Voice – Frequently Asked Questions

31 Mar

What is the Voice?

  • What the First People have asked for because of the process of consultation across Australia.
  • A permanent, advisory body on laws & policies impacting First People able to speak to Parliament and the executive enshrined in the constitution.
  • Consists of elected representatives of and by First People only.
  • Unable to block legislation, deliver services, or manage government funding.

Why do we need constitutional change? Can’t we just introduce legislation to establish the Voice?

  • Including the Voice in the Constitution will protect it from being abolished without the consent of the Australian people.
  • Experience makes this clear, e.g., ATSIC and its predecessors were nullified and disbanded according to the wishes of the governments of the day.
  • Constitutional protection means it is not vulnerable to political changes and can focus on more effective, long-term solutions.

Why do we need to establish a First Nations Voice? What will it achieve?

  • An important step in acknowledging and addressing the wrongs and ongoing harms of colonisation.
  • Empower our people to speak on matters relating to them.
  • Will help our people to live in a Nation where their Traditional Voice is as important as their Modern Voice. This will empower the challenge of living in two worlds.
  • Will ensure that we address our embedded powerlessness and allow us to provide alternatives to the top-down and imposed decision making maintaining our deficit culture.

Queensland boy, 13, spends at least 45 days in solitary confinement, 22 days in succession, despite not being sentenced to detention.  Guardian 15 March 2023

Do We Need More Detail?

  • Heads of power are enshrined in the Constitution; this is a Heads of Power
  • Heads of Power are enacted in legislation and tested in the High Court. Here detail is added.
  • Section 51 contains 39 clauses, all similar in length to the taxing power below. The detail of the tax law has been added over time responding to need and being regularly tested in the High Court. The High Court does not test the detail, only the right of the Gov’t to enact such legislation.

For Example Australian Tax law

  1. Legislative powers of the Parliament

The Parliament shall, subject to this Constitution, have power to make laws for the peace, order, and good government of the Commonwealth with respect to:

(ii) taxation; but so as not to discriminate between States or parts of States;

Will It Cede Sovereignty?

  • Aboriginal sovereignty is relational, based on country and kin, and cannot be ceded or taken.
  • It will embed First People’s sovereignty alongside the sovereignty of the Commonwealth.
  • It will allow both to function in a relationship.
  • Recognizes the two sovereignties:
    • External sovereignty of the Constitution (from the outside) v’s Internal sovereignty of First People (from within – person & community). 

Will It Divide by Race?

  • This will unite not divide. Why?
    • Australia was built on the racism inherent in the colonization process from the beginning.
    • Racism was the basis of coloniality from 1492.
    • Based on the premise of Western European white supremacy.
  • Persona Nullius
    • This refers to the idea that Aboriginal and Torres Strait People are not being recognized as equals.
    • As such, they became white possessions along with the land defined as Terra Nullius.

Why Not Treaty First? 

  • Runs the risk of ceding sovereignty on a national level. Requires secure equality on which to negotiate a treaty otherwise, the imbalance means the Crown remains in charge.
  • Not the process agreed on in the dialogues.
  • Some suggest it is more appropriate to be managed by States because of the diversity of experiences. States are able to manage the difference in experiences and reflect them in their treaties.
  • A National Treaty requires inclusion in the National Constitution.

What About Immigrants?

  • First People are that, not immigrants.
  • Immigrants who come here now are recognised as equal participants in Australian society. No White Australia Policy.
  • The First People did not benefit from the end of that policy. They remained outside of society.
  • Immigrants benefit from the dispossession of the First People.

The White Australia Policy was introduced in 1901 and was formerly known as the Immigration Restriction Act. The policy was designed to minimise the migration of all non-whites, predominantly non-Europeans. However, the Indigenous locals, who were considered a ‘dying race’, were also targeted.
Red Earth – White Australia Policy

Do All First Peoples Support the Voice?

  • No, should they? Polling says 80% do.
  • This should not be seen as an obstacle.
  • Different experiences mean different responses. Context matters. E.G. Torres Strait Islanders had a very different to Aboriginal people in the Southeast as did those in Northern Territory.
  • Distrust of Governments and non-First People means people are sceptical. Too much sorry, too little action. Massacres, missions, Stolen Generations, NTER, and more color people’s distrust of gov’t.

Masig Statement from The Deep

  • The four aims outlined in the Torres Strait Islanders Masig Statement are:
    • to achieve self-determination for the people of the Torres Strait and Northern Peninsula area,
    • freely determine political status and pursue economic, social, and cultural development,
    • self-government in matters relating to internal and local affairs,
    • create partnerships with regional stakeholders, and the Queensland and federal governments to achieve the region’s goals and aspirations.

“We fully support that … We see that voice to parliament and constitutional change will give our voice a unique place in this country.”

The No Voices – yindyamarra yambuwan (Wiradjuri – respect everything/everyone)

  • Jacinta Price & the Conservative No
    • Asks how this will resolve issues on the ground.
  • Lidia Thorpe & the Progressive No
    • Asks how this protects and allows First People’s sovereignty.
  • National Party & Who Is Indigenous?
    • Questions about who have the right to identify as First People.
  • Liberal & Detail
    • Appeals to the need to know what the outcome will be.
  • Mob – scepticism & misinformation
    • Past disappointments and such as the NTER and the Stolen Generation raises concerns about being disappointed by govt.
  • Yes, But…… Fr. Frank Brennan, etc.
    • Says they support a yes vote but continue to raise issues that fuel concerns in the general public.

What Can We Do?

  • Take the lead – the Statement is an invitation to you & non-indigenous people to say yes. It is your responsibility to decide.
  • Grassroots Networking
    • Begin where you are.
  • Use social media to promote.
  • Engage in Kitchen Table Conversations.
  • Join in community events.
  • Write letters of support to all politicians and local councilors.
  • Address local history/massacres and challenge the ‘don’t mention the war’ mentality.
  • Encourage/deepen relationship-building with Aboriginal and Torres Strait people.
  • Invitation to hear the stories of local FNP, in a way that doesn’t re-traumatize.
  • Allow the conversation to happen.
  • Use this document as a conversation starter.
  • Invite Glenn to come and lead a workshop.
  • Access the resources by the QR code.








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