NACCHO Aboriginal Health and #ClosingTheGap : After the #BlackLivesMatter protest, what comes next? “ In the words of the #UluruStatement, it was a movement of the Australian people for a better future “ says Professor Megan Davis


“ In 2020 after a decade of a comprehensive closing the gap framework through COAG, the evidence is incontrovertible, the bureaucracy cannot close the gap in disadvantage.

Thirty years ago, the royal commission predicted this.

The resolution of the “Aboriginal problem” was beyond the capacity of non-Aboriginal policy makers and bureaucrats.

The report was very blunt: “It is about time they left the stage to those who collectively know the problems at national and local levels; they know the solutions because they live with the problems.”

This is something Prime Minister Scott Morrison knows already. This is precisely what he did during the pandemic, he left it to the Aboriginal community-controlled health sector to shut down their own communities and they had already mobilised late January. And it worked.

That so many Australians who “turned up” in solidarity in cities and towns across Australia this weekend accords with the research commissioned by the From the Heart project from CT Group that found Australians want Indigenous Australians to get a fair go.

Seventy one per cent agree that Indigenous Australians are best placed to decide matters that affect them.

Saturday was no mere protest, my friends, in the words of the Uluru Statement, it was a movement of the Australian people for a better future. And the Australian people are ready for real change. ”

Professor Megan Davis is the Balnaves Chair of Constitutional Law, Indigenous Law Centre, UNSW Law.

There is no denying the nationwide protests on Saturday, leveraging off Black Lives Matter and the death of George Floyd at the hands of police in the US, reflect a growing sentiment in Australia about Indigenous affairs.

There is something in the zeitgeist when tens of thousands of Australians descend on the streets to march for Aboriginal justice while the nation is transitioning out of lockdown.

One of the perennial challenges of protest is how to translate it into substantive and durable change. I remember marching as a young person through the streets of Brisbane protesting against Aboriginal deaths in custody and calling for the implementation of the royal commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody’s recommendations.

It has been almost 30 years since the royal commission and my nieces and nephews were marching on Saturday through the same streets of Brisbane. Yet we know what needs to be done.

The royal commission was set up in October 1987 following national outrage about the number of Aboriginal deaths in custody. It investigated 99 deaths that occurred between January 1, 1980 and May 31, 1989, in prisons, police stations or juvenile detention institutions.

A key finding was that the deaths in custody investigated were not the product of deliberate violence or brutality of police or prison officers but that there was a lack of regard for the duty of care that is owed to people in custody by police officers and prison officers.

The commission made many recommendations but one of its primary reforms centred on the structural powerlessness that renders Indigenous voices silent in a liberal democracy.

The commission singled out the importance of Indigenous participation in decision-making to transform Aboriginal affairs and the right to self-determination. It found that the government had the power to transform the picture of Aboriginal affairs, “not so much by ‘doing’ things – more by letting go of the controls; letting Aboriginal people make the decisions which government now pretends they do make”. At the heart of the findings was that Indigenous peoples should have a say in the decisions that are made about them.

Read all NACCHO Aboriginal Health and #UluruStatement articles HERE

Sound familiar? It should. The Uluru Statement from the Heart in 2017 said the same thing. In 2017, the Uluru Statement from the Heart was issued to the Australian people as an invitation to walk with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in a movement of the Australian people for a better future.

The statement was the culmination of regional constitutional dialogues conducted over 2016 and 2017 under the supervision of the Referendum Council established by Malcolm Turnbull.

The Uluru Statement decided upon a consensus reform agenda aimed at fixing the same structural problems the royal commission highlighted 30 years ago.

Thirty years on the Uluru Statement singles out the same crisis in public policy, incarceration, youth detention and child removals. The systemic injustice operates along a continuum:

“Proportionally, we are the most incarcerated people on the planet. We are not an innately criminal people. Our children are alienated from their families at unprecedented rates. This cannot be because we have no love for them. And our youth languish in detention in obscene numbers. They should be our hope for the future.”

Of over-representation and child removals, the Uluru Statement says, “These dimensions of our crisis tell plainly the structural nature of our problem.” Crime may be a state government matter, but the structural solution is constitutional.

The royal commission said at the time of its work that “it is difficult for non-Aboriginal people to comprehend just how absolute the domination of Aboriginal people has been”.

This is precisely what the Referendum Council heard in the dialogues in 2017 about the Commonwealth Indigenous Advancement Strategy, that the bureaucracy dominates in communities and the control is stifling.



NACCHO Aboriginal Health #Coronavirus and #ReconciliationWeek News Alert : Read full speech from our CEO Pat Turner launching #NRW2020 #InthisTogether and new @coalition_peaks website #COP #ClosetheGap

” I truly believe that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people continue to be impacted by the legacy of colonisation in every aspect of our lives.

But what also continues is our resilience amidst the adversity we face.

When we face adversity together, we see stronger outcomes.

Accordingly, today I would like to talk about the topic of ‘In This Together’.

I would like to focus on four aspects of what togetherness looks like currently for our people — aspects that we can and must build upon.

First, I want you all to know about how Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled organisations came together from across the nation to form the Coalition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community-Controlled Peak Organisations.

Second, I want to discuss the unprecedented opportunity we have for genuine shared decision-making in the Partnership Agreement between the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) and the Coalition of Peaks.

Third, I want to alert you to the negotiations now underway to finalise a new National Agreement on Closing the Gap, which came out of the Partnership Agreement that also advances this idea of ‘In this Together’.

Fourth, without engaging in any premature celebrations whatsoever, as we still have a long way to go, I will talk about the strong, coordinated work of Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations that have come together from across Australia to successfully protect our people from to COVID-19.

I will then bring together the four — how the work of the Coalition of Peaks can help in optimising the health and wellbeing of our people and communities amidst the impacts of the pandemic.

NACCHO CEO Pat Turner opening Reconciliation SA’s Reconciliation Week Breakfast May 27 see full speech Part 1 below

Download full event PowerPoint

Combined Power Point NRW MAY 2020 event (1)

In addition to the website, the Coalition of Peaks is also launching social media accounts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Coalition of Peaks new website : 




Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and organisations are encouraged to engage with and share the work of the Coalition of Peaks

Download full press release HERE

20.05.27 – Final – Media Release – Coalition of Peaks Website and Social Media Launch

Good morning everyone, thank you for inviting me here today.

My name is Pat Turner, and I am the daughter of an Arrente man and a Gurdanji woman.

I am also the CEO of the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO), and the Lead Convener of the Coalition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community-Controlled Peak organisations.

Before we start, I want to acknowledge the traditional custodians of all the lands that we are meeting upon today.

I am speaking to you from Canberra, which is Ngunnawal country.

I also want to acknowledge and thank Reconciliation South Australia for the opportunity to be the keynote speaker for your annual breakfast, in this case I assume the first ever virtual one.

Peter Buckskin, a co-chair of Reconciliation South Australia, and I worked together in ATSIC and he has made a great contribution to improving life outcomes for our people. Meanwhile, Shona Reid is Eastern Arrente, and like me we can both trace our ancestry back to Central Australia with pride.

Number one – Coalition of Peaks

Read all NACCHO Coalition of Peaks Articles 

Our people have lived in a climatically harsh country for more than sixty thousand years, which has required great knowledge and custodianship of the environment and close cooperation between our people to succeed.

This cooperation continues to be evident in our recent collaboration in forming the Coalition of Peaks to make sure that we share decision making in relation to Closing the Gap.

The Coalition of Peaks comprises nearly 50 national, State and Territory community-controlled Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peak organisations.

This is every community-controlled peak organisation in Australia.  They include NACCHO, SNAICC – National Voice for our Children, the NSW Aboriginal Land Council, First Peoples Disability Network and First Nations Media Australia.

The Aboriginal Legal Rights Movement has led South Australia’s involvement in the Coalition of Peaks.  To its credit, it has facilitated the establishment of the South Australian Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisation Network that has brought together other Aboriginal peaks in South Australia to work together at the state level.

Never have community controlled peak bodies and organisations come together in this way – to develop policy and negotiate with governments.

Number two – The Partnership Agreement between the Coalition of Peaks and COAG

The historic Partnership Agreement, which commenced in March 2019 and is a public document, was also an initiative of the Coalition of Peaks.  Of most importance is that the signatories are COAG and the Coalition of Peaks – that is, legitimately appointed community representatives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities from across Australia.

We proposed the Partnership Agreement after gaining the support of the Prime Minister and the Council of Australian Governments to a partnership being formed with representatives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to underpin the next phase of Closing the Gap.

Prior to this, COAG had decided on its own to refresh the Closing the Gap strategy that was originally agreed to in 2008 and given effect to by the National Indigenous Reform Agreement.

To do this refresh, in 2018 COAG undertook a series of consultations with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people across Australia — which were inadequate and lacked transparency.

While the rhetoric was about partnership, there was no real commitment to it and the refresh was proceeding on the basis that COAG would make all the decisions.

To be frank, at this point in time, we did not consider we were ‘In This Together’ with them.
NACCHO and other community-controlled peaks decided that this could not continue and took a risk in publicly insisting that we be able to share decisions about the Closing the Gap strategy instead of COAG making decisions on its own.

