Heart’s Voice Uluru’s statement to Parliament has been making headlines since Anthony Albanese delivered his first words as the country’s new Prime Minister-elect.
“On behalf of the Australian Labor Party, I pledge to fully respect the Uluru Declaration from the bottom of my heart,” he said May 21, moments after winning the federal election, and pledged that a referendum on the vote would be held at the first meeting of the Labor government. term.
Within days, the country’s new Indigenous Affairs Minister, Linda Burney, said Australia was ready for the referendum.
“Australians are more than ready for the discussion on a voice in Parliament. We already have it. It’s time to put the discussion at the center of our national discourse and put it to a vote,” Ms Burney said.
More recently, the Prime Minister revealed the draft text of the referendum.
“We should consider asking our fellow Australians something as simple as ‘Do you support a constitutional change that establishes an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander voice?’ he said at the Garma Festival in Arnhem Land on July 30.
Mr. Albanese and Ms. Burney will travel to Torres Strait on Thursday to speak further with members of the voice community.
But not everyone supports the Voice.
In her maiden speech in parliament, new Liberal Party Senator for the Northern Territory, Jacinta Nampijinpa Price, said the vote is a “token gesture”, which will not empower Indigenous Australians.
“This Government has yet to demonstrate how this proposed voice will produce practical results and unite rather than drive a further divide between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australia,” Ms Price said in July.
But what exactly is the Voice? How is it different from similar past advisory bodies? How will it work? And will it really have an impact on Australian laws and policies?
What is the Voice?
In May 2017, over 250 First Nations leaders from across Australia gathered at Uluru, on the lands of the Aṉangu people, to launch the Heart of Uluru Declaration.
The one-page document called for the creation of a First Nations voice in the Australian Constitution.
Megan Davis – one of the authors of the declaration and a professor of constitutional law at the University of NSW – read the declaration for the first time in its history at the 2017 National First Nations Constitutional Convention in Uluru.
She told SBS News the voice was aimed at bringing about constitutional reform in Australia’s parliament.
“Currently, in the Australian legal and political system, First Nations [people] have very little, if any, influence on laws and policies passed or written [and] that impact our communities,” she said.
“The result is very poor quality laws and policies, and widening gaps and disadvantages. Whether it is health, education or justice, the gap is widening.
The Voice – a First Nations advisory body to Parliament – will bridge that gap, Prof Davis said.
How is the Voice different from similar advisory bodies of the past?
Teela Reid – a proud Wiradjuri and Wailwan woman – is the University of Sydney Law School’s first Indigenous Practitioner in Residence.
She told SBS News that many similar First Nations bodies — such as the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) — have been introduced in the past to take care of First Nations interests.
But they were “removed with the stroke of a pen” by the governments of the time.
“When the voices of the First Nations take the floor [and] governments don’t like it, whether it’s left or right, it can easily be removed with the stroke of a pen,” Ms Reid said.
ATSIC was abolished by the Howard government in 2005.
The Uluru statement from the heart. Source: Facebook/The Heart Uluru Statement
Heart’s Voice Uluru’s statement to Parliament, however, will be different.
The declaration calls for a First Nations voice to be enshrined in Australia’s constitution, so that it cannot be suppressed by the current government.
For this, the constitution must be amended, and this can only be done by referendum.
How will the voice work?
Professor of Australian Indigenous Studies at the University of Melbourne, Marcia Langton, has been appointed by former Minister for Indigenous Australians, Ken Wyatt, to co-chair a high-level advisory group on the Voice design process.
She told SBS News that by the time a bill is introduced in Parliament, it’s too late for anyone to have a say, so the proposed First Nations advisory body will aim to get involved in the “political process from the start”.
“We propose that the Voice provide advice to government when requested and also when members of the Voice think it is important to do so,” Professor Langton said.
Although members of The Voice cannot vote for proposed bills or policies, they will be able to shape them from the start, she said.
“In order to have a very formal say on the invoices, we [recommend] a special committee in Parliament…a written opinion of the Voice would go in order to be read by all Members of Parliament,” Prof Langton said.
There are other committees, such as the Australian Human Rights Commission, which deal with legislation in the same way, she said.
What kind of bills will the Voice shape?
Geoff Scott – former chief executive of the Referendum Council, established in 2015 by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and then Opposition Leader Bill Shorten – was a key leader throughout the Uluru dialogue process.
He told SBS News that Voice will help shape all bills and laws in Australia, but will particularly play a central role in reviewing legislation that directly affects First Nations communities.
He said many laws and policies of the past would have had better results if an advisory body such as The Voice had been there to shape them.
“Intervention in the Northern Territory is one [example]he said, referring to the Northern Territory emergency response, which was introduced by the Howard government in 2007, following the release of a report containing allegations of widespread abuse. children and family violence in First Nations communities.
Measures in the response included restrictions on alcohol and pornography and changes to social benefits.
“I probably agree with 70% of what was put in place, but it was put in place in a hurry… It didn’t solve anything.
“I think it should have been evaluated regularly and tweaked to make sure the results are achieved. That didn’t happen.
Mr Scott said Voice will give Parliament the opportunity to assess bills and policies – not only when they are formulated – but also after they are introduced, in order to achieve better results on an ongoing basis.