Voice proposal – good start, but falls short of Uluru aspirations

15 January 2021                   

The Indigenous Voice proposal released by the Federal Government recently has many positive aspects, but falls short of the Aboriginal aspirations expressed in the Uluru Statement from the Heart, according to the New South Wales Aboriginal Land Council (NSWALC).

NSWALC Chair, Anne Dennis praised the work of the Voice Senior Advisory Group, chaired by Professors Marcia Langton and Tom Calma.

“The Advisory group have done a good job in developing a comprehensive model that incorporates both national and regional level voice structures,” Councillor Dennis said.

“Importantly, at both the regional and national levels the Voice would not just provide advice, but also partner with Governments in the development of policies and programs that impact on Aboriginal people.”

Councillor Dennis said that it was disappointing the Government had ruled out constitutional protection for the Voice.

“The Senior Advisory Group have put together a sensible, well thought out proposal, but they’ve had one hand tied behind their backs.  The Government hasn’t allowed them to include constitutional protection in the model,” she said.

“This is a threshold issue for Aboriginal people because too often we’ve seen representative structures like ATSIC and the National Congress dismantled through legislative change or funding cuts.”

“There’s a risk that the constant threat of being abolished by the government of the day could constrain the Voice’s fearless independence,” Councillor Dennis said.

Councillor Dennis said the Voice would also need to be properly funded to operate effectively at the national level and across all regions of Australia. 

“The best model in the world will be doomed to failure if it’s not adequately resourced.”

Councillor Dennis said a proper relationship between the Voice and community controlled peak bodies would also need to be established.

“There would need to be guarantees that the Voice would not impede or overlap existing bodies or structures, particularly at the state and regional levels.  The Voice would need to enhance rather than diminish the relationships, networks and influence that local organisations like the National and State Coalitions of Peak Bodies have built up over a number of years,” she said.

Councillor Dennis said that ultimately, whether Aboriginal people support the current Voice proposal would depend on whether they think the model presented is strong enough to warrant dropping the demands for Constitutional protection. “Do we accept the current model in the hope that we can secure greater protections down the track or do we hold out in the hope that a future Government will agree to something that more closely resembles what we asked for in the Uluru Statement from the Heart?  These are among the key questions that will need to be answered in the consultations,” she said.

Media contact: Gary Highland on 0418 476 940