We wrote to all First Ministers to put forward three (3) main propositions—

When Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are included and have a real say in the design and delivery of services that impact on them, the outcomes are far better;

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples need to be at the centre of Closing the Gap policy; the gap won’t close without our full involvement; and

COAG cannot expect us to take responsibility and work constructively with them to improve outcomes if we are excluded from decision making.

Under the Partnership Agreement, the Coalition of Peaks are already sharing decision making on developing, implementing, monitoring and reviewing the Closing the Gap strategy for the next ten years.

A new COAG Council, the Joint Council on Closing the Gap, is also established under the Partnership Agreement.

For the first time, this COAG Council has members from outside Governments.  In fact, it has 12 members elected from the Coalition of Peaks including a representative from each jurisdiction.  Ruth Miller is the representative for South Australia.

In addition, each jurisdiction nominates a Minister with responsibilities for Closing the Gap.  It is co-chaired by the Federal Minister, Minister Wyatt, and me.

Number 3 – the new National Agreement on Closing the Gap

Following a review of the National Indigenous Reform Agreement, the Joint Council on Closing the Gap agreed that it should be replaced with a new National Agreement on Closing the Gap.

Joint Council also agreed that the new Agreement should not only be signed by First Ministers but also the Coalition of Peaks on behalf of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.   That is incredibly significant for our people and for Australia.

Once in place, the National Agreement will be a platform to address the structural inequalities Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people face arising from years of unmet need.

Instead of targets being the focus, which was the case with the National Indigenous Reform Agreement, the Coalition of Peaks have also gained support from the Joint Council and all Governments that four priority reforms will underpin the new National Agreement.  These are:

  • establishing formal partnerships between governments and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representatives across the country on closing the gap
  • building and strengthening our community-controlled organisations to deliver the services we need
  • transforming mainstream agencies and institutions of governments, such as the police and universities, to make a much bigger contribution to Closing the Gap; and
  • ensuring government data and information is shared with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations and communities to support us being able to make good decisions about our lives.

Finally, Joint Council also agreed to the Coalition of Peaks leading engagements with representatives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people across Australia to see what they thought about the priority reforms and what else should be included in the new National Agreement.

Those engagements took place between September and December last year including in South Australia and included an online survey and over 4000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people had a say.

We have published the outcomes of those engagements and are making sure that what people said is reflected in the Agreement currently being negotiated with COAG.

Number 4 – Our ACCHO’s and communities’ coordinated COVID-19 response

I would also like to speak on our ACCHO’s and communities’ coordinated COVID-19 response.

Only three months ago the Prime Minister announced to the nation that last year the gap in infant mortality rates between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and other Australians increased.

In the three months since then COVID-19 has been a whole new stark reminder to us all just how vulnerable the health of our people is.

We have been reminded of the significantly greater risk we face of being profoundly impacted due to the pre-existing co-morbidities many of us battle.

The pandemic has highlighted the fault lines of disadvantage endured by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples for generations, from health and education to housing.

Overcrowded housing, poverty and other social determinants are the root cause of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples being at high risk from pandemics and other communicable diseases.

The pandemic has exposed what we have been advocating for decades – better and less crowded housing for our people.

Overcrowding makes self-isolation and stopping the spread of a virus incredibly difficult, if not impossible.

NACCHO continues to advocate for greater federal, state and territory investment in housing for our people, and for housing initiatives to be developed in genuine partnership with us.

And as we know, there will be long term social, economic, health and cultural costs of the pandemic.

The risk facing our communities is a direct result of years of neglect, disinvestment and failed policies and programs that have been developed without our input.

But our organisations and communities are best placed to respond to this crisis and to drive progress towards the longer-term priority of closing of the gap in life outcomes between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and other Australians.

The Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Sector began actively preparing to respond to a possible COVID-19 outbreak in January 2020, in advance of the public response by the government. As a result, many of our ACCHOs had a level of preparedness prior to the pandemic which many general practices could not match.

This pandemic has demonstrated the community-controlled health sector collaborates extremely well, and the high level of information sharing and joint decision making must continue into the future.

Throughout the pandemic, the Government has been committed to taking the advice of our community controlled health sector, and listening to the recommendations of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Group on COVID-19 to implement response plans to keep our mob safe.

Those of our organisations with strong existing partnerships with governments have been able to respond quickly to the threat of COVID-19.

Well-established and properly funded community-controlled organisations across numerous sectors have been able to accelerate measures that support our communities.

One example is the formal relationship between governments and Aboriginal Peaks Organisations in the Northern Territory (APONT) and the Aboriginal Advisory Council of Western Australia, which has enabled an informed response to the needs of our remote communities impacted by the swift travel restrictions out in place.

Other examples include —

First Nation’s media sector has been able to get health information out quickly in a way that people can understand

The New South Wales Coalition of Peaks has supported our young people to stay engaged in their education and make sure our older people have access to food, and

The Victorian Aboriginal Executive Council is working to make sure our kids continue to have access to safe early childhood services.

What NACCHO and our Affiliates and ACCHOs have been doing

Click on the above map to see full list of all NACCHO Members 

During these past few months ACCHOs have once again proven themselves to be the best in the business at —

  • knowing our people
  • our people feeling safe to access our services
  • being a well-established sector
  • having strong formal relationships with government

Together, collectively and nationally, as a sector we have been able to respond quickly and decisively to protect our people.

This is despite our ACCHOs and other Aboriginal community-controlled organisations having borne the brunt of repeated funding cuts and a roller coaster of policy and administration changes.

As soon as it became evident in January just how deadly the COVID-19 virus was, well in advance of the Commonwealth response, NACCHO, our Affiliates and Members initiated awareness campaigns for our communities and planning for prevention and response.

Before the first case of coronavirus in Australia our communities were preparing to close borders, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health experts were discussing measures needed to protect our mob across the nation.

In January I began sending COVID-19 health messages to all our Affiliates and ACCHOs, with gave me the opportunity to ask them how prepared they felt they were for the impending pandemic.

It was clear there were PPE shortages in many clinics, and concerns around how to prepare a pandemic response — including quarantine measures.

ACCHOs are barely funded for their regular day to day activities, let alone for a pandemic response.

I discussed options with the Department of Health for ways additional funding for ACCHOs and Affiliates to support the preparation of pandemic plans.

The government was receptive of the advice I provided and allocated $6.9 million to NACCHO and Affiliates to prepare a pandemic response and $5 million to assist remote communities prepare for COVID-19.

I also wrote to the Prime Minister on 16 March to propose a range of specific measures which needed to be taken to protect our communities.

The government again responded positively from the outset, and this spirit of collaboration has been crucial to our successful response to the pandemic.

With our Affiliates and ACCHOs in WA, the NT and QLD I strongly argued for the immediate application of travel restrictions and quarantine measures to protect our people and communities, and for urgent additional support to be deployed to Affiliates and ACCHOs to combat the virus.

I continue to pursue funding for quarantine/isolation facilities for remote, urban and regional communities which will be critical if we are going to properly manage an outbreak in our communities.

NACCHO has been sharing important public health messages and culturally appropriate COVID-19 news alerts and posts on our blog and across all social media platforms, and launched a dedicated COVID-19 website page.

And our Affiliates and ACCHOs — they have initiated their own creative and innovative awareness campaigns for our communities in January.

These campaigns have been successful because they were created by Aboriginal people, health groups and organisations for Aboriginal people and communities.

ACCHOs are busily facilitating phone consults, home visits to Elders and those self-isolating and seeing some patients at the clinic for flu vaccinations.

All the while, despite staff and equipment shortages and the challenges of working in a restricted environment due to lockdown, our ACCHOs have not wavered from treating those in our communities with chronic conditions as they continue to provide their comprehensive primary health services to their communities.

Up to now, as a sector, together, we have done exceptionally well, keeping infections out of our communities.

As of 3 May 2020, only fifty-five cases (0.8% of all cases tested) have been people identifying as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander.

There have been absolutely no cases in our remote or very remote communities.

But, as stated earlier, there is a long way to go.

NACCHO and our Affiliates will continue to work collaboratively with the different tiers of government throughout this crisis, including pointing out the danger of moving too quickly to relax restrictions without a clear roadmap.


Despite the tireless work of our ACCHOs and other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations, there is a clear absence in this time of crisis of a national policy platform for governments to systemically re-build our communities and address the inequities too many of our people continue to face.

There is also a clear absence of an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander national body for pooling collective expertise to work in partnership with governments to respond to the impacts of the pandemic.

It is because of this policy and process vacuum that the Coalition of Peaks was formed and why we have been continuing our work, in partnership with Australian governments, to chart a meaningful way forward, across a range of sectors and initiatives for bringing about real, sustained change.

The new National Agreement and the Coalition of Peaks will be crucial to rebuilding our communities post-pandemic.

The federal, state, territory and local governments must continue to work in full partnership with the Coalition of Peaks as a collective and as individual members to ensure that we emerge from this crisis stronger.

And, I must add, this pandemic cannot and should not be used by anyone as a reason to delay the finalisation of the new National Agreement on Closing the Gap.

The pandemic has disrupted governments, but it has disrupted us also.  Community-controlled organisations, including in health, have had to face much bigger workloads.  Nevertheless, we have continued to work to finalise the National Agreement and we expect governments to do the same.

Our response to the pandemic can and must galvanise our collective efforts and sharpen our focus to the task of closing the gap.

