voice proposal, rather than dismissing them out of hand as fear mongering, then the divisiveness will continue. Address their specific concerns in a intelligent way and you may just find some of those with concerns will be persuaded to vote yes.
    To just lazily call those opposed as fear mongers feeds the division.

  5. Perhaps ‘It’s Time’ is not the best part-title for a ‘Voice’ advocacy article ?
    I remember 1974 with 15% inflation and vast regions given over to aboriginal groups under Labour.
    But many people (probably including the author) are too young to appreciate or remember lessons of the past.
    So – here we go again…

    • Is was around in 1974, I don’t remember, “vast regions given over to aboriginal groups under Labour.”
      Perhaps you can help us out with the details.

      And “Labour”, I’m guessing you actually meant ‘Labor’ as in Australian Labor Party?

        • I was waiting for Rob L to reply to me and supply the requested details about his writing of 1974 and vast regions given over to aboriginal groups under Labour ( sic).
          But since you decided to stick your beak in without supplying the detail, have another shot at it…calling the Christian with the details of 1974 and “vast regions given over to aboriginal groups”.

          • The Aborigines Act 1971 provided for the conduct of reserves for Aborigines and for the admission of people who wished to reside in such areas….A person was not admitted to a reserve unless entitled under this Act to reside there.”

            National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974
            Aboriginal Heritage Regulations 1974
            Aboriginal Relics Act 1975

            “In December 1976 the federal parliament passed the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act. It was the first legislation in Australia that enabled First Nations peoples to claim land rights for Country where traditional ownership could be proven.”

          • Christian Steinberg, you’ve not addressed my original request of Rob L, to give details of his claim that in 1974 ” “vast regions given over to aboriginal groups under Labour”.

            Rob L’s claim, that vast regions given over to aboriginal people in 1974; it either did happen in which case Rob L and yourself would be able to provide the details of these “vast regions”; or it didn’t happen in which case Rob L and yourself could just admit it, that you just made stuff up.

            But thanks so much for that list that you provided, it can be filed away as irrelevant.

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