The McKell Institute is unequivocal in supporting constitutional change to recognise the First Peoples of Australia by establishing an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice.
We support the Voice not just because it is the right thing to do.
We support the Voice because it is the practical next step in Australia’s reconciliation journey.
The Voice emerged from a process conceived and led by First Nations people.
At the 2017 National Constitutional Convention, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders representing the “first sovereign Nations of the Australian continent and its adjacent islands”, offered the Uluru Statement from the Heart to the nation.
It called for a First Nations Voice to be enshrined in the Constitution, stating that “substantive constitutional change and structural reform” is required so that this “ancient sovereignty shine[s] through as a fuller expression of Australia’s nationhood”.
While making this offer, the Uluru Statement also detailed the injustices and powerlessness that First Nations peoples continue to endure.
As the Uluru Statement from the Heart said:
“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.”
The Voice is a gracious invitation extended to all Australians by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities — an offer to work together to address these injustices, and to collectively build a better future for those who have served as the custodians of our continent for 65 millennia.
It is an offer we believe all Australians should embrace.
Because the Voice is not just morally right, it is also practically sound.
The Voice will allow First Nations peoples to share with policymakers their unparalleled understanding of land, culture, and heritage.
The mechanics of a Constitutionally enshrined Voice will be determined through legislative processes.
The Voice will not have veto power over day-to-day decisions of any current or future government.
But its enshrining in the Constitution means that all future governments, irrespective of their ideological dispositions, will be required to listen to Indigenous Australians about the issues that affect their lives.
That this fundamental principle of consultation will be a permanent feature of our governance is something we as Australians should embrace, not fear.
Evidence from international experiences of voices to parliaments and similar bodies supports the efficacy of the model.
We know, empirically, that the best policy decisions occur after robust, structured consultation — the type of engagement the Voice promises.
A Yes vote will not be a panacea. It will not solve every issue facing First Nations peoples.
But we know that a Yes vote – that Constitutional Recognition and a Voice to Parliament – is essential if we are to truly reconcile with Australia’s past, seize the opportunities of the present, and collectively embrace a brighter vision for the future of our country, and those who have served as its custodians for thousands of generations.
Hon. Dr Craig Emerson, Chair, McKell Institute
Kelvyn Lavelle, Chair – McKell Institute Victoria
Hon. Rachel Nolan, Chair – McKell Institute Queensland
Edward Cavanough, CEO, McKell Institute
Sarah Mawhinney, Executive Director, McKell Institute Queensland
Rebecca Thistleton, Executive Director, McKell Institute Victoria