The National Agreement must be sorted by mid-July and I am confident this is achievable.  If it isn’t, we risk the Agreement being put on the “never- never” because of upcoming elections in jurisdictions like Queensland and the Northern Territory and because governments will be pre-occupied with their delayed budgets.

I ask  all participants in this virtual Breakfast, and in fact make a call to Australia, that everyone support the leadership of the Coalition of Peaks, made up of our own community controlled organisations, in achieving a new Closing the Gap agreement.

There is no better demonstration or more important priority for being ‘In This Together’.

Aboriginal Health #CoronaVirus #NRW2020 News Alert No 70 : May 26 #KeepOurMobSafe Stan Grant essay : What do coronavirus, the rise of authoritarianism and the retreat of democracy have to do with Indigenous reconciliation in Australia? Everything.

” What do coronavirus, the rise of authoritarianism and the retreat of democracy have to do with Indigenous reconciliation in Australia? Everything.

Now is the time to think bigger about our own history, our unfinished business, and the demands of First Nations for justice.

Australia is in the crosshairs of a global ideological struggle between authoritarianism and liberalism.

We have not faced anything like this since the Cold War; the difference now is that authoritarianism threatens democracy from outside and from within.

The power of China, and the rise of a would-be autocratic populist political movement in the West, has seriously eroded freedom and democracy.

The democracy watchdog Freedom House has called this era a return to the iron fist.

Coronavirus has made this all very real: as China stares down Australia and US President Donald Trump — himself accused of undermining democracy — threatens to tear up the relationship with Beijing.

The historical injustice and the ongoing rights claims of First Nations people form part of these global fault lines. Not nearly enough thought goes into connecting these dots: Indigenous issues suffer from a myopic parochialism.

We cannot continue to ring-fence these questions only within our border. “

Article 1 Originally published HERE

Read in full below Part 1

 Part 2 
The Uluru Statement from the Heart offered a new compact with all Australians that would reset our national identity and enhance our political legitimacy. But its poetic vision and pragmatism proved its death knell.

Trying to reconcile two historically divergent if not hostile ideas – Indigenous sovereignty and the sovereignty of the Commonwealth – asked the nation to embark on a project of rehabilitation: “Voice, Treaty, Truth”.

Stan Grant is the vice-chancellor’s chair of Australian/Indigenous Belonging at Charles Sturt University and a journalist

Part 2

Symbolic gestures don’t help

Indigenous affairs appear stuck in a cul-de-sac of tired ideological culture wars, symbolic gestures and failed policy reinforcing intergenerational disadvantage. Only by opening the lens can we see how we might transcend old thinking.

The assault on global democracy has powerful lessons for us.

If Australian politics cannot meet Indigenous demands for justice, what does it say about the strength and legitimacy of our own democracy?

This is the question posed by the 2017 Uluru Statement from the Heart, that proposed a three-pronged program of democratic rehabilitation: Voice, Treaty, Truth.

The cornerstone was a proposed constitutionally enshrined national Indigenous representative body — a Voice.

But this was rejected by the then Turnbull Government, labelling the Voice a “third chamber of Parliament” that would put race in the Constitution.

Those claims didn’t see the pragmatism and liberalism of what Indigenous people were asking for.

Political philosopher Duncan Ivison describes the Uluru Statement as an opportunity for a “possible re-founding of Australia”.

Our liberalism, he argues, needs to confront its own history of colonisation, empire, dispossession, genocide and political domination.

That is the wellspring of Indigenous rights claims. Failure to resolve or reconcile this history impedes Indigenous acceptance of the legitimacy of the state.

The Uluru Statement from the Heart proposed a rejuvenated Australian identity where we “can walk in two worlds”

History can be a weapon

All around the world we are reminded how history can be a weapon.

Polish Nobel laureate poet Czeslaw Milosz who wrote about the “dark instinct” that drew him to explore Europe’s blood stained 20th century once said: “Crimes against human rights, never confessed and never publicly denounced, are a poison which destroys the possibility of a friendship between nations.”

Historical blood feuds feed toxic identities that Indian philosopher and economist Amartya Sen said savagely challenges our shared humanity. Identity, he said, “can also kill — and kill with abandon”.

A man holds a sign that says 'Always was.. Always will be Aboriginal Land.'
History hangs heavily in our world.(Getty: Don Arnold)

History hangs heavily in our world.

Political leaders stoke a virulent nationalism by perpetuating narratives of grievance: Vladimir Putin laments the end of Soviet empire and accuses the West of humiliating Russia; Hungary’s Viktor Orban sees outsiders as oppressors and pledges to never forget the post World War I Treaty of Trianon which stripped Hungary of territory, and China’s Xi Jinping holds fast to what China calls the “one hundred years of humiliation” by foreign powers.

History can be a breeding ground terrorism and hatred: Islamic State and the extreme right both drink from the same poison well.

Australia is thankfully spared such violence, but history here too is a roadblock to reconciliation.

We need a rejuvenated Australian identity

The Uluru Statement offered a way through this impasse, proposing a rejuvenated Australian identity where we “can walk in two worlds” — black and white.

Uluru was a triumph of ambition but its rejection was a failure of political vision and courage

Rather than see it as detracting from Australia — creating an “us and them” — we could have seen it as strengthening Australia bringing “us” closer “them”, by meaningfully recognising First Nations people in our nation’s founding document.

Liberalism can be guilty of imposing conformity and homogeneity under the guise of neutrality.

But it can also embrace a liberating pluralism where deep political and social disagreements need not fracture civic unity.

That Indigenous people, for so long excluded from Australian democracy, can pledge a commitment to a shared future seeded in our constitution should have been a highpoint of our liberalism.

The simple power of communication

Ivison says we should look for the glue of liberal democratic belonging, and that belonging will emerge from a practice of democratic citizenship.

Simply: we must be able to speak to each other.

That is increasingly rare. We live in what the Indian writer Pankaj Mishra calls “an age of anger”.

We form our tribes and yell from the margins.

The impact of coronavirus — forced isolation, economic uncertainty and vulnerability — may indeed give us a sense that “we are all in this together”, but it can just as easily lead to more entrenched nationalism, leading to harder borders and economic protectionism, as the thread of globalisation unravels.

The question for our democracy this Reconciliation Week is the question for all democracies: will we emerge from this moment stronger with a greater appreciation of the need to work for our freedoms, or will we be less immune to that other virus: the virus of authoritarianism?

Stan Grant is the vice-chancellor’s chair of Australian/Indigenous Belonging at Charles Sturt University and a journalist.

NACCHO #SaveADate 27 May @kwmlaw Virtual event / webinar : National Reconciliation Week 2020 #NRW2020 ” Conversations from The Heart ” #UluruStatement featuring Professor Megan Davis, Dean Parkin, Donnella Mills & Fiona McLeod AO SC

 ” The theme for National Reconciliation Week 2020 (#NRW2020) – In This Together – is now resonating in ways which could not have been foreseen when it was announced last year, but certainly reminds us that whether in a crisis or in reconciliation, we are all #InThisTogether.

In this special edition of Field Notes, KWM Community Impact’s webinar series, we are honoured to welcome Professor Megan Davis, Dean Parkin, Donnella Mills and Fiona McLeod AO SC for Conversations From The Heart. See Bio below “

In May 2017, the Uluru Statement from the Heart arose from a constitutional convention of 250 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander delegates achieving a consensus on Indigenous recognition. The Uluru Statement was an invitation to walk with and alongside Indigenous Australia.

KWM is pleased to facilitate a further conversation for our clients and our people, to coincide with #NRW2020, to explore the Uluru Statement, the concept of reconciliation and the empowerment of First Nations peoples.

See previous 40 + NACCHO Aboriginal health and Uluru statements posts

We will delve into what constitutional recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples might look like, the mechanics of constitutional reform, what reconciliation means for all Australians and the progress made, as well as what the justice system looks like on the frontline for First Australians.

Please join us for what will be an engaging, thought-provoking and memorable conversation.

Wednesday 27 May 2020
12.30pm to 1.30pm AEST

Details to be sent the day prior to acceptances only

Please note to register replace the ” Donnella Mills ” info on the form with your own info 


Don’t miss this opportunity to hear from some of Australia’s leading voices and acclaimed experts on Indigenous affairs, justice and reconciliation, as we gather for #NRW2020.

Our Panellists & Friends of KWM

Professor Megan Davis is Pro Vice-Chancellor Indigenous UNSW and a Professor of Law, UNSW Law. Professor Davis was elected by the UN Human Rights Council to UNEMRIP in 2017. Professor Davis currently serves as a United Nations expert with the UN Human Rights Council’s Expert Mechanism on the rights of Indigenous peoples based in UN Geneva. Megan is an Acting Commissioner of the NSW Land and Environment Court. Professor Davis is a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Law and a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Social Sciences. She is a member of the NSW Sentencing Council and an Australian Rugby League Commissioner. Professor Davis was Director of the Indigenous Law Centre, UNSW Law from 2006-2016. Professor Davis is an expert consultant to KWM.

