Dear Editor 13/6/2023

We are very concerned that conservative politicians in this region are misrepresenting the purpose and scope of the Voice. For example, conservative politicians have recently stated that their constituents “ feel the government does not trust them with information about the Voice”. However, access to information regarding the Voice is readily available. For example, the Indigenous Voice Co-design Process Final Report outlines what the legislation could look like following a majority voting YES in the Referendum. This can easily be Googled by their staff if they lack the skills to Google it for themselves.

There are also many myths about the history of the Voice which need dispelling. These include the myth that the Voice is an Australian Labor Party initiative. In fact, it was Tony Abbott in 2014 who began consultations with our indigenous people in an attempt to improve their lives. This initiative supported by successive LNP Prime Ministers as well as Opposition Leaders ultimately led to the Uluru Statement from the Heart and the upcoming referendum.

Another myth is that the Voice will amount to a third chamber of parliament as well as give Indigenous people special rights. In fact, firstly, The Voice will be a representative body advising parliament as opposed to being in the parliament. Secondly, the government has been advised by the Constitutional Expert group comprising nine experts including former High Court judge Kenneth Hayne and chaired by the Commonwealth Attorney-General that a First nations Voice will not give First nations Peoples special rights .Our Solicitor- general has also said the Voice will only serve to enhance our Constitution. Thirdly, all Australians have the right to make representations to Parliament due to constitutional implied Freedom of Political Communication.

Although, It is widely touted by conservative politicians that the Voice will be a lawyer’s picnic leading to lots of High Court challenges, the facts are that the separation of powers principle underpinning the Westminster system of government means parliament and the judiciary are separate institutions.

Finally, regarding questions about the need to enshrine the Voice in the Constitution, the electorate needs to know that if it is not included in the Constitution, it can abolished or rescinded/removed at the whim of another government. For example, other Indigenous advisory bodies like ATSIC were abolished by other governments. In contrast, if The Voice is included in the Constitution, it can only be changed by another referendum which gives it security and longevity.

While it is true that a few very high profile Indigenous elites (such as Jacinta Nampijinpa Price, Warren Mundine and Lidia Thorpe) do not support the Voice, the truth is that an IPSOS poll conducted in January 2023 found that 80% of First Nations peoples support the Voice. Therefore, conservative politicians should not continue to misrepresent the truth about what the majority of Indigenous Australians think. There are also those who believe the Voice will not help to close the gap or have a positive impact on the lives of indigenous people. However, as the Voice will provide advice to the Parliament only on those laws affecting First Nations peoples, Parliament will be better-informed about the impact of the proposed laws on First Nations peoples, logically leading to better control over their lives and outcomes.

Hopefully the Australian nation will see the Voice for what it really is……a mechanism to enable our First Nations people to finally be included in government decisions which impact directly on them. This initiative can only lead to improved policy making for our first Nations Peoples.

Yours faithfully

Susan Casey

Carrajung Lower

Jillian Carroll

Heyfield

Rosemary Dunworth

Heyfield