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What is the Indigenous Voice to Parliament about?

Helena Pantsis

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What is the Indigenous Voice to Parliament about?

Featured Image Credit: Leigh Henningham / Alamy Stock Photo

With the change in Australia’s federal leadership, you may have heard of the call for an ‘Indigenous Voice’ to be brought to parliament.

But what exactly does this mean?

In simple terms, a Voice to parliament is a proposed representative body of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to be preserved in the constitution, which would enable a selection of Australia’s First Nations people to act as advisors to parliament on policies and projects that impact their lives. 

The push for this Voice is being fought for by a campaign known as From The Heart.

The campaign intends to draft a referendum which poses the question: Do you support an alteration to the constitution that establishes an Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander voice?

Credit: Andrey Moisseyev / Alamy Stock Photo
Credit: Andrey Moisseyev / Alamy Stock Photo

From The Heart then outlines a three step constitutional draft changes following the success of this referendum:

  1. There shall be a body, to be called the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice
  2. The Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander Voice may make representations to Parliament and the Executive Government on matters relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples
  3. The Parliament shall, subject to this Constitution, have power to make laws with respect to the composition, functions, powers and procedures of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice

Remaining one of the only major Commonwealth countries that does not have a treaty with our First Nations people, Australia has a history of genocide, slavery, and patriarchal rule on Indigenous peoples that still enables a non-Indigenous power to be lauded over the First Peoples of the land.

Sovereignty has never been ceded.

Progress towards Aboriginal recognition of rights has been slow, with the Uluru Statement from the Heart, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) Bill 2022, and the full application of recommendations from the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody and the Bringing Them Home report put into action.

The Voice is a likely step towards a treaty, giving a fraction of autonomy back towards the people whose country we reside on.

Greens leader Adam Bandt and Senator Lidia Thorpe, who is a proud DjabWurrung Gunnai Gunditjmara woman, are set to begin negotiations with the government about proposals for a Voice. 

Thorpe said in an article with the Sydney Morning Herald: “My priority, shared by my Greens party room, will be to deliver outcomes that save First Nations people’s lives. Before any referendum.”

This step forward should be considered as an opportunity to rebuild Indigenous nations and communities, and address further impacts of colonisation and the continued impact of settlement on Indigenous societies, tradition, law, culture, and Country.

Topics: Australia

Helena Pantsis
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