Vital voice plan outlined
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has put forth a proposal to change the constitution to create an Indigenous Voice to Parliament.
A Voice to Parliament, created via a referendum, was a key recommendation from hundreds of Aboriginal people at the First Nations' National Constitutional Convention at Uluṟu in 2017.
The current federal government has put the important constitutional change high on its agenda, describing the Voice as an advisory body that can make representations to the federal parliament.
The PM’s plan is to add three sentences to the Constitution:
There shall be a body, to be called the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice.
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.
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.
The government has drafted the following question for a referendum: “Do you support an alteration to the constitution that establishes an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice?”
The proposed changes have been criticised for not laying out specific rights and duties for Australia’s indigenous Voice, but Mr Albanese says it is important to start with the basics, and not to put forth anything that detractors would see as a third chamber of parliament.
“This isn't a body that is on top of the parliament. It's not even at the side of the parliament. It doesn't seek to usurp the power of the parliament,” Mr Albanese said on Sunday.
“What it seeks to do, though, is to break with what I call 'the tyranny of powerlessness' that First Nations' people have suffered from [more than] 121 years of the Commonwealth making decisions in Canberra without having respect and without having consultation with First Nations' people themselves.”
He said details about the legislation for the formal structure of the Voice will remain hidden until after the referendum.
“What I am not going to do … is to go down the cul-de-sac of getting into every detail, because that is not a recipe for success,” the PM said.
Federal Minister for Indigenous Australians Linda Burney says a broader truth and treaty process is in the works too.
“So many parts of this country [are] deciding how they're going to explore the truth,” she said at the Garma Festival in north-east Arnhem Land over the weekend.
“When we think about the effect that a national truth-telling process would have on Australia, it's remarkable.
“One of the things that we're thinking about at the moment is what form that would take."
“I see this as, you know, a thousand flowers blooming.
“The Uluru Statement talks about three things: It talks about an enshrined Voice in the Constitution, but it also talks about the establishment of a Makarrata commission that would have two jobs — treaty and agreement-making, and also truth-telling.
“The Prime Minister was very clear that we will embrace and implement the Uluru Statement in full.
“We will not be rushed. We will do it in consultation. We will build consensus and part of that is truth-telling.”
The federal opposition has called for more details on the plans.