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Byron Shire
March 25, 2023

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Warren Mundine, representing Advance Australia, and the ‘No’ case, recently proposed that instead of having a First Nations peoples’ body constitutionally established, there should be a change to the preamble to the Constitution to symbolically acknowledge both First Nations peoples and migrants in that preamble. 

This generated strong criticism, particularly in respect of the addition of reference to migrants in what has been a process to acknowledge First Nations peoples’ disadvantage. It’s not helpful to talk of the hardship and contributions of recent arrivals when trying to deal with the long-identified and specific disadvantages suffered by indigenous Australians. It’s just inappropriate and mischievous.

I note that Advance Australia seems to have had a change of heart on this linking of the migrant and First Nations peoples’ experiences because, as recently as Thursday, 4 February 2023, Mr Mundine is reported to have said: ‘(I) now believe it should not form part of the suggested preamble’.

Mr Mundine has long advocated that a single national Voice is not capable of representing all First Nations and prefers treaties with individual First Nations, as only ‘each First Nation can speak for Indigenous Australians in its region’. That is ‘only Bundjalung can speak for Bundjalung country and only Yolngu can speak for Yolngu country’.

While the Commonwealth can make laws ‘for the people of any race’ under our Constitution and this power is usually viewed as being to make laws for the benefit of the people of ‘any race’, it is probably a stretch to view this as equivalent to enabling a widespread treaty-making process with, for example, traditional owners or individuals. But if such treaty-making were preceded by, say, a referendum that empowered a representative body to speak on behalf of traditional owners, then it would be a much more secure basis for treaty-making. 

The practical difficulty is that there are 500 separate Indigenous nations in Australia (and then the clans) and 150 different Indigenous languages so it’s much better to get to treaty-making after an acceptable representative body is established via constitutional change.

Messrs Calma and Langton, leaders of the constitutional Voice-design process, have proposed a network of regional Voice bodies (from 35 areas Australia-wide) to [attend to] issues of local communities and contribute members to form the national Voice. In this Calma/Langton model there would be 24 national members, it would be gender-balanced, and members would serve for a fixed term.

Such a national Voice would have to work on representative principles, with members being elected and decisions being arrived at by vote. So while there should be every effort made for traditional owners to speak for their country, there would also need to be ‘inter-mob’ cooperation and compromise in order to make progress.

Frank Lynch, Wilsons Creek

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  1. If First Nations people have Mundine, Price and Thorpe for friends they certainly don’t need enemies, All they seem to be doing is further complicating an already difficult referendum, and we all know how damaging that can be; they must have read John Howard’s handbook on how to wreck referendums. If this does not pass where do Aboriginal people go from here; As Albo constantly says “if not now when”?

    • To answer your question, Murrawarri Republic and its like. There are already Aboriginal only areas, but they are under the nanny-ship of the Commonwealth, thus interventions etc. Simply cut them loose to deal with their own problems. Unless you think they are incapable of governing themselves?

        • Are you incapable of basic research Rod? It was an attempt by Aboriginals to create a sovereign country to the south of my place. There is another one up near Cairns. They are 3% of the population, I support giving the 3% of the land to rule themselves, however that may end up looking, without our country interfering. There have been Aboriginal only areas created by federal law since the 70s. That’s what they mean by ‘Aboriginal communities’ when we stage interventions such as the recent alcohol restrictions debarkle. You Rod, can’t move into a house in these places. As a white man you are banned by federal law.


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