Dean Parkin is from the Quandamooka peoples from Minjerribah (North Stradbroke Island) in Queensland. He was involved in the negotiations leading to a Native Title determination in 2011 and continues to work with his community on this journey. Dean has a Bachelor of Arts (Politics and Journalism) from the University of Queensland. An experienced independent management consultant, Dean has worked across the public, corporate, not-for-profit and political sectors. He has advised a range of clients on strategy, engagement and co-design, including the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Palladium, Coles, the Referendum Council and Jawun. In addition to extensive experience in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander affairs, he has commercial experience both in Australia and the UK. Mr Parkin is also an expert consultant to KWM.

Donnella Mills is a proud Torres Strait Islander woman with ancestral and family links to Masig and Nagir. Donnella is a member of James Cook University Council, Director of Wuchopperen Health Service and Chair of the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation – NACCHO.  She is a Cairns-based lawyer with LawRight, a Community Legal Centre which coordinates the provision of pro-bono civil legal services to disadvantaged and vulnerable members of the community.  Donnella is currently the project lawyer for the Wuchopperen Health Justice Partnership. This innovative HJP is an exciting model of care providing access to justice in a community controlled setting, where lawyers and health professionals collaborate to achieve improved health, social, emotional and spiritual well-being outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.


Our Moderator


Fiona McLeod AO SC is a Senior Counsel practising in the areas of commercial and public law matters. Fiona is a leader of the national and international legal profession having led the Law Council of Australia, Australian Bar Association, Victorian Bar and Australian Women Lawyers. In 2017 she devised and, with the support of a Steering Committee, led the Justice Project, a landmark research project undertaken by the Law Council into access to justice impacts on vulnerable groups in Australia launched in 2018. She was appointed to the Victorian Honour Roll of Women in 2014, was awarded the AWL Woman Lawyer of the Year in 2018 and she was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) in 2020.

NACCHO Aboriginal Health and the #Voice : The Indigenous voice co-design process will move into high gear with the announcement of the membership of the national and local and regional co-design groups.

” Though some say progress is slow in today’s hurried world, we must remember that lasting change takes time. This is an ­important process and we need to take the time to get it right or we risk losing the opportunity that has been presented to us. This is too important.

The fight for rights over the past few decades will be an inspiration. We will honour the fight of our elders, past and present, in the work that we do and we will encourage our youth to share their vision for the future to ensure their voice is heard.

Securing a future voice for our children, and their children, that presents the same opportunities and expectations as their non-­indigenous counterparts will be our purpose. Let’s not wait another 10 years or 100 years. Let’s continue this now.

Help us, engage with us — and let’s create this future together.”

Marcia Langton and Tom Calma are co-chairs of the senior advisory group to co-design the Indigenous voice to government. See full editorial Part 1 below.

Read all 40 + NACCHO Aboriginal Health and the Voice/ Uluru Statement articles HERE

“As I travel to communities around the country, Indigenous Australians are saying to me they just want to be heard and involved in decision-making for their communities.

They want to know who will listen to their ideas and be in a position to do something about them.”

Following advice from the Senior Advisory Group, I have appointed members bringing a diverse range of skills and experience to identify the best approaches to affecting change on the ground for Indigenous Australians.

Professor Buckskin has served as a member of the Senior Advisory Group since its formation, and has now accepted this new appointment as a co-chair of the Local & Regional Co-design Group.

Professor Buckskin will bring his wealth of experience in the education and public service sectors, as well as his extensive involvement in senior positions at a wide range of Indigenous community organisations, to his new role.

A local and regional voice will empower Indigenous Australians and communities by establishing a framework and guiding principles for models and options that lead to improved and enhanced decision-making, and link through to the national Indigenous voice.

Working in genuine partnership will improve shared decision making, and ensure shared responsibility and shared accountability for the development and delivery of government programmes at a local and regional level.

There will be opportunities for everyone to engage throughout the process and I encourage all Australians to get behind this important work.”

Minister for Indigenous Australians, the Hon Ken Wyatt AM, MP has today appointed the members that will make up the Local & Regional Co-design Group that will develop options for local and regional voices.

Download Minister Wyatt Full Press Release

Minister Wyatts Press Release

More information about the Indigenous voice co-design process is available on the National Indigenous Australians Agency website,

The full membership of the new Local & Regional Co-Design Group is:

  • Professor Peter Buckskin PSM (Co-chair)
  • Cr Ross Andrews
  • Ms Ruth Davys
  • Ms Triscilla Holborow
  • Mr Paul House
  • Mr Chris Ingrey
  • Mr Des Jones
  • Ms Fiona Jose
  • Cr Getano Lui Jr AM
  • Mr Albert McNamara
  • Mr Wayne Miller
  • Ms Karen Milward
  • Ms Lavene Ngatokorua
  • Ms Vicki O’Donnell
  • Dr Aden Ridgeway
  • Ms Marion Scrymgour

Part 1 The Indigenous voice co-design process will move into high gear with the announcement of the membership of the national and local and regional co-design groups.

The groups will be co-chaired by senior indigenous leaders Donna Odegaard and Peter Buckskin, respectively, supported by a government co-chair from the National Indigenous Australians Agency.

We are under no illusions. This will be hard work, and the process is likely to ruffle feathers and challenge old ways of thinking. But we must effect real and permanent change for our people or this will be an opportunity lost.

We have an opportunity to ­design our future. We are at the table with the Australian government. Make no mistake, this is a step forwards — and we encourage you to embrace this and ­engage with us.

There has been, and will continue to be, distractions that try to disrupt our course — some welcome, others unnecessary, inflammatory and determined to set us backwards.

We will persevere. We will not allow people to question our culture and resolve. We have overcome all adversity on this continent for more than 60,000 years. It is an unforgiving land, but our country has ingrained strength and resilience in us all.

There are close to 800,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait ­Islander voices in this country today, and this will grow towards one million in the coming years.

Diversity is another of our strengths. Our lived experiences will be key to designing systems that work for us.

There are numerous representative bodies and structures already in place, and each of these will be critical to this process. We also know that states and territories have existing processes in place. Their integrity will not be undermined.

Our role on the senior advisory group is to work through the co-design groups; hear, consider and record Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s aspirations for models; and advise the minister to ensure that views are heard by government.

Throughout the process, we will continue to build understanding both across indigenous communities and with non-­indigenous Australians.

We will support the work of the national and local and regional co-design groups, provide advice and input at key points, and ensure the process continues to move forward.

The focus of the national group is to develop options and models for a national voice. It will work in partnership with the local and regional group at key points, to ensure that options for a ­national voice can be informed by, and connect with, local elements of a voice.

In turn, the local and regional group will focus on local and regional models of decision-making and governance, including options to enhance this and highlight what’s already working. This will include considering how existing arrangements and structures feed into local and regional elements of a voice.

Later in the year, we will be consulting on these models and options across the nation, ensuring they work for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the diversity of contexts and circumstances we find ourselves in today. Everyone will have an opportunity to have a say through this process. We will work with indigenous leaders, communities and stakeholders across the country to refine models.

The groups have a lot of country to cover, and the weight of ­expectation of 800,000 people is significant. But we will remain ­focused on the opportunity ­before us.

The full membership of the National Co-Design Group is:

  • Dr Donna Odegaard AM
  • Mr Jamie Lowe
  • Mr Rodney Dillon
  • Prof Gracelyn Smallwood AM
  • Mr Richard Weston
  • Prof Cheryl Kickett-Tucker
  • Ms Katrina Fanning PSM
  • The Hon Jeff Kennett AC
  • Mr Damian Griffis
  • Mr Steve Wanta Patrick Jampijinpa
  • Ms Fiona McLeod SC
  • Mr Marcus Stewart
  • Ms Kristal Kinsela-Christie
  • The Hon Fred Chaney AO
  • Mr Joseph Elu AO
  • Ms Zell Dodd

Senior Advisory Group members

  • Professor Tom Calma AO
  • Professor Dr Marcia Langton AM
  • Professor Fr Frank Brennan SJ AO
  • Professor Peter Buckskin PSM
  • Ms Josephine Cashman (suspended )
  • Ms Marcia Ella-Duncan OAM
  • Ms Joanne Farrell
  • Mr Mick Gooda
  • Mr Chris Kenny
  • Cr Vonda Malone
  • Ms June Oscar AO
  • Ms Alison Page
  • Mr Noel Pearson
  • Mr Benson Saulo
  • Ms Pat Turner AM
  • Professor Maggie Walter
  • Mr Tony Wurramarrba
  • Mr Peter Yu
  • Dr Galarrwuy Yunupingu AM

Minister Wyatt media release 8 November 2019 – Voice Co-Design Senior Advisory Grou


NACCHO Aboriginal Health and #ClosingtheGap : ” Its time governments front up to their failure to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people ” Pat Turner Coalition of Peaks.

“A core tenet of Australia’s modern national identity is belief in a fair go. Yet the promise of a fair go is not a reality for everyone in this country.

The difference in the life outcomes of First Nations people compared with the rest of Australia is stark.

There is more than just a gap; it is a chasm, a gaping wound on the soul of our nation. Collectively, we need to call this out, be truthful about the failure of governments to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people so that we can chart a new and honest way forward.” 

Patricia Turner is lead convener of the Coalition of Peaks.( and CEO NACCHO )

Published in The Australian 10 February

Read all the Coalition of Peaks Closing the Gap articles published by NACCHO 

Noting the Prime Minister Scott Morrison will deliver his governments Closing the Gap report Wednesday 12 February

A decade ago, governments committed themselves to closing this gap but year after year the serving prime minister has stood up in parliament seemingly contented with the reported failures.

