Referendum for an Indigenous Voice to Parliament

Statement from Jennifer Kemarre Martiniello | General Member + First Nations Representative of Craft + Design Canberra on the Indigenous Voice to Parliament.

The reason I am voting YES in the referendum for an Indigenous Voice to Parliament is to ensure the rights of First Nations Australians are acknowledged, respected and most importantly, safe-guarded from future political interference and depreciation. If the Voice, being a First Nations community selected advisory body, is enshrined in the Constitution no future government can simply eliminate it by arbitrary legislation as happened to ATSIC and other legislated First Nations organisations before it. It will ensure that First Nations grass roots knowledge and praxis will be available to guide future government decisions that affect First Nations peoples and ensure the effectiveness of programs designed to benefit communities and eliminate disadvantage and racism.

The Voice will have the same status and purpose as existing Standing Committees to Parliament such as the Standing Committee on Human Rights and the Standing Committee on the Environment. It will ensure in the selection of its members that we will have Australia wide community authorised representation which we have not had since the elimination of ATSIC, and as such will be a significant step towards really being heard and self-determination. Current elected Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander members of parliament represent their electorates and the political parties to which they belong, they do not and cannot perform the same functions as the proposed Voice to Parliament.

It will also ensure that First Nations peoples themselves can continue to recognise and appoint their own leaders in culturally appropriate ways as they have always done, and eradicate the colonial divide and conquer strategy in dominant (Anglo) culture practices of governments ’selecting’ an Aboriginal person to hold up in front of the nation as ‘an Aboriginal leader/spokesperson’, when those thus selected have no recognition as such in their communities and have not been authorised to speak for them.

And critically, the Voice to Parliament is the outcome of the Uluru Statement from the Heart by First Nations peoples themselves after a decade long nation-wide consultation process. It is instigated by First Nations peoples for First nations peoples, not put in place by a political party or government. It is the next logical step towards achieving Reconciliation and to facilitate the closing of the socio-economic, socio-cultural and historical gaps between us that have divided Australia over the last two hundred and fifty years.

A Voice to Parliament is the first step towards achieving a Makarrata, a coming together of First Nations and non-First Nations people with the common aim of together growing our shared sustainable future thought the ongoing processes of Voice, Treaty and Truth.

Image Tim Bean Photography