Acknowledging plans to establish First Nations Voice and calling for constitutional reform

The George Institute for Global Health acknowledges plans to establish 35 First Nations Local and Regional Voice bodies, as outlined last week by the Minister for Indigenous Australians, Ken Wyatt. This is a positive step that acknowledges the importance of having First Nations peoples in leadership roles to develop effective pathways towards self-determination.

The George Institute also recognises the work of the Senior Advisory Group and Indigenous Voice co-design groups in partnership with the National Indigenous Australians Agency (NIAA) over the 18-month consultation process and delivery of the Final Report on Indigenous Voice Co-design Process.

The George Institute adds a call to enshrine a national Voice to Parliament in the constitution as proposed in the landmark 2017 Uluru Statement from the Heart. We note the Final Report also highlights strong feedback supporting constitutional change.  This included the observation that there were, ‘many practical and principled reasons supporting the enshrinement of an Indigenous Voice in the Australian Constitution.’ And was noted to be ‘the best way to protect an Indigenous Voice against abolition, enhance its effectiveness and recognise the unique place of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in our nation.’

Dr Julieann Coombes, a Gumbaynggir woman and Senior Research Fellow in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Program at The George Institute commented:

“We need to listen to the Voices of First Nations peoples asking for constitutional reform.  We need this to ‘empower our people and take a rightful place in our own country. When we have power over our destiny our children will flourish. They will walk in two worlds and their culture will be a gift to their country’ as written in the Uluru statement.”

“Our Program is conducted within Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ways of knowing, being and doing. Our work is informed by cultural practices, and genuine engagement with First Nations peoples with research determined by community priorities.”

“Having First Nations Voices enshrined in the constitution would demonstrate the importance of First Nations peoples as decision-makers – and would be a big step towards healing and self-determination,” Dr Coombes said.

Dr Kate Hunter, a Senior Research Fellow working in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Program at The George Institute added:

“Improving the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations through self-determination is a priority for the George Institute. Our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Program has a focus on social determinants of health, health systems and injury prevention.”

“We ensure our research maintains an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander paradigm of health and healing -physical, emotional, social, cultural and spiritual- as well as a commitment to creating impact through influence on policy and practice.”