Governments have misled the public by painting the lack of progress on the targets as something outside their control, instead of something that is a direct result of their policy failings. Busy talking up the steps they were taking to close the gap, at the same time governments have been ripping funding from dedicated Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander programs and services and silencing our voices.

Isolated case studies of “success” are used to project a sense of change across the nation, when the majority of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders continues to experience poor life outcomes and hardship in their daily lives.

It’s no wonder then that many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have lost faith in the Closing the Gap framework — it has failed to deliver meaningful change and was designed without their formal involvement.

This cycle of failure is toxic. It breeds cynicism and complacency, with nobody wanting to take ownership. Enough is enough. It is time to end the cycle with a serious circuit-breaker.

That’s why a group of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled organisations came together late in 2018 and wrote to the then prime minister, premiers and chief ministers rejecting the “Refresh” and calling for a genuinely new approach.

The Council of Australian Governments had already started work on a new Closing the Gap framework for the next decade, using the same doomed processes they have always used.

A lot of ground has been broken over the past year that could help put this cycle of failure to bed. We have more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Australian parliaments than ever before, an Aboriginal Treasurer in Western Australia, Aboriginal ministers in the Northern Territory, a federal Aboriginal Minister for Indigenous Australians who is a member of cabinet, and an Aboriginal Labor spokeswoman for indigenous Australians.

And we finally have a formal structure that puts Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders of community-controlled organisations at the negotiating table with governments on Closing the Gap.

With the leadership of Scott Morrison, a formal partnership agreement was signed in March last year by COAG and our group of community-controlled peak organisations, collectively called the Coalition of Peaks. This historic partnership gives Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people shared decision-making power with governments to develop, implement, monitor and review Closing the Gap policies for the next 10 years.

Never have leaders of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled peak bodies from across the country come together in this way: to bring their collective expertise, experiences and deep understanding of the needs of our people to the task of closing the gap; and never has there been this level of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representation in parliaments and government decision-making positions. However, today is not a day for celebration. Having a position in cabinet or a seat at the negotiating table is not the end game. We should not be judged on the accumulation of power but what we achieve with that power.

The members of the Coalition of Peaks are living up to their side of the agreement, fiercely representing the views of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people on what is needed to close the gap, and proposing policies we call the Priority Reforms that, if fully implemented, will lead to improvements in our people’s lives.

What we heard overwhelmingly through our comprehensive community engagement process is that structural reform based on the Priority Reforms is far more critical than targets. We must ensure the full involvement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in shared decision-making at national, state, local and regional levels.

We must also support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to control and deliver the programs and services our communities need. And finally, we need Australian governments to contribute through structural changes to mainstream and government-funded services, such as universities, hospitals and policing and courts.

Governments say they are listening and support the Priority Reforms. But listening is more than a nod of the head; it requires the Priority Reforms to be translated into tangible, properly funded actions that deliver real benefit to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people no matter where they live. The current cycle of failure is doomed to continue if this process of engagement and partnership is nothing more than window dressing for the status quo.

The only way outcomes for my people will change is when governments are willing to challenge the structures and assumptions that got us here and embedded the disadvantage of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Change is never easy but with the right leadership it is possible. So if our leaders step up and deliver, we may finally begin a new cycle of success and a fair go for First Nations people.

Patricia Turner is lead convener of the Coalition of Peaks.

Aboriginal Health #UluruStatement , #Referendum and #ClosingTheGap : Our mob should seek a constitutionally guaranteed #voice in Indigenous affairs, because this will make for better, fairer policies and help close the gap.

” In the Indigenous recognition debate, constitutional symbolism would become the common enemy of indigenous advocates, who have consistently pushed for substantive and empowering constitutional reform over symbolism, and constitutional conservatives, who seek to uphold the Constitution and protect it from legal uncertainty.

Ken Wyatt should understand, however, that with the right proposal, these two groups can become proponents of sensible constitutional reform that empowers indigenous voices and upholds the Constitution.

Indigenous people would oppose a merely symbolic amendment because, as the Uluru Statement makes clear, they seek empowering structural reform to improve practical outcomes.

They seek a constitutionally guaranteed voice in Indigenous affairs, because this will make for better, fairer policies and help close the gap. “

Dr Shireen Morris is a constitutional lawyer, McKenzie Postdoctoral Fellow at Melbourne Law School and senior adviser to the Cape York Institute. Her book, A First Nations Voice in the Australian Constitution (Hart), is out in July.

Originally published in the Australian 7 February

Read all Aboriginal Health , Referendum and Uluru Statement articles published by NACCHO

Read all the Coalition of Peaks Closing the Gap articles published by NACCHO 

The Minister for Indigenous Australians should recall the lessons of the failed republic referendum of 1999, lest he inadvertently steer indigenous recognition towards similar doom. Australians vote ‘‘yes’’ for practical reform, not token symbolism.

The lessons of 1999 are twofold. The republic debate showed how habitual opponents can become unexpected allies to defeat a referendum proposal. During that campaign, the direct electionists joined forces with the monarchists to successfully oppose a republic. People who might ordinarily disagree can unite against a common enemy in a referendum campaign.

The Prime Minister has said he wants to address indigenous suicide, indicating a preference for the practical. On this he will find common ground with indigenous Australians. As the Uluru Statement indicates, indigenous people want better outcomes in incarceration, child removal and the economic and cultural futures of their children. They seek a constitutionally guaranteed voice because they want to work in permanent partnership with government to improve practical outcomes in indigenous affairs.

If Wyatt hopes that indigenous people may be appeased by a legislated voice and will therefore accept a symbolic amendment of no operational effect — this is unlikely. Indigenous people have had legislated bodies in the past. ATSIC was short-lived and many remember the lessons of this history. Legislation alone cannot create a permanent partnership.

Constitutional conservatives will also oppose the insertion of symbolic words because they view the Constitution as a rule book — a practical and pragmatic charter of government and an inappropriate place for poetic statements, which may be interpreted in unexpected ways by the High Court. Constitutional conservatives have run many well organised ‘‘no’’ campaigns in the past and would do so again to uphold the Constitution and prevent uncertainty.

Australians, too, will likely reject a merely symbolic insertion. They have before. History demonstrates that voters favour practical reform over symbolic words. Of the eight (out of 44) referendums that have succeeded, none has been merely symbolic. All have fixed practical problems.

Why would Australians support a recognition proposal that indigenous people have rejected, which constitutional conservatives warn against, and which does nothing to practically improve indigenous policy?

Government should heed the second lesson on 1999: the failed preamble, which incorporated some lines of indigenous recognition. A purely symbolic proposal. Many indigenous people opposed it and only 39.34 per cent of Australians voted ‘‘yes’’.

It was an abysmal failure. By steering the nation towards a merely symbolic change, government is veering towards a repeat of 1999. The proposal would be pincered by indigenous opposition on the one hand and constitutionally conservative opposition on the other.

Both parties would be right: the Constitution is not the place for symbolic words. It is the place for practical reform and enduring guarantees. It is the place for a modest constitutional guarantee that indigenous people will always be heard in decisions made about them.

Properly executed, it would turn united opposition of indigenous people and constitutional conservatives into united support. Let us not forget, the concept of an indigenous constitutional voice was devised by indigenous leaders in collaboration with constitutional conservatives.

The conservative organisation Uphold & Recognise was born from the collaboration.

Indigenous people have clearly stated they want a constitutional voice in their affairs. Constitutional conservatives like former Chief Justice Murray Gleeson, federal MP Julian Leeser, senator Andrew Bragg, and professors Greg Craven and Anne Twomey have shown how this could be achieved in a way that upholds the Constitution.

Right-leaning commentators like Jeff Kennett, Chris Kenny and Alan Jones have backed the concept. Former Labor prime minister Kevin Rudd declared a ‘‘unity ticket’’ with Jones.

The continued pursuit of the balanced, radical centre is the way to win a referendum, not the pursuit of symbolism. Success will come through careful listening and negotiation between black and white, across left and right.

There is a need to heed government’s concerns, but government must equally heed indigenous aspirations for substantive constitutional change.



NACCHO Aboriginal Health and #Referendum #UluruStatement #Voice News Alert : Minister @KenWyattMP announces Australians will vote on constitutional recognition of Indigenous Australians by mid-2021

“It is getting tight but we’ve set a timeline and by the end of this year I hope to be in a position to go forward.

(The) very critical and important issue of constitutional recognition needs its own oxygen and its own space.

It’s extremely important because if there is a division amongst indigenous Australians then an opportunity will be lost. We are going to have some strong opponents (to constitutional recognition).

 We do not intend to diminish the Uluru statement but the referendum was about what was reasonable to most Australians “

Australians will vote on constitutional recognition of indigenous Australians by June next year at the latest, according to a timeline developed by Indigenous Australians Minister Ken Wyatt.

Mr Wyatt confirmed on Wednesday the Morrison government intended to hold a referendum by mid-2021 on the question of whether to alter the Constitution to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Mr Wyatt told The Australian he wanted to present the required bill to the Australian parliament by the end of this year.

Once a bill to alter the Constitution has passed through both houses of parliament, a referendum must be held not less than two and no more than six months later. Asked if the referendum would be held in the first half of next year, Mr Wyatt replied: “At the latest.”

