Voice advocate heads to Freo

A LEADING advocate for an Indigenous Voice to federal Parliament will speak at Fremantle’s One Day celebrations on January 28.

In December prime minister Anthony Albanese said a national referendum on an Indigenous Voice would be held by the end of this year, previously outlining a “simple” yes or no question that wouldn’t be bogged down by detail on how it would operate.

Thomas Mayor was one of the signatories of the Uluru Statement from the Heart, a petition signed by 250 delegates at the 2017 First Nations Constitutional Convention at Uluru calling for constitutional change.

Fremantle council’s senior Aboriginal engagement officer Brendan Moore said One Day festivities had been moved to the city’s rebranded Walyalup Koort this year, providing a stronger connection to the centre of Fremantle than its previous iterations at Bathers Beach.

The move was endorsed by the city’s reconciliation group.

“One Day continues to evolve to ensure it remains at the forefront of the national conversation regarding reconciliation as well as being a fantastic day out,” Mr Moore said.

Fremantle has endorsed the Uluru Statement, but in December Cockburn voted 7 – 2 not to, saying councils shouldn’t meddle in federal affairs.

A staff recommendation that the council endorse the statement was watered down to simply “note the officer report” under an amendment by councillor Michael Separovich.

Cr Separovich said there was “widespread outrage” when Cockburn put up billboards thanking “WA Labor” for funding the North Lake flyover and he feared this was a move in a similar direction.

“I do not think it is the role of the city, as a local government, to be telling people how to vote in a referendum,” he said.

Cr Phoebe Corke countered that the council had been asked by the Voice campaign, First Nations people and its residents to endorse the statement.

She noted the WA Local Government Association’s advice to councils was to “answer the invitation of the Uluru Statement” and help spread its message.

“The statement itself is an invitation from First Australians to the rest of Australia to join them as we think about who we want to be as a nation, how we want to redefine our relationshiop, which has been tested, and how do we move forward together.”

Quoting former prime minister Paul Keating, Cr Corke urged her colleagues to “open your hearts tonight, vote for the officer’s recommendation and accept the invitation of the Uluru Statement.

The ‘Voice’ briefly explained 

FEDERAL minister for indigenous Australians Linda Burney and former minister Ken Wyatt urge Australians to read the 272-page report Indigenous Co-design Process explaining the Indigenous Voice to Parliament. 

Here is a very short outline. 

The Voice will establish “the National Voice as a new independent Commonwealth entity established by legislation”, controlled and operated by Indigenous people, and independent from our Federal Parliament and government, state/territory and local governments and funded through the Commonwealth budget process. 

Some 9,478 people and organisations participated in the co-design process with 35 per cent representation from our major cities and 25 per cent participants from NSW. 

The reported total number of Indigenous people was 798,365, with 33.28 per cent in NSW, 27.72 per cent Qld and 12.59 per cent WA. 

The Voice will not replace or undermine existing structures currently supporting Indigenous Australians across three tiers of government, such as advisory bodies, land councils or the social justice commissioner. 

The Voice comprises two parts: 

Part 1: The National Voice (NV): 

• Key focus – provide advice to the Australian Parliament and Government; 

• Proposed membership is 24 selected solely by Indigenous people – two from the states and territories, two from the Torres Strait Islands, five remote representatives from the NT, WA, Qld, SA, and NSW, and one representing Torres Strait Islanders on the mainland, plus an option for two members appointed by the minister; 

• NV is structurally linked to local and regional Voices in each jurisdiction; 

• NV represents Indigenous people on national issues, providing policy advice to the Australian Parliament and government and influencing the development of proposed national laws, policies, and programs during drafting by government agencies. That will be done by tabling advice to parliament and ministers via a parliamentary committee, etc., plus two legislated permanent advisory groups, one for youth and one for people with disability. Policy matters include housing, education, employment, economic development, suicide, and interactions with the criminal justice system; 

• The Australian Parliament and government would be obligated to ask for advice; 

• NV requires an Office of the National Voice with two co-chairs, a CEO, and administrative staff, an ethics council appointed by the NV, a new Parliamentary standing committee and an international role on United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues; 

• NV can establish committees to advise for example on specific policy matters, the Stolen Generation, traditional owners, elders and the LGBTIQ+ community. Committee memberships include NV members and external stakeholders – academics, community representatives, peak bodies, community-controlled organisations, and other organisations. 

Part 2: Local & Regional Voices (LRVs) 

• 35 LVRs regions are proposed across Australia in each state/territory jurisdiction to solicit views from local people and stakeholders within their region, including community-controlled organisations, service providers, business, advisory bodies, statutory bodies, educators, and others; 

Provide advice to the National Voice; 

• Each LRV will be a ‘governance arrangement’ in each region and may choose to become a legal entity; 

• Each LRV would partner with all levels of government providing advice, priorities and guidance and independently negotiating and shaping issues for each specific community; 

• Each incorporated LRV would be supported regionally by secretariats resourced by but independent of government. They would support and facilitate joint action by Aboriginal community controlled organisations, government, non-government organisations and corporate partners reporting to a regional board of eight directors across the region (including two independent directors with legal-financial-accounting expertise) plus local management committees comprising chairs and CEOs of community organisations and Aboriginal organisations across geographic regions. 

I recommend downloading and reading the Indigenous Co-design Process report to direct informed public discussion on the Voice. 

Graham Mahony, Attadale 

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