“I am committed to being the minister for all Indigenous Australians, and want to make sure that all of these voices can be heard loud and clear.
We need to get it right. Models will be workshopped with communities across urban, regional and remote Australia.
The best outcomes are achieved when Indigenous Australians are at the centre of decision‑making. We know that for too long decision-making treated the symptoms rather than the cause.”
Minister Wyatt said the process of consultation about designing the voice to parliament needed to reach the 800,000 Indigenous Australian voices – not just the First Nations leadership
The Morrison government will today kick off a co-design process with Indigenous people on the voice to parliament, with the new phase to be led by the prominent Indigenous leaders Tom Calma and Marcia Langton.
The minister for Indigenous Australians, Ken Wyatt, says the government intends to convene a senior advisory group, co-chaired by Calma and Langton, to “ensure that Indigenous Australians are heard at all levels of government – local, state and federal”.
But the government has already ruled out enshrining the voice in the constitution, which was the original proposal from the Uluru statement, and Langton – charged with leading this new phase – is already on the public record arguing that the voice should be constitutionally enshrined, not simply legislated, which is the Morrison government’s position.
Ahead of Wednesday’s announcement of next steps by Wyatt, the Central Land Council also flatly rejected the government’s proposal to legislate the voice. Delegates met near Uluru on Tuesday and passed a resolution opposing symbolic recognition. “We want to be part of designing the voice to parliament,” the CLC resolution said. “We demand that it be protected in the constitution.”
The chair of the CLC, Sammy Wilson, said the Morrison government would struggle to “win over Aboriginal people in the heart of the nation for its plans” because “the abolition of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission is still fresh in the minds of our members”.
Wyatt said it was time that all levels of government took steps to empower both individuals and communities “and work in partnership to develop practical and long lasting programmes and policies that both address the needs of Indigenous Australians and ensure that Indigenous voices are heard as equally as any other Australian voice”.
The government envisages a two-step co-design process. Phase one will see two groups, a local and regional co-design group and a national co-design group, develop models “to improve local and regional decision-making and a national voice”. Phase two will involve consultation and engagement to refine models with Indigenous leaders, communities and other stakeholders.
With Wyatt’s announcement of the co-design process imminent, the shadow minister for Indigenous Australians, Linda Burney, told Guardian Australia last week Labor would persist with trying to land a bipartisan position on the voice to parliament and constitutional recognition even if the Coalition refuses in the first instance to enshrine the voice in Australia’s founding document.
Labor supports the position outlined in the Uluru statement, not the version the government has flagged. But Burney speculated that Scott Morrison might eventually offer a two-stage process where “perhaps he would look at enshrinement down the track”.
However, government conservatives have already made it very clear they will not cop constitutional enshrinement of a First Nations voice.
The Liberal MP Craig Kelly told Guardian Australia when Wyatt put the voice on the agenda during Naidoc week that setting up separate structures, even if the representative model was legislated rather than constitutionally enshrined, risked creating “a reverse form of what South Africa was a few years ago”.
Rightwing thinktanks like the Institute of Public Affairs are also opposed on the same rationale as conservatives like Kelly.
From Ministers press Release
“It’s time that all governments took better steps to empower individuals and communities, and work in partnership to develop practical and long lasting programmes and policies that both address the needs of Indigenous Australians and ensure that Indigenous voices are heard as equally as any other Australian voice.”
The Senior Advisory Group will be made up of up to 20 leaders and experts from across the country, drawing on a range of skills and experience. Separate regional and national co-design groups will also be established to develop models to enhance local/regional decision-making and a national voice to governments to test across the country.
Professor Calma AO is the Chancellor of the University of Canberra and has previously served as the Race Discrimination Commissioner and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner.
Professor Langton AM is a previous member of the Expert Panel on Constitutional Recognition of Indigenous Australians (2012) and has been appointed as the first Associate Provost at the University of Melbourne.
The Morrison Government has committed $7.3 million for the co-design process.