He wants to ensure the issue of constitutional recognition does not become confused with the indigenous voice to government.

Indigenous leaders Marcia Langton and Tom Calma are co-chairs of a senior advisory group that is due to propose models for the voice at a national, regional and local level by June. After consultation, Mr Wyatt intends to legislate the voice. After that, he intends to hold a referendum on constitutional recognition.

Mr Wyatt said it was important to make progress on the voice, and then to hold a referendum on constitutional recognition, well ahead of the next federal election due by September 2022.

Mr Wyatt conceded that key supporters of the Uluru Statement from the Heart reject the constitutional recognition he proposes as merely symbolism.

The landmark 2017 Uluru statement called for an indigenous voice to be constitutionally enshrined, which the Morrison government rejected.

Mr Wyatt said there was a risk Uluru backers might campaign against a “yes” campaign on the grounds the referendum does not include a question about an indigenous voice.

However, he and others see a legislated voice as pragmatic and hope that by the end of this year there will be “a tangible outcome from the voice process” that could win over Australians who are deeply disappointed by the decision not to enshrine an indigenous voice in the Constitution.

“Reconciliation Australia when they were doing their barometers, showed that there was a 10 per cent rusted-on group who will never support recognition in any form. Then you have got those who sit on the verge of that who say as long as it doesn’t advantage a particular group over another, and then we’ve got this significant group of Australians who have got an open mind and the group that I am seeing it strongest in are young Australians under the age of 35.”

Mr Wyatt said he did not intend to diminish the Uluru statement but the referendum was about what was reasonable to most Australians

“Indigenous Australians want their voices heard at all levels of Government and want to help shape the policies and programs that affect their lives.

This group will work on options to have Indigenous voices heard on the national stage and take a model to Indigenous leaders, communities and stakeholders around the country to refine.

They will complement the work of the soon to be announced Local & Regional Co-Design Group to bring about real and lasting change for not just Indigenous Australians, but for our entire nation.

The journey towards an Indigenous voice has taken another step today with the Minister for Indigenous Australians, the Hon Ken Wyatt AM, MP, announcing the membership of the National Co-design Group.

The Group will be co-chaired by senior Indigenous leader Dr Donna Odegaard AM who will be joined by 15 members to develop models for a national voice to government.

The National Co-design Group will also be co-chaired by a senior official from the National Indigenous Australians Agency to coordinate intersections with existing work and ensure any proposed models will work within established structures.

The group will be assisted by the Senior Advisory Group, co-chaired by Professor Dr Marcia Langton AM and Professor Tom Calma AO, who will continue to advise and guide the process and keep it moving forward.

See Part 2 below for details of the Senior Advisory Group

“Dr Odegaard is a welcome addition to this process and brings extensive experience in both the private and public sectors as well as a valuable network and a lifelong commitment to campaigning for the benefit of Indigenous people to advance this work,” Minister Wyatt said.

Co-Chair Dr Odegaard said, “we have an unprecedented opportunity through the formation of the Morrison Government’s Co-Design process to bring together the many voices of our people to express who we are, what we want, what we need and the direction we choose for the future for the benefit of all our people and the Nation”.

“We cannot expect to succeed in changing our future as Indigenous Australians if we do not bring each other along. Working together towards the same goal, within the same framework that we establish, gives us greater chance of success but we must expect hard work, determination and dedication.”

“We can do it, we just have to be genuinely committed. I have been committed to this for most of my life and I’m certain most of us are”.

The full membership of the National Co-Design Group is:

  • Dr Donna Odegaard AM
  • Mr Jamie Lowe
  • Mr Rodney Dillon
  • Prof Gracelyn Smallwood AM
  • Mr Richard Weston
  • Prof Cheryl Kickett-Tucker
  • Ms Katrina Fanning PSM
  • The Hon Jeff Kennett AC
  • Mr Damian Griffis
  • Mr Steve Wanta Patrick Jampijinpa
  • Ms Fiona McLeod SC
  • Mr Marcus Stewart
  • Ms Kristal Kinsela-Christie
  • The Hon Fred Chaney AO
  • Mr Joseph Elu AO
  • Ms Zell Dodd

Part 2 Senior Advisory Group

Read NACCHO Report Here

A Senior Advisory Group will assist, guide and oversee the co-design process for both a national voice and options to enhance local and regional decision making.

Members of the Senior Advisory Group have been appointed by Minister for Indigenous Australians, the Hon Ken Wyatt AM MP, with the advice and input of the Group co-chairs, Professor Dr Marcia Langton AM and Professor Tom Calma AO.

Professor Dr Langton 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.

Professor Calma 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.

The Senior Advisory Group will help establish the two co-design groups who will develop the models to be tested.

Senior Advisory Group members

  • Professor Tom Calma AO
  • Professor Dr Marcia Langton AM
  • Professor Fr Frank Brennan SJ AO
  • Professor Peter Buckskin PSM
  • Ms Josephine Cashman (suspended )
  • Ms Marcia Ella-Duncan OAM
  • Ms Joanne Farrell
  • Mr Mick Gooda
  • Mr Chris Kenny
  • Cr Vonda Malone
  • Ms June Oscar AO
  • Ms Alison Page
  • Mr Noel Pearson
  • Mr Benson Saulo
  • Ms Pat Turner AM
  • Professor Maggie Walter
  • Mr Tony Wurramarrba
  • Mr Peter Yu
  • Dr Galarrwuy Yunupingu AM

Minister Wyatt media release 8 November 2019 – Voice Co-Design Senior Advisory Group

More information about the Indigenous voice co-design process is available on the National Indigenous Australians Agency website,

NACCHO Aboriginal Health and #AustraliaDay or #InvasionDay #ChangetheDate Debate : Editorial from @KenWyattMP @LindaBurneyMP and Marion Scrymgour

“We can have anger at the past, the pain and the hurt … but at some point we’ve got to give our children a better future.

It’s not about Captain Arthur Phillip landing in Sydney. It’s about the way we’ve grown firstly into a federation, but … a country of incredible people.

The colour of our skin did matter once, but it doesn’t anymore.

It’s about a society that has many hues of colour.”

Strongly supporting the date of the national day remaining as it is,  Indigenous Affairs Minister Ken Wyatt said Australia’s history was marked with events “that none of us on reflection like”. See full SMH Article Part 1 below

How can Australia possibly persist in celebrating as its national day the colonial acts of a foreign country?

Without even touching on the sensitivities of Indigenous people, where does that leave the majority of Australians who came to or are descended from people who came to this country since Federation (including exponentially increasing numbers of Asian Australians)?

And finally, just to return to the issue of the stake of Indigenous people in this nation.

Some have suggested that because there are pressing and immediate issues which are undermining our prospects for progress and wellbeing, it is inappropriate to spend time and energy participating in the debate about our national day.

Like many others who are committed to tackling domestic violence, drug and alcohol abuse, and unemployment amongst our people, I believe we can walk and chew gum at the same time.”

Marion Scrymgour is a former CEO of Wurli Wurlinjang Aboriginal Corporation and Chairperson of the Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance Northern Territory. Currently CEO Tiwi Islands Regional Government, and formerly a senior Minister in the NT Cabinet : see in full Part 2 Below

 ” As another Australia Day comes around, calls get louder to change the date, or the name. To Indigenous Australians, January 26 marks an invasion. But as international law expert Rowan Nicholson explains today, it does to international law as well.

He writes that while we don’t need European law, which was tainted by racism and colonialism, to validate the perspectives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, the landing of the British on Australian soil counts as an invasion based on their legal definitions at the time.

So if it was an invasion according to the Indigenous peoples and the colonisers, perhaps the term shouldn’t be so contentious after all.”

Read The Conversation HERE 

Pay the Rent.  “It is the theme of this year’s Invasion Day rally in Melbourne.

Pay The Rent is not a new concept.

It’s something that our old people came up with over 40 years ago. It was developed and fully endorsed by the National Aboriginal and Islander Health Organisation (NAIHO) in the 1970s. NAIHO (a uniquely grassroots, representative organisation of Aboriginal people from all over Australia) was how our people grew the Aboriginal Community Controlled Health movement from the first Aboriginal health services in Redfern and Fitzroy to a nation-wide network of over 80 services within 10 years.

It was a remarkably successful large-scale self-help movement. We are reviving it to help ourselves.”

From The Big Smoke

It is possible to enjoy January 26 – to celebrate our country, and our many achievements – but it is equally important to reflect on our difficult and painful past.

While the dispossession and separation of First Nations families first occurred many years ago – it continues in different shapes and forms today.

The impact – through intergenerational trauma – can be seen and felt to this day.

We can see this in the disparity in quality of life outcomes between First Nations and non-Indigenous Australians.

If you would like to spend Australia Day as a day of reflection as well as a day of celebration, there are many ways to do this. They do not conflict “

Linda Burney ALP Sydney Member for Barton  : See in full Part 3 below

Part 1 : Indigenous Affairs Minister Ken Wyatt says Australia Day should remain on January 26 and commemorations around the country instead mark both the “good and the bad” of the nation’s history since 1788.

In an exclusive interview with The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, Mr Wyatt said Australia’s “dark beginnings” must be recognised in communities across the country but not overshadow celebrations of the “remarkable” multicultural country it has become.

Cautious about engaging in the culture war that has increasingly plagued the occasion, Mr Wyatt said the day was an opportunity for Australians of all backgrounds to bond as a nation but also acknowledge that many First Nations people found it difficult.

He said “first and foremost” it was a day to celebrate “the good things in life” with family, friends and community and respect each other’s contribution to the nation.

“Forget the date. Let’s celebrate what we have. Let’s celebrate our place as Indigenous Australians in Australian society. And let’s celebrate our achievements, our resilience, and the contribution that we are now making to broader Australian society,” he said.

Mr Wyatt, who is the first Indigenous man to be Minister for Indigenous Australians, said instead of rallying to move the date, Australians must engage in a new generation of “truth telling”.

Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt wants more recognition for indigenous Australians.

He said monuments such as the one erected at Myall Creek marking one of the darkest events in Australia’s colonial history were a positive step forward.

“Aboriginal and non Aboriginal people came together, acknowledged their past history of an event that left a deep scar.”

He said if that could be replicated across our nation, including the dual naming of towns and regions, it would be “an incredible step forward”.

“There is much to celebrate, there is much to remember, [but] let’s take the positive aspects of life,” Mr Wyatt said.

He said he knew some Indigenous leaders would be “disappointed” with his “optimism”.

“I think it is more important that if we want to change the future, that we have to be at the forefront of wanting those changes, because we see the benefits that will be derived from it,” he said.

“What I love about the generation of young people coming through now is that they are optimistic. They see an incredible future ahead of themselves.”

Mr Wyatt said First Australians were entitled to be angry at the past and conceded the 1950s Australia he grew up in was not a place he liked.

“What I like now is the Australia that I see today,” he said.

“We’ve merged so many cultures and so many practices and different ways. What I like also is the way in which Indigenous culture and our history is being accepted readily into the Australian psyche.”

Part 2  : Reasons for changing the date

The debate about whether Australia Day should be changed to a date other than the 26th of January has in recent times been focussed on the offensiveness to many Indigenous Australians of using the commemoration of the establishment of an English colony in New South Wales as the foundation narrative of our national identity.

The objection articulated by advocates for change is that it ignores, marginalises or diminishes Indigenous history and culture, and fails to acknowledge past injustices (some still unresolved).

Personally I think the objection is valid, but I accept that there are differing views.

However, it is not necessary to even get into that argument to be persuaded conclusively that there should be a change of date. Let’s park the issues relating to Aboriginal people to one side and look at what the 26th of January represents and symbolises for Australians generally, and at how patently incompatible with our modern national identity it is as a selected national day.

The 26th of January marks the beginning of what sort of enterprise? What sort of uplifting and inspirational human endeavour?

The answer is that it was a penal settlement. A remote punishment farm to warehouse the overflow from Britain’s prisons. A place of brutality and despair conceived out of a desire to keep a problem out of sight and out of mind.

Modern Australia has its flaws. Some may want to argue the toss over Don Dale or Manus Island, but the reality is that we are a civilised, enlightened and fair people. We embrace those values in ourselves and in each other.

We all recognise how lucky we are to live in a tolerant society where diversity and difference are accepted and mateship and hard work are encouraged. We cherish our autonomy and freedom. A national day should resonate with and reflect those values.

The way it can do that is by reminding us of something in our past which either brought out the best in our national character, or else represented a step along the path to our unique Australian identity.

Potential examples are many, but might include these: Kokoda; the first Snowy River hydro scheme (with its harnessing of migrant workers from all over Europe coming to seek a better life after the second world war); the abolition of the white Australia policy in 1966; the passage of the Australia Act in 1986 (when Australia’s court system finally became fully independent).

One thing I know for sure is that when we look into history’s mirror for some event or occasion that allows us to see ourselves as we aspire to be, the last and most alien screen we would contemplate downloading and sharing as emblematic of ourselves as Australians would be Sydney Cove in 1788.

You just have to pause and think about it for a moment to be able to reject the concept as ludicrous. And yet that is the status quo that has become entrenched in our national calendar, through a process which has been more recent and less considered than most would be aware of.

In my view it is a matter of historical logic that Australia’s national day cannot be one which commemorates something which happened before Australia itself was created. That happened in 1901 when the various colonies joined together in a single federation in which each of them was transformed into an entity called a “state”.

The new Australian states were modelling themselves on the American colonies which had joined together to become the United States of America.

Many of those colonies already had a long prior history since they had been established by European settlers and in most cases they were much prouder of their origins than those new Australian states which had started off as penal settlements.

But if anyone, then or since, had proposed that the national day for the USA should be some day commemorating the early history of some individual colony, they would have been howled down by Americans.

The American national day celebrates the independence of the unified whole, not a way-station in the history of a pre-independence colony. It should be the same with us.

If any recent event should have served to underscore the lack of fit between the date on which our national day is currently celebrated and our contemporary political reality it is the disqualifying of Federal Parliamentarians who have belatedly discovered that they are British citizens.

Just think about that for a moment. The colony of New South Wales was established on behalf of the British Crown.

Then when the country called Australia was created in 1901, its people were classed as British subjects. Stand-alone citizenship came later and things have been slowly and fundamentally changing. In 2018 Britain is a foreign country and if you are a citizen of that country you are excluded from being elected to our Australian parliament.

That is because it is recognised that there are conflicting interests and allegiances.

How can Australia possibly persist in celebrating as its national day the colonial acts of a foreign country? Without even touching on the sensitivities of Indigenous people, where does that leave the majority of Australians who came to or are descended from people who came to this country since Federation (including exponentially increasing numbers of Asian Australians)?

And finally, just to return to the issue of the stake of Indigenous people in this nation.

Some have suggested that because there are pressing and immediate issues which are undermining our prospects for progress and wellbeing, it is inappropriate to spend time and energy participating in the debate about our national day.

Like many others who are committed to tackling domestic violence, drug and alcohol abuse, and unemployment amongst our people, I believe we can walk and chew gum at the same time.

Part 3 : It is that time of the year again when opinions are offered about the suitability of 26 January as our national day. Linda Burney MP

There are some who oppose it and some who support it.

We appear to be at an impasse on this.

But I believe we are mature enough as a nation to face a proper discussion about it.

The National Australia Day Council recognises this discussion has become a big part of the day and it is encouraging Australians to ‘reflect, respect, celebrate’ on 26 January.

  • Reflect on ‘what it means to be Australian’;
  • Respect ‘differing views’ on Australia Day; and
  • Celebrate ‘contemporary Australia and to acknowledge our history’.

But it is important for all of us engaged in this debate to understand the challenges and opportunities.

On the one hand – right or wrong – is that many Australians are simply unaware of the historical and political context of the date.

On the other, if we understand the history of Australia Day we can understand why it is such a painful day for Indigenous Australians – this is the notion of ‘truth-telling’.

Australia Day means many things.

It commemorates the arrival of the First Fleet at what became known as Sydney Cove.

And yet the date and name of Australia Day itself was only relatively recently settled – at one point, it was set in July.

It is a day to celebrate our achievements and those who have contributed to our country.

For some, it is simply a public holiday to rest and relax with friends and family.

I represent the electorate of Barton. It is one of the most multicultural electorates in the nation with many residents from migrant backgrounds.

And while many of them tell me that they understand why 26 January is a complex day, it is also a day for them to reflect on how grateful for the life they have been able to build for themselves and their family here in Australia.

For others – especially for our retail and hospitality workers – it can be a day to earn penalty rates and take home a bit of extra pay to meet bills and other expenses.

But it needs to be understood that, for First Nations people like me, 26 January is a reminder, not only of the dispossession and injustice, but also our strength and survival as a people and as a culture.

Surely it is possible for us to learn, not only about the view from the boats that arrived, but the view from those on shore whose way of life changed forever.

The opportunity for proponents of changing the date is in understanding different perspectives – not condemning people for not being aware of the discussion, or for not picking a side.

Change and progress means bringing people with you.

It is possible to enjoy January 26 – to celebrate our country, and our many achievements – but it is equally important to reflect on our difficult and painful past.

While the dispossession and separation of First Nations families first occurred many years ago – it continues in different shapes and forms today.

The impact – through intergenerational trauma – can be seen and felt to this day.

We can see this in the disparity in quality of life outcomes between First Nations and non-Indigenous Australians.

If you would like to spend Australia Day as a day of reflection as well as a day of celebration, there are many ways to do this. They do not conflict.

Why not start your Australia Day with the Wugulora Morning Ceremony at Barangaroo? You can also head over to the Yabun Festival – a wonderful festival embracing of all and celebrating survival – at Victoria Park in Camperdown which begins later in the morning for some great performances, food and other activities.

As for me, I will begin the day by attending a citizenship ceremony hosted by Bayside Council; followed by an Australia Day event at the Marrickville Library; and of course wrapping things up at Yabun.

By all means, celebrate Australia Day, but let’s use it as a day of reflection as well.

This opinion piece was originally published in the Sunday Telegraph and Sunday Times on Sunday, 26 January 2020



NACCHO Aboriginal Health and the #UluruStatement : Tom Calma and @marcialangton face a challenging task : the design of an #Indigenous #voice that has divided Australians before they even know what it is.

I try to see and understand other points of view,” 

There is danger in just always consulting people with the same views … You might not agree with them but their views might represent an entire group of people and if that is the case you have to hear them.

It’s a very complex task that we have. It’s got to be recognised that it’s not simple and there are multiple layers to this. What we have got to do is look at mechanisms that are going to work and are going to have some longevity.

I can say with confidence that the majority of Australians want to know more about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and they have a greater respect for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history and culture. “

Tom Calma was a crucial voice in the volatile days after the Cronulla race riots, through the Northern Territory intervention and during the tumultuous demise of the Aborig­inal and Torres Strait Islander Commission.

From the Australian 20 December 

As Australia’s race discrimination commissioner from 2004 to 2009, he used skills honed as a social worker and later as a senior diplomat in India and Japan.

Now 65, Calma faces what may be his most challenging task yet: the design of an indigenous voice that has divided Australians before they even know what it is.

Calma, an Aboriginal elder from the Kungarakan and Iwaidja tribal groups in the Northern Territory, knows there is not much time.

He is co-chairman of a 19-member senior advisory group that has until October next year to present Indigenous Australians Minister Ken Wyatt with a new way forward in indigenous affairs. Wyatt’s advisory group met last month for the first time. The second meeting is in February, when work begins with two new co-design groups

He is working side by side with distinguished indigenous academic Marcia Langton. The first associate provost at the University of Melbourne also has been a formidable advocate on almost every major issue affecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people since the 1970s, from land rights and deaths in custody to violence against women and children.

A member of the Gillard government’s Expert Panel on Constitutional Recognition of Indig­enous Australians, Langton has clear thoughts about what she considers a broken federal system that fails the most vulnerable indigenous people. “We are consistently excluded, government after government, from our citizenship entitlements,” she says. “Plain and simple citizenship entitlements.”

Langton cites indigenous communities where residents cannot safely drink the water. At Buttah Windee, 760km northeast of Perth, residents sold art and crowd-funded last year to fix water found to contain more than twice the safe level of uranium.

“This is why we have these intransigent gaps,” Langton says. “We have this recurring problem of our federal system being unable to deliver citizenship entitlements to Aboriginal citizens. It is a separate problem from constitutional recognition.”

States refusing to pay

States have to do their part, Langton argues. “It’s not about (the states) doing more,” she adds. “The problem is they have always done less than they should do.

“They have taken the view, contrary to our Constitution, that they don’t have to provide any services to indigenous people and they have flicked it to the commonwealth. Aboriginal people are the victims in this endless political football game.”

Langton, a descendant of the Yiman and Bidjara nations of Queensland, says the “core issue” dates back to 1901.

“The commonwealth has ended up paying for what the states should have been paying for all along,” she says. “You end up with the states refusing to pay for these responsibilities that they are constitutionally required to fund, so they under-invest in indigenous education, indigenous housing.

“It goes right back to the colonial times when the writers of the Constitution were trying to invent the commonwealth and come up with this arrangement that en­abled NSW and Victoria — the two states with the biggest white populations — to commandeer most of the taxes.

“And the way that they did that was by making it unconstitutional to count Aboriginal people because the remaining Aboriginal populations were in the states such as Queensland, NT and Western Australia.

“We still have that problem from Federation of the states trying to avoid using taxes collected by the commonwealth being distributed to services intended for Aboriginal people.”

Calma, Langton and the rest of the advisory group in February will meet the members of two new groups appointed to help them figure out how the multiple layers of the voice can work, from remote communities and small towns to Canberra.

Senior indigenous figures Noel Pearson, Galarrwuy Yunupingu and Marcia Langton at the Garma Festival in August. Picture: Melanie Faith Dove
Senior indigenous figures Noel Pearson, Galarrwuy Yunupingu and Marcia Langton at the Garma Festival in August. Picture: Melanie Faith Dove


A local voice

It will be the job of one of those groups to advise how to give a voice to indigenous people at a local and regional level. The other will focus on national representation.

Already, Langton and Calma agree that the multi-layered structure that becomes the voice should work with, not against, existing indigenous organisations that function well. And they understand that indigenous people favour elected representatives.

The voice is one of three key reforms set out in the 2017 Uluru Statement from the Heart. That document was the culmination of 13 dialogues with indigenous people around Australia and it called for voice, treaty, truth.

It was the end of a process that many consider was started in 2007 when John Howard, the prime minister at the time, promised a referendum seeking to amend the Constitution to “recognise the special status of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders as the first peoples of our nation”.

He lost office soon after but the Expert Panel on Constitutional Recognition of Indigenous Australians led to the popular Recognise campaign. In 2015, prime minister Malcolm Turnbull and opposition leader Bill Shorten established the Referendum Council to ask the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community about constitutional recognition.

Uluru grumbles

After consultations with 1200 indigenous people, the answer came in the form of the Uluru statement.

It was not exactly what the government wanted to hear. There were grumbles — some quiet and some not so quiet — that the Referendum Council had wandered outside its brief. There, in black and white, was a formal call for a constitutionally enshrined voice to parliament.

Turnbull quickly rejected this because, he said, it would become a third chamber of parliament and “neither desirable nor capable of winning acceptance at referendum”.

But there was significant support, including from some inside government. Mining giants BHP and Rio Tinto got on board. Woolworths — Australia’s biggest employer — and two former High Court chief justices backed the Uluru statement.

On Australia Day this year, Wyatt — who was then indigenous health minister — wore a T-shirt printed with the words “We support the Uluru Statement” at a celebration of indigenous music in Perth’s Supreme Court gardens. The mission-born Noongar man posed, smiling, for a photo with Fraser government indigenous affairs minister Fred Chaney and their friend David Collard, a Noongar man.

Wyatt’s show of support for Uluru might have been considered defiant — even provocative — except that he was widely believed to be on his way out of politics. He had told journalists he would like to be the indigenous affairs minister if the Coalition was returned at the May election and if he held his very marginal seat. This declaration was met with polite silence because very few believed either of those things was likely.

But the Coalition won. And Wyatt, who had worked hard in his electorate despite his responsibilities in the portfolios of aged care and indigenous health, did better than cling on to his key seat of Hasluck. He was returned with a 3.3 per cent swing towards him and within weeks he was Australia’s first indigenous minister for indigenous affairs. He changed the job title to Minister for Indigenous Australians.

Wyatt must have felt the weight of expectation immediately. He was cheered when he announced that the Morrison government had committed to hold a referendum on constitutional recognition of indigenous Australians in this term of government. He was jeered when it became clear the Morrison government had no intention of including a second question about whether the voice should be in the Constitution too.

Wyatt has said he is being practical about what is likely to succeed and what is not. Repeatedly, he has stressed that Australians are conservative when it comes to changing the nation’s “birth certificate”. Of the 88 nationwide referendums held since Federation, only eight have succeeded.

“Our challenge now is finding a way forward that will result in the majority of Australians, in the majority of states, overwhelmingly supporting constitutional recognition. We must be pragmatic,” he said in August.

Key players

So what becomes of the voice? The Morrison government clearly still wants one, just not in the Constitution. It has committed $7.3m to what Wyatt calls a “co-design” process.

Wyatt’s handpicked senior advisory group includes some of the most recognisable names in indigenous affairs — Cape York leader Noel Pearson, Gumatj clan leader Galarrwuy Yunupingu, Yawuru leader Peter Yu from the Kimberley and current and former social justice commissioners June Oscar and Mick Gooda.

Not all appointments to the group were expected and not everyone is on the friendliest of terms. Chris Kenny, Sky News broadcaster and columnist for The Australian, was surprised and pleased to be invited.

He has written that the description of the voice as a “third chamber” has been particularly damaging and was never a justifiable way to describe an advisory body. In that sense, Kenny is in agreement with many of his fellow advisory group members. Group members whose politics do not align are committed to co-designing the voice, The Australian has been told.

Langton and Calma believe the group can work well together.

Langton has strong ideas, but she also stresses she does not want to be prescriptive or rule anything out because others on the group may have different ideas.

“A great deal of damage can be caused to indigenous people if we don’t get this right,” Langton says.

Calma is not apprehensive about encountering opposing views. He describes it as “an opportunity to bring them onside or modify your own views maybe”.

“You look at what we have built with Reconciliation Australia as an example,” he said.

“The more people become informed, the more they understand the issues, the more likely they are to come on board.”

“I can say with confidence that the majority of Australians want to know more about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and they have a greater respect for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history and culture.”

ATSIC’s shadow

Wyatt has previously said the voice should not be a resurrection of ATSIC, the representative body killed off by the Howard ­government in 2005 after a corruption scandal at the top of the organisation.

Langton agrees ATSIC was flawed, but not for the reasons most people might think. “There is a lot of resistance to anything that looks or smells like ATSIC,” she says. “There is a misinformed view. It’s a shame that this still persists 14 years after the demise of ATSIC.

“The problem of the alleged corruption of two commissioners that the then prime minister made so much of was not the problem … The problem was ATSIC did not do the job that it was intended to do from the beginning because there were flaws in its design and its implementation.

“It was an early experiment. Back then there were high hopes ATSIC would be the answer so there was a great deal of enthusiasm, and rightly so, and it deserved a better chance than it got. I really believe that.”

Langton has not given up hope that, once defined, the voice could still be constitutionally enshrined. Asked if she felt other Australians would want that too, she says: “I do. If they understand the problem and it’s put to them in a way that makes sense to them, yes.”

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